Gill’s Crohn’s has been bothering her lately. Not that that is breaking news. It always bothers her. But it has been particularly active the past few weeks. I have worried from afar. And the mere fact that she actually went to a doctor indicates to me that she is suffering. She has a high tolerance for pain and her tolerance for dealing with the grossness that is Crohn’s is even higher. So it was that I waited, last weekend, for news of her colonoscopy test.
To me, having a colonoscopy is a test to be avoided at all costs. I know it’s the gold standard for detecting colon cancer, but it is, to my mind, an invasive and unpleasant test. The doctors could puncture something — something I need and something that might leak and cause an infection.
But the worst part, after I get over my phobia of going anywhere near a hospital (that’s where we store the most virulent germs), is the ‘prep’ one must undergo before the test. The downing of massive quantities of foul-tasting liquid, the hours spent on the porcelain throne emptying the contents of your intestines all conspire to make this the most hated medical procedure possible. I know it actually isn’t the worst, but it’s right up there along with a root canal, pap tests, and mammograms. Again, I realize intellectually that these tests save lives, but let’s just say they aren’t tops on my bucket list. I mean, if choosing between a trip to the Carribbean and a colonoscopy, I’ll choose a warm, sunny island every time — even after factoring in the difficult realization that my days of wearing a bathing suit anywhere during daylight hours are numbered. But Gill had no choice.
I knew she was due to have the test in the morning on Saturday. Allowing for the time difference and the fact that she’d be sedated and then in a drug fog, I didn’t expect to hear anything until late in the day, if not the following morning. And I wasn’t sure that she’d have any actual news about the results for days or weeks after. In Britain, they apparently haven’t modernized the medical records so that a patient receives news in a timely fashion. They send the results by snail mail!. Did the Victorian era just stage a comeback? Can you imagine?
I’m the original Luddite, but even I know (well, sort of) how to use a computer. And the postal service is the last place I’d trust with time-sensitive or important documents. But no, the Brits must send you a note through the mail. You are even notified by mail of doctor appointment dates. The phone and email are not considered reliable, I assume. Or perhaps they are concerned about the government spy agencies getting classified info on Gill’s insides. Or perhaps they simply think it is more polite, more in keeping with tradition, to cling to this outdated modus operandi.
Such an archaic approach would definitely not fly this side of the pond where we North Americans expect everything yesterday — if not sooner. We are, I admit, the most impatient of societies, but it’s worked for us. And, I have to say, if even The Queen uses Twitter and email, what’s the problem for the health system? Perhaps Prince Harry could ‘pop round’ and give them a crash course in modern technology. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. If he can handle dealing with techie issues for a 90-year-old woman, he can handle the health system. Maybe.
It turns out that I had reason to worry about Gill. She went to the hospital clean as a whistle, so to speak. The foul liquid had more than done its job to help. A good friend accompanied Gill. I’m so grateful to her since, had I been there, the hospital staff would have spent all their time scraping me off the ceiling during my panic attack. For several hours, Gill was writhing in excruciating pain. This was pain that even morphine couldn’t touch. ( When she told me via Skype about this, I made the offhand comment that it sounds similar to my dad’s pain during a kidney stone episode. I recall him lying on the front hall floor, unable to stand the pain even after morphine.)
“Funny you should mention that,” Gill commented. “It seems they have indeed found a kidney stone! But they couldn’t proceed with the colonoscopy after all that, so I still don’t know what my colon looks like. The pain could have been from the stone, my already agitated colon after the cleansing, or even a burst ovarian cyst. So many options.” It’s almost like going into a discount dress warehouse. You’re looking for that one perfect dress, but are so overwhelmed by all the choice you give up in a fit of despair.
So we have a new physical condition to add to Gill’s already lengthy list: kidney stone, arthritis, Crohn’s disease,osteoporosis, and it appears, with her focus back on a bland, low fibre diet to lure ‘Jeff’ (her name for her colon) into submission, a hint of her scurvy.
Sigh…and she wonders why I worry.