Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Not as bad as I thought it would be and a rant

I should have said low fibre diet rather than low residue. It sure limits your choices during a book club meeting held in a pub. A Belgian waffle with no fruit or whipped cream was about the only thing on the menu I could have. Which is hard because the food there is good, and I was getting hungry. The book was "An Unfinished Life", but I was the only one who had read it so it was a short discussion.

There's a wine kit ready to bottle, I think, but what with one thing or another the afternoon got away from me.

Monday after dropping Linda off at work I got into the pool for a 2 K swim, nice and easy. Form and pace was good till the last couple hundred meters where things fell apart a little bit, and I had to work on it a bit harder. After I was watching some of the kids in the rest of the pool. One guy was doing the breast stroke kick while holding a board in front of him. What's remarkable to me is that he was traveling down the pool. There was a kick and a glide. This boggles my mind. They must be doing something different than me, or they have invisible fins. If I tried doing that the pool would close before I got to the other end. Not closed as in closed for the day, but closed because the facility reached the end of it's useful lifespan. Yes, my breast stroke kick is that feeble.

Then the adventure started. An unknown path for me. Even though I have no health indications, I'm of the age where the medical system likes to start to keep a closer eye on you. Which is a good thing, if they can catch indications when they are just indications and easier to treat. Even if the test is somewhat embarrassing and involves probing portions of anatomy we don't normally like to discuss.

In my case it was a colonoscopy, but really, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. In discussing it recently, I found there are all sorts of people in my circle of acquaintance that have had it done, some several times. Most people shudder at the mention of the laxative. At first I didn't think it was all that gross, but by the end of the first two litres I wasn't so thrilled. Then there's a break on the intake, and the output begins. I managed to get it all down in about 1.5 hours, and the expected results started shortly after.

Later in the evening I had to do the other 2 litres, and this got to be tough sledding. There were a few big sighs as I stood there looking at the glass. And then of course, the output starts again, so going to bed isn't a practical idea. I stayed up late watching fail video and police chases on my iPad. By midnight, which is a very late night for me, I figured I was done for now, and could go to bed.

My appointment was pretty well first thing at the Forzani McPhail clinic. We got there a bit early, and I napped waiting for them to call me. Once inside they ask some questions, let you put on the backless gown, and get you settled. I had thought I'd get the sedative then, but no, they said it was just a saline solution. The sedative came once they wheeled me into the work room, barely 30 seconds before the camera probe. I was thinking it would hardly have time to take effect.

It hadn't been my intention to watch the video. They rolled me onto my left side, knees up, butt over to one side. I was looking right at the tv. There was a bit of pressure and that's it. There was no relationship between what the camera was doing and what I was feeling. They pump some air in there to help expand things, which leads to a bit of discomfort. They snipped one tiny polyp to send away for analysis, and they figure I don't need to come back for another 5 years, though my doctor gets the final say on that.

In all honesty, this really was nowhere near as bad as I assumed it would be. In fact, I don't really know what I thought it would be, just that I wasn't keen to have it done. The closest thing to pain is when they put the needle in for the sedation, and you can choose if you're going to have that done or not. There was a bit of discomfort with the gas during the procedure, and various gurgles in your system throughout the preparation and procedure, but it's nothing I hadn't had after eating big or unfamiliar meals. Really, I think the worst of the whole several days was chugging the last 2 litres of the laxative. I can see where small people might have real trouble with that.

Oh, and last thing. Once they let you out, go home, even if you didn't take the sedation and are not considered legally impaired. There is still significant gas and other residues in your system, if you take my meaning. Even if you enjoy crop dusting your cubicle enemies there isn't much smell to assault them with, and there is other fallout to cope with. Home.

Guys especially don't like to talk about health issues, and going to a doctor is often a last resort. (And yes, I think I saw a doctor once during my 30's, so I know whereof I speak.) That attitude is what essentially killed my brother in law at 37 with two preteen children. I'm not sure which kind of cancer it was, and it hardly matters. By the time he went in there was essentially nothing they could do. Very sad.

So guys, man up and get it done. The slippery finger of life, as it's called, to check your prostate is no big deal. The colonoscopy isn't my choice of things to do for a good time, but if you're about my age, or have family history of such cancer, you're being stupid if you put off getting it done. And that's on top of all the stuff about regular sleep and exercise, good diet, and the various medical tests, yearly physical, eye exams (these actually can catch many conditions) and whatever other tests are indicated for your particular case. (Girls, you have your own issues and I'm not even going to go there.)

There is much talk in the media about the exploding costs of health care as the  pre-boomers and boomers get old. Older. Whatever. Part of the problem is that these are just about the last generation of people that did not have access to modern medicine from birth onward. There is all sorts of stuff that could have been prevented if only they had known to look for it. Now we have to deal with the expensive outcomes while using a system that was designed for simpler times.

There are going to be major changes to the medical system in the coming decades. We simply can't afford to do things the way they are done now. Medical training will have to change. By the time a doctor graduates, a significant fraction of what he or she learned is obsolete. We are on the cusp of doing away with paper medical records and not a moment too soon. I completely expect that fairly soon we will carry around our entire medical history on a tiny chip implanted inside our bodies, and read remotely by authorized professionals. Truly understanding our genome will enable us to have a much better handle on preventing or mitigating conditions in the first place, and when necessary, building a treatment that is custom to you and you alone.

