Friday, February 18, 2011


I once had a colleague who was a former Fleet Street journalist. I can't remember his name but I do remember a story he told over a particularly boozy dinner.

"The worst kinds of press releases," he said, "keep all the best bits for the end. That's just not how it should be done. It's like reading a news story that says 'A crowd gathered at Buckingham Palace today. There were also fire engines and ambulances. The corgies were brought out to safety. The Palace burned to the ground. The Queen is dead."

As I went on to work in communications, I kept that anecdote in mind and tried to make sure that the most important facts were kept in the lead of my news releases.

But this is not a news release and I can tell my story in way that pleases me.

I had an endoscopy yesterday.

I wasn't terribly worried when the secretary at reception couldn't find any record of me. I credit the Ativan for that. You still feel the anxiety but it's further away. Almost like it's someone else's anxiety.

She must have found me in the end, because I was called into the endoscopy unit, given an id bracelet and told to change into a robe.

The endoscopy unit at the Civic Hospital could use a facelift. The paint was peeling off the walls in the waiting room and the beds in the prep and recovery area are separated by curtains. My neighbour and I learned a lot about each others' medical histories and bowel movements.

Every nurse I spoke to was very taken aback that I should have metastatic breast cancer at my age.

Every one of the nurses was really kind.

The nurse who took my history and prepped me for the anesthetic noted my "crappy veins" but she got the vein accessed in one poke, so major kudos to her.

My bed was eventually wheeled into the room where the procedure would be done. At this point, I met Dr. A. for the first time. There was another doctor with him who introduced himself so quickly that I didn't catch his name. This second doctor, who I assume was a resident (why don't they introduce themselves as such? Residents always say, "I work with Dr. So and So." They never say "I am learning from Dr. So and So. Do they think the patients can't be trusted with this information? This really bugs me because I can always tell they are residents and I would be much more forgiving if they were honest with me) began to very rapidly list off all the horrendous risks of the procedure and then handed me a waver to sign. 

It's a good thing that I had done tons of my own research (and that I had taken the Ativan) because I might have demanded that they wheel me out of there.

Dr. A. asked me if I had signed the waiver and if I had any questions. I said, "I just want to get this over with."

I mentioned my strong gag reflex to Dr. Resident. He instructed the nurse (pompously? Am I being biased?) to give me some extra shots of the anesthetic spray for my throat (I had the distinct impression that the nurse was going to do this anyway but perhaps I am biased). Then they hooked me up to the drip, placed a plastic frame with a hole in it in my mouth and shoved a tube down my throat.

I then proceeded to gag, choke and gasp for breath. Tears streamed down my face. 

I'll never forget the nurse who gently held my head and spoke comfortingly to me.

It's amazing how big the endoscopy tube looked to me. There's no way it could have  been that big in real life.

I heard Dr. A. say something about how studies had shown that the gag reflex was greatly diminished when Fentanyl is administered.

I heard Dr. Resident sound surprised.

A nurse administered Fentanyl via my IV. And then I was really, really stoned (I just read that Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and I had a cocktail with other sedatives).

Not sure if I passed out or not but I was pretty woozy. I know they called T. to come and get me. And I know that one of the nurses suggested I try and get dressed.

I sat up and nearly puked. The nurse got me to lie back down again.

Lather, rinse and repeat a few times.

One of the nurses gave me some apple juice, which helped.

I asked what drugs I had been given. A nurse looked that up and said with surprise that I had been given a drug in the Valium family and Fentanyl. She said, "No wonder you're so wasted."

I heard someone mention Gravol (known as Dramamine in the US). I now understand why they give it to me each time they give me Demerol at the cancer centre. They gave me a barf bag.

I texted T. to see why he still hadn't arrived. He texted back that he was in the waiting room. I told him to come get me. He said that the secretary wouldn't let him past the waiting room.

If he wasn't allowed past the waiting room and I wasn't allowed to leave without him (nor could I walk on my own), we were kind of stuck.

One of the nurses went to get him.

Before I left, Dr. A. came to talk to me. He said that I am to come to his office in around four weeks, at which time I will get my results. He also told me that there were no visible tumours (see what I mean about burying the good stuff under a whole pile of details?).

I went home and slept for 6 and a half hours. It would have been longer if T. hadn't come into the room to check on me. I was pretty dopey all evening (giving all my online Scrabble opponents an unfair advantage) and hit the hay before 10.

My throat hurts today and I'm still kind of tired but I did get out for a run (it's 10C here today that's 50F), so I guess I'm recovering pretty well.

In a months time, I'll find out if the biopsies revealed any pre-cancerous cells. Or if I have celiac disease. And Dr. A. promised that if they don't find anyting, he's going to want to do a colonoscopy.

What fun.


JuliaR said...

Very thorough recounting events, thanks! Not that I plan to have an endoscopy any time soon. But I suppose I will eventually have to have the colonoscopy, given my history and the fact I am past 50.

I really dislike all those brain drugs. That stemetil they give you during chemo made my brain go crazy - the dreams I had! Whoof. I am going to look into hypnotherapy before I have to go for the colonoscopy. Thanks for stiffening my resolve.

laurie said...

Everyone's experience is different with these things - I just felt the need to write mine down!
Stemetil made me manic. My heart raced and I shook too hard to do anything. Don't mind the dopey drugs too much - except that I hate how I feel when I come down.

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurie,
I am not sure if I will not cancel my endoscopy in March. Mine anti reflux drugs work somewhat when I am on a diet. I know that the procedure is usually done by residents and I am aware how scared they are..
Since I have no veins left this procedure might have wait until I get a power port.

Lene Andersen said...

Woo! Just... woo.

(I'm too traumatized by the description of the procedure to say more, but am jumping up and down with the good news. And yes, residents are usually arses)

laurie said...

Kristina - I don't think the procedure is always that traumatic. My reactions was pretty extreme and I think might have been avoidable. I'm going to ask when I see the doc in a month.

laurie said...

and yes woo!

Lise said...

I'm so glad to hear that the results are good, and sad to know that the process was not so good.

If you do end up having a colonoscopy, in my experience, it's not so bad. I had one the year I turned 50, and so did my husband, and we found that the worst was the stuff you have to do to empty everything for three days before. The procedure itself feels a bit crampy, but with the drugs, we didn't really care.

Nat said...

Glad there were no tumours but it did sound terrible and awful as these tend to be.

I hate when the interns, doctors and residents don't tell me exactly who they are. If you're Dr. Smith and your a resident -- I want to know what you're specializing in, and how long they've been on this rotation... they tend no to be so fond of this line of questioning.

angela said...

i'm on a fist name basis with fentanyl (noth iv and a patch), in addition to my morphine and dilaudid. don't ya just love good drugs?

in all honesty, i can't wait for the day that i don't have to take ANY of them.

i will be patiently waiting for your results :)

laurie said...

Hello Princess! xoxo