It all started in January. I went to my regular doctor for my annual check up. Ladies, you know what I mean. Blood was drawn at this visit and the next day Doc calls me and tells me that my blood work results showed I was anemic. That explained the 2.5 hour naps I was taking every single day because I couldn’t keep my eyes open!
Doc went on to explain that since I no longer have a monthly period, there’s no reason for my iron level to be that low. She said there must be blood loss somewhere inside. She strongly suggested an EGD and a colonoscopy. I had been refusing a colonoscopy since I turned 50. Was this her way of making sure I did it, whether I wanted to or not? Perhaps.
I told her I thought it was probably my diet. She said, “No, not unless you’ve gone completely vegetarian.” She wouldn’t even entertain the thought that it was my diet. Was she assuming that because I’m overweight I must get enough to eat? She’s a doctor. Doesn’t she realize that many overweight people are actually undernourished? How can she say with all certainty that it’s not my diet? She doesn’t know what I eat or don’t eat!
She went on to tell me that I could have colon cancer, lymphoma, Crohn’s, or Celiac Disease. Way to go, Doc! Scare the crap out of me. Again — her way of making sure I have a colonoscopy? I was beginning to think so. Reluctantly, I agreed and an appointment was made. In the meantime, she told me to take an iron supplement.
Within a few days of taking the iron supplement, I started to notice a change. I wasn’t totally exhausted by 11:00 am every day. I started sleeping better. Apparently, lack of iron changes something in your brain and that causes insomnia…and I hadn’t slept well in months! Due to these changes, I knew the blood test was accurate.
I was still convinced that it was probably my diet. I didn’t eat breakfast, lunch was my biggest meal and consisted of a vegetable, meat (usually chicken) and sometimes a potato or pasta. Maybe I’d just have a salad made up of romaine lettuce, carrots, celery, and zucchini. I wasn’t eating beef, not much grains — not bread, not even cereal. I wasn’t eating beans. I wasn’t eating much spinach or other dark leafy greens. At dinner time, if I was hungry, I had crackers and cheese or I’d open a can of soup. Maybe for a snack later I’d have a handful of pretzels or a few Hershey’s mini candy bars. Not a very iron-rich diet you say? Riiiight! I also wasn’t taking in any vitamin C, which helps you to absorb the iron in your diet. Ever since my gallbladder surgery, if I ate certain things (beef, grains, some veggies, beans etc.) I would feel bloated and had major discomfort in my stomach. So, I stopped eating those things! I figured I didn’t need the carbs or calories anyway! I thought this was just the way it is after gallbladder surgery.
In a couple of weeks it was time for the dreaded colonoscopy. I was instructed to stop taking all supplements, and my pain medications one week prior to the EGD and colonoscopy. I knew this was going to be miserable because I NEED that pain medication! By day 4 I was in tears and in major pain. I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t walk much, couldn’t sleep. I was a basket case!!
Day of procedures came and I was not only in tremendous pain but my anxiety level was through the roof! I wanted this day to be over. I wanted to go home and take my pain meds and sleep for a week! The nurses and doctor performing the procedures were very nice and explained everything that was going to be done. They tried to make me comfortable because they knew I was in pain. My comfort was short lived.
I was given what they called a “Twilight” drug. It was suppose to put me in la-la land. I wasn’t going to know anything that was happening or remember anything afterward. The EGD would be performed first. A mouth guard was placed in my mouth so that I wouldn’t clamp down on the tube. The tube went down my throat —- I gagged and choked and thought I was going to choke to death! I didn’t think they would ever finish. I was horrified. The nurses did their best to talk me through it all but it wasn’t working. (I couldn’t help think, “why am I aware of this?”) When the tube came out I was relieved. Little did I know that it would go from bad to worse when they started the colonoscopy.
Bear with me now. I hate to remember the details. It was just too traumatic and it has taken me all these months to be able to sit down and actually write about my experience! I won’t go into great detail about the colonoscopy because I think you will get the picture.
The drugs were not working on me, which is why the EGD didn’t go very smoothly for me. The doctor gave me as much of the drug as he possibly could. The colonoscopy could not be finished. I was yelling for them to stop. I was being held down by 2 nurses and told, “Stop yelling” and “It’ll be over soon” and my favorite, “Relax!” — all while being violated!!! I swear if I had seen those 2 bitches afterward I would have kicked them in the face. Thank goodness the doctor stopped the procedure, none too soon if you ask me!
Afterward, the doctor was very apologetic and explained to me that it’s rare but sometimes that happens. My pain level coupled with my high anxiety just over-rode the drugs. I should not have remembered anything but I did! He also told me that I could have taken my pain medication and that he had been trying to tell the ladies in scheduling and registration that that particular drug was OK to take! As for the EGD, he told me that he had a hard time getting into my stomach because it seemed to be in the wrong place, up too high and also that it was shaped funny. Oh great. Now what kind of tests and procedures do I have to look forward to? He suggested an Upper GI. Nothing too scary, thank goodness. He also suggested that we re-do these procedures but that he would put me completely asleep next time. You’re damn right you will, IF — and that’s a really big IF — I decide to do it again at all!
So, I had nightmares for 2 weeks after this happened. It’s hard for me to even recall the details vividly – not that I can’t recall them, but because it’s just too traumatic! Imagine this happening to you! My brain KNOWS it wasn’t rape BUT my emotions tell me differently! I don’t blame the doctor. It wasn’t his fault. Anyway, it was done now and I had to worry about what was wrong with my stomach.
An Upper GI was scheduled and it wasn’t a big deal really. I drank some nasty chalky stuff and was able to see the x-ray of my own stomach as I swallowed. It was kind of cool! The doctor doing this test explained that what I had was an Para-esophageal Hiatal Hernia. Basically, my stomach was in my chest cavity! That explains why I felt such discomfort and bloating, and nearly pain at times, when I ate certain things!! I was told that the danger was that my stomach could twist and cut off it’s own blood supply — resulting in a EMERGENCY situation for me! Yikes!
An appointment was made for a consultation with a surgeon. He was very nice, had a good sense of humor and I felt comfortable with him. He explained what needed to be done and showed me photos as well. He also told me that I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to do. THAT was the very first time a doctor has ever said those words to me! I agreed that surgery was the best option and it was scheduled. I wasn’t too stressed. I had some anxiety but it was more about my insurance covering the surgery than the surgery itself! And the surgeon said I could continue taking my pain meds, and if I could stop taking them a couple days before the surgery that would be great, but if I can’t that’s ok too.
Surgery went well. I spent 2 days in the hospital and 3 weeks on special diets. The first week was a clear liquid diet. Second week, a full liquid diet. Third week, soft foods. After that it took a couple weeks to be able to eat without getting sick. I’m doing great now….. I’m eating my favorite foods again but I’m definitely trying to get all the necessary nutrients in my diet. Being more health conscious is easier said than done!
Stay tuned for the next installment: My Ordeal – The EGD/Colonoscopy ROUND 2