This will lead to other ethical issues, I'm sure. When we can cure various conditions in the womb through genetic therapy, who gets to decide what the standard for normal is? If it's ok to cure or correct Tay-Sachs, for example, is it ok to do the same for deafness? How about shortness, or green eyes?

I think we are well past the point where we need to have a grown up discussion about health care, and healthy living. Yes, I know grown up discussions are very difficult. Let's take a broad general outcome goal, such as "to help people live a long, active and healthy life". Most people would agree that's a good societal goal. After all, who does NOT want them, or their spouse, or their children to have such a life? Who would rationally choose to have a short unhealthy life?

Given that, why is tobacco a legal product? Why can people buy something that has absolutely no societal benefit, and contributes to having a short unhealthy life? Yes, I know there are exceptions, and that's what they are, exceptions. Smoking is a huge indicator for a host of diseases and conditions. So why do we allow it to continue? Some would say the government needs the tax revenue, but consider that all that revenue and more goes back into the medical system to deal with the fallout. Doesn't seem like a good deal to me.

Unhealthy foods are another one. Why do we put up with it? I'm not saying that all foods have to be organic, pure, farm-fresh wholesome effing GOOD FOR YOU!! There are lots of foods that might not be considered GOOD FOR YOU, but they're not actively bad for you either, eaten in moderation. But then there are the MacDonalds of the world, producing food that not only tastes bad, but is actually bad for you, unless you consider eating it once a decade to be moderation.

Since I've gotten more active, we've been looking at food labels more, and thinking about some of our choices. I'm a big fan of the grandmother rule. Would our grandmothers recognize it on the plate, during preparation, and coming home from the market? Granted, there are some foods they simply wouldn't have heard of or weren't available. The other is asking yourself if you can pronounce all the ingredients and understand what they are. Of course, this test doesn't work if you're an organic chemist by profession or training. Does it even have a label in the first place?

We've become big fans of shopping at the various farmer's markets. Yes, some of the food is more expensive, but when you can taste the difference in a roasted chicken, I think it's worth it. We consider that our food budget plays a major role in how healthy we are. Part of the budget for this came from eating out, which we don't do much anymore. Once a month we have lunch with our book club. Every once in a while dinner with fitness buddies, or lunch with downtown buddies. (I worship the Falafel King!) A special dinner for birthdays or anniversary occasions. I'm not saying restaurant food is bad, I'm just saying it's expensive and the patrons don't know what's actually in it.

There is some evidence that red wine, a glass or so a day, is mildly beneficial to our health. As a wine drinker I think that's great, but have to recognize not everybody agrees. In the great scheme of things, having a daily wine, beer, or mixed drink probably falls into the category above that if it's not actually good for you, in moderation it's not particularly harmful either. It's the not in moderation drinking that's a problem, and doubly so if driving a vehicle is involved. There has been an enormous improvement in the DUI statistics, but there is still a long way to go. As a society, we need to talk about how to keep drunks from driving.

Then, since I was watching fail videos last night, there are the consequences of being stupid. The world is a harsh place. Until very recently being stupid or even just unlucky was a capital crime. Now people go do something so stupid that even a moment's forethought would lead to another choice, and end up in the hospital. We've all seen those videos on youtube where we wince and cross our legs, or worse. So many of the outcomes involve dental surgery at the very least, and could well involve many of the resources of a hospital, and for what? To preserve the life of a Darwin Award nominee. I don't have much sympathy.

I am careful here to distinguish between people undertaking a risky activity (when you think of it, ALL activities have risks), after taking active steps to understand and mitigate the risks, and those doing something on the spur of the moment while drunk because it looks like fun, and what could go wrong anyways? Consider scuba diving, for example. I don't even know the full list of things that can go wrong but that's just my ignorance. I do know there are extensive training courses, and defined safety practices that let a great many people enjoy the activity. On the other hand there is the guy that's never done it, and goes to the Pablo 'n Pedro dive shop (Everybody dives today, cash in advance please!) to take him to this neat cave 100 feet under water that he's heard about and willing to pay big dollars to see.

The fallout from smokers, drunk drivers, and people that haven't taken care of themselves is a huge drain on our medical system. Removing them takes a lot of pressure off the system. The changes to the system itself still need to happen, but there things we can do about it to make a difference, for ourselves and the system. Have these conversations with yourself, with your loved ones, and your friends. Don't be that guy in the fail videos.


  1. My friend, who at the time was only 32, had a colonoscopy 2 years ago. It went less than perfect. The doc inadvertently slit her intestine and all the gases they had used to puff up her tummy started to escape into the rest of her body. She was in extreme pain at home, returned to the ER, and through a series of tests/exams, found the issue. She was hospitalized for about a week since they had to gut her like a pig to fix it. She has an enormous scar on her tummy now. No fun.

  2. I am glad I didn't know that going in. I can bet she's never going in for another one.


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