#6: Say Cheese... And Fart! Part 2
Previously on Say Cheese… And Fart…!
“Outside of the tiny broom cupboard that operated as a changing room, the dimly lit waiting area is deserted. I stand around aimlessly and hold my bag of belongings to my chest while I wait for someone to tell me what to do next.
“I decide that now is probably the best time to go to the loo to make sure that I’m 100% ready for when they call me throu-
“Would you like to come through now, please?”
Five Seconds Later...
I take my deceptively large bag and shuffle into the colonoscopy room on the right, where I’m greeted by the sound of local radio at Christmas time, the sight of a hospital bed, and a flurry of activity, as two members of the magical camera show swiftly prepare for my procedure.
Every hesitant step I shuffle forward takes me further toward an outer body experience. Speech deserts me. I nod meekly along and crack a smile as they do their introductions and start to explain the process. The nurse points at my deceptively large bag and says, “Blimey, are you planning on moving in?!”
No, not particularly. It’s cold, wet and December-y outside, and I haven’t eaten for 27 hours. As a warm-blooded creature, it’s kind of a big deal. By the way, I think I still need the toile-
“Pop yourself onto the bed and lie on your left hand side, with your knees pulled up to your chest. Take your dressing gown off, but don’t worry about your slippers – you can keep them on – and see if you can find a position that feels most comfortable for you.”
This is all a bit kinky… Can I choose KFC as a comfortable place right now? Or my sofa at home, eating chips?
Suddenly, I realise that Shakin’ Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone is playing in the background. It may well be 15 days before Christmas, but everything just got a whole new shade of sinister up in here. ‘Tis really isn’t the season for love and understanding: more like lube and prostate glanding…*
* I have no idea what that means…
Upon clambering onto the bed, one of the nurses instructs me to put my left arm under my head. As their pillows aren’t particularly fluffy, this seems like a sensible thing to do, and it also saves them a low rating on TripAdvisor later on. The same nurse then sits very close to my face and lets me know that she’ll be here with me for the entire procedure. She shows me how to use the gas and air, and tells me that I have full permission to squeeze her hand if things get tough. I’m not sure if it’s just the hunger, but I can smell the pasta she had for lunch, too.
Anxiety is starting to kick in. My chest starts to tighten, and I’m now all too aware of where I am, and - pain-wise - how I have no idea about what is going to happen. Apparently, I’m not inhaling the gas and air correctly, and I desperately want it to kick in. My heartbeats continue to flick the inside of my chest with increasing regularity.
Behind the nurses’ left shoulder sits a TV that is currently broadcasting live pictures of my exposed bum. With Shaky still reiterating his seasonal belief of love and understanding, I gradually watch the camera lurch closer and closer to my backside, and it’s wholly unsettling: the camera, that is – my rear looks surprisingly presentable on TV.
The outer body experience rapidly reaches its crescendo as I sit staring at the screen. There, in front of me, is a bum – my bum – and someone behind me is moving something toward it. With no other points of reference, it looks like the first-person perspective of an animal in a film. My instincts are in turmoil as they try to process the view: it can’t be my backside, because I’m watching it on the screen, so it can’t be real. I can’t feel any movement around the area, but at the same time, I know that’s me and that I need to get away from it but I have to lay still.
Also: didn’t I see something like this in Saw, or am I just thinking about the episode of 24 where Jack Bauer stages a live execution to get a terrorist to talk?
From behind, the colonoscopist announces that he’s not entirely happy with my current position yet, and proceeds to drag me into place with a manner often reserved for an animal carcass. Upon his satisfaction, and like a lightly medicated lamb to the slaughter, I was ready for my rectal recording. A quick layer of lube is applied on the outside and – hnnghh – the inside, and we’re off.
…and I instantly regret this decision.
Just So We All Know:
Endoscopy is when the inside of your body is examined with a small camera, called an endoscope. The most well-known types of endoscope are for gastroscopy (for the oesophagus, stomach or small intestine), colonoscopy (for the large intestine) and for laparoscopies (aka keyhole surgery).
Endoscopes can come with a variety of attachments added to them, allowing them to insert stents, remove an inflamed appendix or tumour(s), investigate unusual symptoms in the body, treat joint problems, repair bleeding stomach ulcers and take small tissue samples (biopsies), amongst others.
For the full (and fascinating) list of things that can be done in the NHS endoscopy ward – including the phenomenally named ‘endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography’ - click here.
