On Chronic Illness and Colonoscopies

Sometimes in life you’re the shit and sometimes life takes shit out of you. I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean, so I’m just going to level with you before I start writing this train wreck:

  1. I won’t blame you if you stop reading immediately, and,
  2. I got a colonoscopy today!

I have no filter when it comes to detailing my bodily functions, so, basically… you’ve been warned.


On taking a day off

I took a day off from work to get my intestines and stomach scoped today, which is fine in that I got to spend the day napping and enjoying the effects of propofol, but I still feel uneasy about taking sick days. Even if I hadn’t already used all my paid time off, if I didn’t need to come in early and stay late for the next five work days, or if my butthole didn’t feel like it recently birthed a hot tamale… I hate taking time off.

And I take a lot of time off. I have regularly scheduled appointments with my dermatologist, hematologist, rheumatologist, and paleontologist; I leave 15 minutes early every other Tuesday to see my therapist; I get chronic migraines; I usually spend the second day of my period curled in a ball, writhing in pain; and sometimes I go on vacation like a normal person.

The root cause off all this is an autoimmune condition that results in a lot of inflammation throughout my organ systems. My symptoms are generally mild, but because it effects the whole body, I have a pretty wide range of problems. And at any given time, at least one of those problems needs attention.

The point of sharing the abridged version of my medical history is this: I have a legitimate need for more sick days than your average office worker, but no one I work with has any way of knowing that. And I’m not quite conceited enough to think they’d care to hear about it.

I know what it looks like to be fine in the morning and suddenly be so “sick” after lunch I have to take the rest of the day off. I know what it looks like when I’m sick on a Friday and have to take a three-day weekend. When I “have a migraine” eight times in one month. Or when I have an unexpected endoscopy scheduled for a day when I’m slated to attend an unappealing corporate event.

I get it. I look like a liar. And I feel like a liar even when I’m physically feeling my own (very real) symptoms.

It looks unprofessional, and I feel like a professional failure when I inevitably fall behind on my workload. And so, in the spirit of unprofessionalism, I’m going to carry on talking about my experience having my rectum probed.

(Insert alien emoji.)

On fasting

Being on a clear liquid diet for an entire day yesterday was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Until 7 p.m., when I realized I never wanted to see Jell-O or chicken broth for the the rest of my life. Or 11 p.m. when I realized I would consider killing a man for a plate of meatballs. (He would be a very sick, suffering man in this hypothetical scenario, so really my killing him would be an act of mercy.)

Anyway, the hard work of “prepping” my bowels paid off today: all my nurses told me I had one of the cleanest colons they had ever seen! Not to brag or anything… but tell your friends.

Not eating all day taught two things:

  1. I do a lot of bored eating
  2. Eating real food is fun

Walking through the kitchen without grabbing a snack yesterday was less of a test of willpower and more a testament to how little thought I normally put into eating. I grab granola bars on autopilot, seeking out food purely because I enjoy the experience of chewing.

So maybe I need to be a little more mindful about how I eat. Not for dietary reasons, but because if I’m not actively thinking about and enjoying something I want to enjoy, what’s the point? I’m missing out on an opportunity to get more out of my daily experiences. And eating is an experience I seek out rather frequently, I’m noticing.

On the meaning of life

You get a very different perspective on life when it’s 2 a.m. and you’re cradling your cramping bowels as they play the part of Old Faithful geyser for the night (i.e. spewing scalding sulfuric water every 44 to 125 minutes).

You stop worrying about whether or not your coworkers think you’re playing hooky, wondering why some guy you went on one date with never texted you back, regretting you weren’t happier when things were easier. My main concern was just not puking up the nauseating potion they gave me to get my intestines rolling for fear I’d have to do the whole process over again if my guts weren’t clean enough. I was focusing on the pain, and my breathing, and how tired I was, and if that’s not “living in the moment” I don’t know what is.

So after I got home from the procedure today, I took a very long nap and had very weird drug dreams. I binge-watched The Office and started to feel a little sorry for myself and my wasted day in the late afternoon.

But I’m trying a lot harder to make meaning out of my time here, so I thought I’d try getting some fresh air. I went to my back yard and set up a beach towel, my laptop, a book, some homemade iced coffee, and the styrofoam cup of water I’d brought home from the hospital. I did exactly what I would’ve done in the living room, but deciding to change my low-key routine put a little purpose into what I was doing. I didn’t do anything objectively valuable with my time, but actively deciding to do it made me inordinately happy. (Or it could’ve been the vitamin D from the sun.)

The point of all this, of course, is that water tastes a lot better out of a styrofoam cup with a straw, for some reason. And also that each day is maybe not the sum of what you accomplished throughout it, but a collage of how you felt in each moment.

cat outside study

via Daily Prompt: Crumb (because I wasn’t allowed to eat so much as a crumb of solid food yesterday and it was rough, man)

9 thoughts on “On Chronic Illness and Colonoscopies

  1. I can’t tell you how many colonoscopies I’ve had but it must be at least ten. But here is the thing…..the first one I had revealed that I had colorectal cancer! Yup! And that early detection saved my life. Now I only get one every five years. I had a chuckle about your rendition of it but only because it was all so familiar. thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s pretty amazing how medical science can catch cancer early enough to save lives. I’m sorry you’re so familiar with the experience, but I’m glad it helped you!

      And my mom warned me the night before was going to be horrible, but the actual exam was going to be the best sleep of my life. She was right on both counts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I only just recently realized that the guy in the big lebowski says ‘bear’ with an accent that sounds like ‘bar’. I always thought he said “Sometime you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you.” Sounds weird as bar, but it’s the same thing you said. 🙂


  3. Well, this post was intrusive.

    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I had to break the ice somehow.

    I’m sorry you gotta go through all this and deal with these symptoms. As soon as you said you were tired of Jell-O pudding I knew I could never experience what you do.


    1. Lolll I’m just casually alienating people online, it’s a typical Thursday. 😂 Thanks for reading (you really probably should not have done that, but there’s no going back now). Let’s never speak of Jell-O again though…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your unbridled honesty and openness. Colonoscopy prep is horrendous. I had one many years ago and can clearly remember it all too vividly *shudders*… Also, it is really weird the guilt we feel for calling in sick, even for legitimate reasons. Last year I had my doctor beg me to go to the hospital and I still went to work (ironically at a hospital ha…) because I felt too embarrassed/scared to call in sick. I hope you are feeling a lot better post-colonoscopy 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

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