Janus Look 4
Over two months have gone by since I had my Bells Palsy attack, and I look a lot more normal now, although my eye still won’t blink, and my dentist wouldn’t be able to see more than ⅗ of my teeth. But if I smile, just a little bit, it looks fairly normal, although a grin is more of a grimace.
But what I wanted to go onto relates to what has happened to my body since then - which might or might not be related.
Part of the treatment for Bell’s Palsy is to have a 10 day dose of steroids, 50 mg - which is considered a high dose. There is lots of controversy about how one gets off steroids. If you have a long and large dose, you need to reduce gradually, very gradually. This would mean instead of taking ten 5 mg tablets, you would take 9 for a month, and then down to 8, etc. But the recognised procedure for Bell’s Palsy is to take the 10 days of 50 mg, and then go cold turkey. The prednisone made me full of energy, and I gladly did exercises I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing the week before. But after I quit, it wasn’t long before the after effect was felt - I was sluggish and completely lacking in energy or enthusiasm.
On the 11th day after I first was diagnosed, my daughter came to visit, and cooked me a nice meal. Her son was with her, and my son was there too. The next morning at 4 am, I woke with diarrhoea - no feeling of sickness at all - just a rush to the toilet every few hours with a watery result. Nobody else in the family who had all eaten the same food had this problem, so we ruled out food poisoning. So that left a tummy infection - which apparently there was lots of around. It lasted for 5 days, which is more than usual, so my daughters told me I should call my doctor. But I couldn’t have a phone meeting with my doctor for 10 days, and I didn’t really feel it was worrying enough to talk to someone else from the practice. There was a specific tender spot in my abdomen, which wasn’t tremendously painful, but I knew about it.
When I did speak to my GP, I had another symptom to share with her. I am never a keen gardener, but I managed to do most of the required steps to keep my small garden in order. But now I had no energy to do anything. Even walking up my 9 steps to my bedroom was very hard work. But my pampus grass had suffered badly from the wind storms, so I made the effort to go out and chop down the broken stems, and put them in the green bin. Five minutes of work, but I was breathless. I couldn’t believe such a small amount of effort should have such an effect, so of course I conveyed this to my GP.
She ordered a chest xray and an echo type heart scan. She said I should come in the next Monday (she only works on Mondays) and she would assess my chest and take some blood. When this was done, she said she was testing for heart failure, but not to be alarmed, as that was just a code for a specific set of tests to carry out on the blood.
When she got the results of the blood test, it turned out that I was very anaemic. She compared it to my last blood test, which was on the day of the Bell’s Palsy, and at that stage it had been borderline low, but since had taken a huge dip. This set off another complete set of alarm bells. Because I have always eaten well. (My degree is in Foods and Nutrition and I was a dietitian) she suspected the huge drop in my haemoglobin was due to blood loss. So she ordered a Colonoscopy and Gastroscopy. And she ordered me massive amount of iron in tablet form.
The hospital was on to it very quickly and I had an appointment for my tests a week from that Friday. But in between I had to fulfil all their pretreatment rules. I was told not to take my iron tablets until it was all over. And then I had to go on a steamed fish or chicken with mashed potatoes or rice, for two days. I could have corn flakes or rice krispies for breakfast but no fruits of vegetables or red meats or any desserts or such like. Then last Thursday lunch time I had my last meal. I then had to take 2 litres of their prescribed laxatives, which were awful, but not as awful as I thought they would be. Then from 10 on Friday last, nothing to drink either.
I went to the hospital for my procedure thinking of lamb to slaughter sorts of things. I had never had a gastroscopy before, but the idea of swallowing a camera was very frightening.
But I had had two colonoscopies, 15 years ago or so when I had very intense pain, and they were not fun in any sense of the word. My daughter went with me. My blood pressure and pulse were normal which surprised us all, as I was nearly catalyptic with dread.
The consultant was very supportive, and I agreed that a sedative would probably suit my needs. The gastroscopy was no problem, except when they sprayed the anasthetic on my throat, I wanted to cough to get rid of it, which I was told not to do. But no problem with swallowing the camera and all done with in 7 minutes or so. And all normal.
During the colonoscopy I had the added help of gas and air when the pain became unbearable. I used it all the time, and when the pain became awful, I made enough of a fuss for them to increase the dose of the sedative. They did that twice.
I had my cataracts removed some years ago, and the result is that my sight was good enough without my glasses on to see on the screen the route through my colon. Everything went quickly for the first five minutes or so. Then we reached an area that it was obvious to me was causing problems. There was what looked like a flower, with green seeds deep inside in, and we couldn’t go any further. So the camera tried this and that, and each time, you could see the blood filling the screen.
After 35 minutes or so, I was told to get dressed, but to wait in a little room as the doctor had something to say to me. Luckily my daughter was there with me.
He came in, worried about how I was going to deal with what he had to tell me. But I am smart enough to know that something was very wrong. And being a pessimist, I had already gone over and accepted all the worse case scenarios.
He drew us a picture of the large intestine - an upside down U shape, quite wide. He said that all along that descending and transverse colon I had diverticular disease. This is something that most people of my age would experience, so he wasn't worried about that. But then he got to the downward bit of the upside down U shape. He said, "we got to about ¾ of the way down, and then we couldn’t get any further. My camera,” he said, “which is the size of a pen, couldn't go through. Normally at this place, the gut is the size of an apple." He said the tissue was very Friable (fragile) and each time the camera tried to get into the space, there was bleeding. The opening was smaller than a pencil.
So he said, he had taken 12 samples of tissue all around the area, and had already ordered me a MRA scan as the highest priority. He said that I would be contacted by nurses who helped patients through all the aspects of colon cancer, again telling them that it was the highest priority. He asked about my relatives who might have had intestinal cancer - and I have had a sister, 2 aunts, and a first cousin.
So that’s where I am today. Tomorrow I am expecting a call from the nurses, and probably an appointment for the scan.
How do I feel? Not worried or upset, which sounds strange, not because I am sure that it will all be OK, but because I find the whole thing rather interesting. I have to die of something, and if it turns out to be this, well, I have had a very nice life.