Giving Birth To A Food Baby
A colonoscopy isn’t painful, per se, as you don’t have nerve endings inside your large intestine,* but it is intensely uncomfortable. Although that may read like a lesson in semantics, there is a huge difference. Imagine your worst ever case of trapped wind and multiply it by two or three: that’s about the level of discomfort we’re discussing.
* You don’t have nerve endings associated with pain inside the large intestine. Most of the pain and discomfort you feel from your large intestine comes from when the intestine is stretched (or distended) due of excess wind.
It feels like all of the air from my lungs has been dumped into one area of my intestine and is now trying to move back against the tide and travel back to the chest. Shaky is no longer on the radio. I have no idea who is on now – it could be Bananarama for all I care – as it’s no longer possible to focus on anything other than the intense HISS from the gas and air mouthpiece, and the nurse telling me that everything’s going to be fine, and to breathe… breeeeathe… (Was I having a colonoscopy or giving birth?!) and instructing me not to move…
I’m trying to stay as still as possible, but there appears to be a camera stuck up my bumhole pushing vast quantities of air around my guts.
The first 10 minutes of the procedure play out via both internal and external dialogue in a scene not too dissimilar to the following:*
* I’ve edited out all of the time I spent groaning, whimpering and swearing as an exclamation. BONUS TIP: If you’re struggling to ‘believe’ the dialogue, imagine the left side of my brain is being voiced by Hugh Bonneville in W1A and the right side is being played by Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, or (!) by Family Guy's Stewie and Brian Griffin. Whatever works best for you.
Colonoscopist: “How many sachets of Klean-Prep did you take? Three or four?”
Right Brain: Three?! FUCKING THREE?! You little…
Colonoscopist: “…It’s just that I’m having a bit of difficulty getting through…”
Right Brain: WELL IF YOU’D LET ME GO FOR A POO BEFORE WE STARTED...
Nurse: “Remember to breathe…”
Right Brain: WHY ISN’T THIS GAS AND AIR WORKING?!
Nurse: “Have you got any plans for Christmas this year?”
Right Brain: I DON’T CARE
“Um, I think the rest of the family are coming over…”
Right Brain: I DON’T CARE
“…and then we’ll go to football on Boxing Day, as per tradition…”
Right Brain: I DON’T CARE
“…yeah, it should be really good…”
Right Brain: I DON’T CARE. I HAVE A CAMERA UP MY BACKSIDE. I. DON’T. CARE. I’M SORRY, BUT THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN SAY THAT CAN DISTRACT ME FROM HAVING A CAMERA UP MY BACKSIDE.
Nurse: “If you’re feeling discomfort, don’t try and hold it in – we’ve heard it all before…”
Right Brain: BELIEVE ME, I’M NOT BREWING IT…
Left Brain: I don’t know if I can do this…
Right Brain: YES YOU FUCKING CAN. DON’T YOU DARE BACK OUT NOW. YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S WRONG. GET TO HALFWAY AND YOU’LL BE FINE. DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE QUIT. IT’S NOT GETTING WORSE. IT’S NOT. GETTING. WORSE.
Left Brain: Actually, it really isn’t, is it?
Right Brain: I TOLD YOU. NOW SHUT UP. Three bloody sachets my arse…
Nurse: “Keep breathing…”
Right Brain: MOTHERFU-
Left Brain: Oh look! 10 minutes have gone already!
Colonoscopist: “You’re doing well – nearly halfway now…”
Left Brain: Don’t say “Are we nearly there yet?” Don’t say “Are we nearly there yet?”…
Right Brain: I’m gonna say it…
Left Brain: DON’T YOU DARE!
“Are we nearly there yet?”
Left Brain: DAMMIT!
Endoscopy cameras have the function to slightly expand (read: inflate) your large intestine, allowing for a clearer view during the procedure. For me, the extra wind (and pressure) created felt similar to that of a bow wave* in front of an Underground train. At around the halfway point, some of this air shot over the top of the camera and into the ‘ceiling’ of my large intestine at such a force, I was convinced for eight months afterwards that there was a passage that connects the large intestine to the stomach – and at no point did any doctor try to correct me on it.
* More like bowel wave, right?!
