Monday, February 4, 2008

Why I Have Been Avoiding a Sigmoidoscopy Like the Plague

So, it seems I must clarify if even my own sister is asking why I am avoiding a sigmoidoscopy "like the plague"...

Sigmoidoscopy: visual examination (with a sigmoidoscope - see above) of the lower third of the colon.

I've been typing then deleting, then typing then deleting, trying to explain and I think the most effective way to explain is this: 1) the scope doesn't fit (even if it looks like it does, trust me, once it's in their you will realize it does not fit) & 2) I was awake and felt everything when I had my sigmoidoscopy in April '07. See, you really just have to get that the scope does not fit. I mean, technically, it fits because they get it up there. Oh! And then in order to be able to get a proper visual, a second tube (did I mention the first one didn't fit?) is inserted to inflate the colon with air which provides some space to look around. Once inserted, the scope must be bent back downward in order to look down onto where the rectum meets the anal sphincter - the tumor area in my particular case. So now, instead of pointing straight up, it is in the shape of the letter "J" but upside down and to imagine why that matters...well, do this:

Point your index finger straight up. Now curl it down until it's in the shape of an upside down "J." Once your finger is halfway down, notice that it's taking up twice as much space as it did when pointing straight up.

And once the downward view has provided all that is needed, naturally, the scope has to be returned to a straight position. Yes, that would required returning the finger back the straight or forward position. Ooh, yeah. That again.

It was also an equally difficult experience when the ultrasound was done - both times. And once the ultrasound rod is inserted...oh yeah, a second tube is inserted to inject water into the colon so the machine can get a better reading.

I must confess, I could have been be put under were my doctor to ask me to get a sigmoidoscopy. It's standard procedure for a colonoscopy. But until recently, if I was going to have a sigmoidoscopy, I wanted to be awake so I could see what was doin' down there. As painful as it was - gripping the bed bar and sweating bullets, mouth open with my eyes damn near rolled into the back of my head - it felt it important for me to see this rather unattractive yet colorful growth in my rectum. However, with all the pain I experienced in the last eight months, I think this time I will request that I get KNOCKED. OUT. COLD while the doctor plays a pitiful game of Hasbro's Operation.

If you're not familiar with the game Operation, it is a game where, with tweezers, you attempt to remove little plastic "ailments" from small holes in the board without touching the edges of the spaces within which the "ailments" are placed. Otherwise it sets the buzzer off. I can just hear the Gastroenterologist, "Oops the buzzer went off. Oops the buzzer went off. Oops the buzzer went off." My guess is that it's the future gastroenterologists who don't spend much time playing Operation as children so they don't know the goal is to NOT touch the outlying areas. Perhaps gastroenterologists (and colo-rectal doctors) were the kids who liked the sound of the buzzer and would actually push harder against the sides of the holes just to see if they could make the game buzz louder than their friends!

I hope that provided some clarity.

Yes, I will indeed request to be "out" for this one. And I'll ask if the crew can send me home with a DVD copy of it all. It's in full color, I might add. But don't worry. If I post the video, you will be fairly warned. It won't just start playing as the window opens up on your computer...


  1. I remember the conversation I had with you after your sigmoidoscopy and it seems to me that the pain was the least of your concerns on that day. But this description was enlightening, and having had my colonoscopy less than a year ago, I had some phantom pain while reading your highly descriptive account. Thanks for that! (My doc made one painful poke during my procedure, and as instructed, I let them know vocally -- at the top of my lungs -- even though I was only partially conscious. The pain cut right through the drugs. And apparently the amnesia effects of the drugs didn't work on me...!)

  2. Tell your doctor that if he wants to see your tonsils, he can go in through the other end!

  3. I've had several sigmoidoscopies and fortunately mine have not hurt as much as it sounds like yours do. It may be because my tumor was in a different spot--the 12 o'clock position, they tell me. I will say there's no way I could see what's going on during the procedure because my eyes are always clammed shut. It hurts. Fortunately my doctor is quite fast at getting what he wants to see and it's over at about the time I'm going to scream uncle.

    In terms of the ultrasound I didn't make it as far as you did. As soon as the procedure started the pain was overwhelming. I was shaking like a leaf. I didn't even have to ask. They put me under. It was good for everyone. I slept, none the wiser, and they got a chance to take an extra good look. So I vote for getting knocked out. :-)