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Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Time Event
Phew! No confirmation of bowel cancer

I’ve had a cloud hanging above my shoulders for a couple of weeks. It was lifted yesterday afternoon after I underwent a colonoscopy examination for bowel cancer. The result was good news, a healthy bowel with no sign of potential cancer-forming polyps.

Still alive and kicking

The alarm was raised when I received a letter from the federal government's National Bowel Cancer Screening Program who’d sent me a faecal occult blood test kit (FOBT) a few weeks before. They wrote that one of the two stool samples I’d returned had indicated a positive trace of blood. The recommendation was have my GP arrange for an internal examination. My doctor in turn rang the Hollywood Private hospital where he knew a competent gastroenterologist.

We thought we were lucky to to get a booking for the colonoscopy in early December, before many of the medical fraternity take off for their Christmas holidays. But I got even luckier last week when due to a cancelation, I was offered the procedure for yesterday.

The large hospital has a long history of caring for veterans long before it was privatised in 1994. It was originally established in 1942 as the 110 Military Hospital. After WW2 it continued to take special care of ex-servicemen through to the present. All the wards are now named in honour of Western Australians who were awarded the Victoria or George Crosses for military gallantry. Because I’d been on active service with the Australian Army during the 1960s Vietnam war, in my senior years I was issued with a ‘Gold Card’ by the federal government to cover any medical costs in such situations.

I had to observe a strict dietary schedule to purge my gut of unpleasantness. No food containing seeds or beans few a few days and then a complete fast during the final 48 hours with nothing but clear liquids, and some laxatives that really worked. I found this process not too difficult, apart from having to endure all the cooking programs and ads for food on TV.

It was the first time I’ve ever undergone a serious medical procedure or anesthetization in any hospital, so I don’t mind saying I was a bit nervous. I'd read there’s a one in five hundred risk of complications with colonoscopies, and the thought of not waking up was present.

The staff were cheerful, friendly, and very efficient. They put me on oxygen beforehand to charge up my batteries. The specialist doctor, an Irishman with a twinkle in his eye told me it was his first time too, but he was only joking, then he used an injection of white coloured stuff to turn me instantly off while he explored my small intestine for about a half hour with a long, flexible camera-equipped probe. When he was finished he or the anaesthetist somehow switched me instantly awake again. I experienced absolutely no confusion or nausea. Brilliant! During the procedure the only thing I can remember was dreaming a few times that I was experiencing an occasional gut ache, and periodically hearing voices murmuring behind me.

I was wheeled back to the recovery room and given some food and a cup of tea. Strangely enough I didn’t feel very hungry. Jill took the photos after we learned of the good result. The specialist said that false positives in faecal occult blood tests were not unusual. I said it was a pleasure to have him up my arse.

Many lives have been saved by the FOBC tests. Australians can check online at this link on how to participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Coincidentally, the Australian media nationwide is reporting today that the program is facing an uncertain future because of indecisiveness by the Julia Gillard led Labor government.

© MMX Paul R. Weaver.

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Check out each month's subject index on the Calendar Page for my "common-man" monologues about survival in 21st century Australia – plus a little history occasionally.  An original essay is added most days as part of an undertaking to write at least several million words. Zzzzzzzz!

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