Nurse: “Remember, don’t try and hold your wind in. We’ve heard it all before: we’re used to it…”
“I’m not trying to hold it in, trust m…*PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRPPPPPP*…OHHHHHHHHHGODYES!”*
* I’m not saying that this moment was long-winded, but Thunderbird 2 could’ve taken off from Tracy Island quicker…
With the sound of an orchestra of rapidly deflating balloons mixed with the ferocity of a Saturn V rocket at take-off now echoing around the room, I had conclusively proven two things: first, that I wasn’t lying about trying not to hold onto any excess wind, and, secondly, that despite ‘hearing it all before’, all of the medical professionals in the room were laughing like a bunch of schoolchildren.
Everything gets easier from now on. I relax, the gas and air reaches its peak potential for talking nonsense, and apart from the odd moment of discomfort as the camera reaches a bend in the intestine, everything starts to calm down. *PAARRRP*. Sorry… Once you break the seal…
Plus, being the millennial scumbag that I am, I get transfixed by what’s happening on the TV screen behind the nurses’ shoulder. Holy crap… that’s me! That’s the inside of me! Any horror-lead visions from earlier have been banished from memory, and I’m now fully, 100% transfixed on the screen. Appropriately, it even looks a little bit like a newly built sewer system, with a layer of fresh, pink-coloured plaster on the walls, and a thin trickle of liquid gathered at the base:
“Hey, that stuff at the bottom looks a bit like pesto…”
Nurse: “I don’t want to know what your pesto looks like, in that case…”
“No, no… it looks like the green pesto, right?! Ah, whatever man…”
The only time I fully understood that I was looking at the large intestine was when the camera came across the odd patch of colitis, which, to my slightly hazy eyes, looked similar to when you graze the top layer of skin off part of your limbs and a few drops of blood emerge. It wasn’t that terrifying to see; it sort of looked like small patches of condensation inside the lining of a tent, or - in keeping with the sewer theme - that a Ninja Turtle had just been shot in the head.*
* I became so used to the sewer metaphor that I even said out loud how I wouldn’t be surprised to see some graffiti on the walls at some point. I wonder if there’s a gap in the market for intestinal tattoos…
By now, I was feeling so relaxed* about the whole thing that I was even mimicking the tiny grabbing arm that is used to take biopsies from the lining of your intestine. I was literally putting my arm out toward the screen, ‘grabbing’ the intestinal wall with my hand, and then pulling a tiny piece off to take a tissue sample. I may have even made sound effects, too…
* Read: wasted
“Hey, do you know the film Innerspace?”
Nurse: “No, no I don’t…”
“Well, this bit looks totally like it. It was this awesome eighties film where a guy got shrunk down to go inside a rabbit’s body, but he ended up in this guy instead, and this is totally like it, only they had what looked like giant bits of sliced carrot racing around to look like red blood cells on camera…”
*Moves head around; forgetting the whole ‘don’t move’ thing*
“Hey, does anyone else remember the film Innerspace?”
Colonoscopist: “Yeah, I do…”
“Doesn’t this look a bit like it, if you were in the little spaceship thing?”
Colonoscopist: “Yeah, it does!”
“YES! *Points at colonoscopist* Thank you!”
Left Brain: Don’t ask for a high-five; Don’t ask for a high-five…
Right Brain: Should I ask for a high-five?
Left Brain: NO! LOOK AT THE SCREEN!
Right Brain: Oh. Yeah. Probably shouldn’t…
Left Brain: No. Seriously. Just shut up…
Colonoscopist: “Reaching the ascending colon…”
“Oh, ascending… that sounds good! Wait… ascending isn’t good, is it..? Is it ascending or descending that’s good? Man I’m wasted…”
Left Brain: Okay, just try not to talk anymore. You’re giggling, and you’re starting to sound like your dad…
“How we lookin’, doc?”
Left Brain: JESUS, JUST SHUT UP ALREADY! If it was possible for a brain to cringe, I swear to God…
This charade continued until the procedure is finished, and the colonoscopist tells me that I’ve got Ulcerative Colitis – but you already know that part. I try and remember the song that’s being played on the radio as I leave the room, but everything still sounds like Bananarama to me. I just hope that nobody was waiting outside the colonoscopy room during the first 15 minutes of my procedure, as the mild yelling emitted by yours truly would’ve made them shit bricks…
…if they had any left in their system, of course…
Stop! ...Hamper Time...
