Friday, October 1, 2010

October 2010: Welcome to the Big Time

Kirnu, a steel roller coaster in Linnanmäki.Image via Wikipedia
So, wow, it's November October already. That last sentence was a huge Freudian slip on my part. I understand why--I just finished looking at my calendar for this new month.

Yup, I'm pretty sure I can't wait until this month is over.

You see, I have doctors' appointments every week this month of October. Which, by the way, is a pretty doable schedule, especially since I will have Robert's help for each appointment. If they were all routine follow-ups, I'd say, 'No big deal.' Except the first two appointments this month are a big deal.

Week One

On Friday, October 8th I have my first routine colonoscopy. I am starting early because my mother died at age 61 from metastatic colon cancer. She had her first colonoscopy at 50 and everything was fine. Then she somehow she never made it back for another one at age 55...

I'll never forget April 13, 1998. It was the day after Easter and a month and a half before my wedding. Robert and I spent the previous day at my parents' home enjoying Easter dinner. She called early the next morning with abdominal pain, needing a ride to an Urgent Care appointment.

After spending several hours in the clinic, they transferred her to the Emergency room. It was there that a scan was performed and the truth revealed. At age 60, she had a large tumor in her colon that had spread to her liver. During surgery the next day, the surgeons discovered so many tumors on her liver that they only counted the largest ones. With stage 4 cancer, her prognosis was not good. She died 11 months later.

Despite my anxiety and fears about this procedure, I am determined not to let this happen to me. It's all about prevention!

Week Two

I'm going down to Orange, California on Thursday, October 14th. My destination is very close to Disneyland, but I won't be visiting Mickey Mouse. Instead, I'm getting some medical tests which might just be the medical equivalent of a roller coaster ride.

I'm visiting the University of California, Irvine Neurology clinic for a consultation in the morning regarding my dysautonomia. Then I am having autonomic testing done in the afternoon (aka the roller coaster ride.) I anticipate that this may include a tilt table test and whatever else they do to diagnose dysautonomia.

The outcome I hope for is better treatment of my dysautonomia symptoms from a doctor who is a true expert in the field.

(Why they don't have a clinic like this at UCLA, I'll never know...)

The Hard Parts

I don't like be sedated, so that part of the colonoscopy for me is anxiety-provoking. Since I have sleep apnea, I'm also concerned about what precautions the medical staff will take to ensure this doesn't complicate things. The prep for the colonoscopy seems like no fun at all and I am worried it will make me physically sick.

My biggest fear about the autonomic testing is passing out. (Yeah, I really don't like being unconscious.) I am also realistically worried that the testing will flare me up. Plus chances are I am going to be somewhat sleep deprived that day because of the time of the appointment, which will already make me more symptomatic.

Most of all, the hardest part for me about the next two weeks is overcoming my fears about the unknown.

Plan of Attack

Being a former Girl Scout, I'm taking the motto Be Prepared very seriously. So for the next two weeks, I am going to talk about how I face my fears, get ready and get through these medical appointments and procedures. Which means you can look forward to posts with lots of ideas you can try to help you cope with big time medical appointments too.

I am also going to ask you, my readers, to share your tips and tricks with me too. Comments showing your support and encouragement will be greatly appreciated too.

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Heather said...

the prep for the colonoscopy is worse than the colonoscopy itself. Just stay in the bathroom pretty much the entire time you are drinking and for about an hour or so after, and you won't have any messes to clean up. Bring a good book to read. I had mine in the hospital because of bleeding so I wasn't able to take this advise. I learned the hard way.

Anonymous said...

Although the thought of going under for the colonoscopy is scary, I can reassure you it is better than the alternative. I've had two colonscopies done with little or no sedation, and in both cases the doctor had to stop because I was screaming with pain (due to the proceedure itself, not because of any issues with my colon). I understand your concerns given your sleep apnea and other experiences. But, my last colonoscopy was done with full anesthia, and the worse part really was, as Heather said, the prep for the test.
If constipation is an issue with you, you might want to use a stool softner or laxative a bit in advance of the actual prep stuff for the test. I have severe chronic constipation, and didn't do any pre-prep, and the colonoscopy couldn't be preformed because I wasn't, excuse the grossness, cleaned out enough. So, for my return trip, I made sure that I was ready before drinking all the prep stuff.
Good luck with both of your tests!

Selena said...

Thanks ladies for the comments. I am now prepared for the effects of the prep. I'll talk a bit more later in the week about some additional steps I am taking based on your feedback.

I know the sedation is a good thing, but I just get nervous whenever I am going to be sedated. Best guess is that this is some medical test trauma. Lord knows I have had more than my fair share of them...

Leslie said...

Selena, as the others said, the prep is the worst part. Although I have to warn you that I can no longer drink gatorade after doing the prep. I just can't stomach it. I also talk about my colonscopy experience on my blog. It happened a little under a year ago. I go into more detail there, although not sure if you want it before you have your's done. I do have to say, though, that you deserve props for being proactive and going through this because of your family history. Anyone that does this at a younger age than is typical definitely gets points. I was telling my boyfriend that I think med school should require all students to have one done. I bet you can guess what he thought of that idea...Wishing you luck!