As the nurses wheel me into the recovery room, I’m greeted by a group of fellow endoscopy survivors who passively track my arrival into the room. I elect to wave. They wave back. God; gas and air is great. I feel great. Everything is GREAT. The nurse in charge is informed that I’ve had a colonoscopy “without sedation”, which is addressed with all the subtlety of a mildly patronising parent telling someone how their child did their shoelaces up today all by themselves. Everything feels fantastic - my backside doesn’t hurt, either. What a time to be alive.
The new nurse is given instruction to contact the IBD nurses, as I need to understand what Ulcerative Colitis is before I leave; so he does. Then again. Then he calls reception. Then once again. Nobody answers. They’re ready for me to be discharged, but I’ve been given a diagnosis without explanation, so I’m stuck in no man’s land until someone can tell me what’s going on. To make matters worse, the other endoscopy dwellers are given crisps and fruit to eat, but I’m not. This isn’t fair!
Once I’ve wiped away all of the lube from my posterior, I get changed and take up residence in yet another waiting room as the staff figure out a plan of action. While I’m waiting, I befriend a middle-aged couple. We all excitedly talk about Christmas plans, and they ask me if I’m married or not.* We’re offered a selection of biscuits while we wait, so I nab some garibaldis - as I believe my body will appreciate the dried fruit within – before we’re given the chance to enter the Christmas raffle taking place. There’s a huge hamper of food and drink in the centre of the room, along with a bottle of prosecco and a few other bits and bobs, so I decide to get a ticket, as I’ve got my eyes on a gigantic Toblerone in the pile. Actually, as I’m still feeling pretty great – let’s make it two tickets. Such a baller move…
* There’s a reason why I’ve added this. You’ll see why in a while…
Eventually, I’m ushered into another small, windowless room (this one has a faulty clock on the wall), and one of the nurses apologises for not being able to get a member of the IBD team down to talk me through what Ulcerative Colitis is, but nobody can reach them. She starts to give me a brief overview of UC before popping out to see if she can find some leaflets that are up-to-date. Meanwhile, the nurse from the recovery room is loitering a few feet away from the door, so I decide to ask him what it all means:
“Um, quite a lot of people take medication for it… and some have to take suppositories or daily enemas to help calm things down…”
Wait… daily enemas?
“Yeah. Some people need ‘em. Not everyone though…”
Shortly afterwards, the nurse returns, sans leaflets. She gives me a brief overview of UC (you can eat/drink as normal unless you have a flare-up; be wary of spicy foods and things that might normally aggravate your digestive system, and you might feel tired and worn out some times, but that’s okay), but generally, things can continue as normal – and there’s no mention of enemas.
It’s worth pointing out that if you’ve been reading since ‘Lights, Camera, Colon!’, you’ll already know far more than what I knew about UC upon being given the diagnosis. It would take months of appointments, leaflet reading and basic trial and error before I would get anywhere near close to what you would’ve known/read by solely reading this: but that isn’t meant as a brag. I had an appointment with a gastroenterologist in four days’ time, but apart from what I was just told (and with my general ‘don’t read about things too much or you’ll freak out’ policy still firmly in place), that was it.* I headed home that night feeling like a weight had finally been lifted from my shoulders. I knew I had a problem, it had a name, and – apparently – it wasn’t utterly horrifying. All of the prostate exams, the suppositories, the shitting in a bag… they now had a unifying reason.
* That’s not meant as a dig at the nurse, either. She really did a great job.
The only thing left for me to do was to avoid looking online or flicking through the big medical book we have at home for four days, and everything would be fine…
…Three hours later, I read our big medical book.
Under the description for Ulcerative Colitis, words such as “surgery” and “large intestine removal” instantly leapt out of the page and seared into my retinas. What. The. Fuck?! It may have only been three hours, but I was back to being worried and sober once more. It was fun while it lasted.
And I never did find out who won the bloody raffle…
Desperately nerdy question, #149:
Q: Hey, why didn’t you call it Say Cheese and Fart… Again! Like the Goosebumps series?
A: Spoilers, my friend. Spoilers…
THE Song SUPPOSITORY
Propping up this weeks’ extra-bumper Song Suppository list are:
Shakin’ Stevens (Merry Christmas Everyone), another dose of Raconteurs action (Steady, As She Goes), some (in)appropriately titled tunes from Biffy Clyro (Bubbles), Bonobo (Flashlight), Alien Ant Farm (Movies) and Editors (Camera), and a stone-cold classic from MC Hammer (U Can’t Touch This).
Have a click below to get stuck into the full Stool mini-soundtrack experience!