Monday, February 28, 2011

Colonoscopy: it can SAVE YOUR LIFE!

A colonoscopy: it can SAVE YOUR LIFE! Read about Peter Granger's Life-Changing Colon Experience here...
...this blog was originally published inside Cisco Systems internal intranet site - many folks have asked that it be published externally, so here it is!

I'm like many other Cisco Employees who work hard, are active inside and outside of Cisco and come up with new ideas like I do in my role as Manufacturing Industry Solutions and Market Manager in CMO Industry Marketing. But then there are times when we should all just do a little more... 
Also, just like many other Cisco employees, I knew at the back of my mind that I should probably be doing more as far as my health was concerned. Oh, I went to the gym occasionally and made sure I had my annual physical, but that was about it. There never seemed the time or urgency to do more – like getting that colonoscopy that should be routine for anyone over 50, or over 40 if they have siblings or parents that have had gastric or colon issues.
Eventually my wife Julie got her way by reminding me that we now had a second child – an 18 month old little girl – and I’d better schedule my colonoscopy if I wanted to make sure I could walk her down the aisle in twenty-odd years time, or see my grandchildren. Despite a busy home and work life I finally relented and booked the colonoscopy. That was the first step of many that meant I probably would do the wedding bit and be able to see the grandchildren, but without that colonoscopy the chances, as it would turn out, were slim. Here's a summary of what happened:

  • I give way and get that colonoscopy booked for August 5th 2010. There's some prep work the day before - a special drink to 'clear-the-tubes' prior to the colonoscopy. Tastes ok, but gives you more frequent movements the day and night before. Drinking only fluids pre-colonoscopy makes sure the colon stays clear.
  • I had the colonoscopy procedure on the 5th. I was asked if I wanted to be sedated more or less. I chose less so that I could see what was going on. It was pretty painless. The doctor found three polyps - one is hyperplastic, a low risk for cancer - it's removed on the spot. The second is a tubular adenoma - more serious since it's actually pre-cancerous. It too is removed during the colonoscopy. The third is worrying - it's a pre-cancerous tubulovillous adenoma - smaller ones can be removed in piecemeal fashion - sometimes over several colonoscopies. Larger sessile villous adenomas may require surgery for complete removal. At about 3-4 cm, mine was considered a large one. The Doctor marked it with ink (a sort of tattoo) and left it alone. All polyps were biopsied.
  • I came back at the end of the following week to hear the news. The good news was that none on the biopsies showed any cancer. The bad news was that the doctor recommended that I have surgery to remove that third villous polyp. Owing to its position I'd lose both my appendix (no worries there) and my Ileocecal valve ("what was that?", I thought). Turns out I go number twos 3-4 times a day so the valve probably wasn't working well in my case.
  • After much consternation (is the Ileocecal valve important or not? etc. etc.), we (Julie and I) were comforted by the doctor and the surgeon that a partial colectomy was the way to go to be sure that there was no cancer, now or the future. There's a 40% chance that my villous adenoma would turn cancerous in 10-15 years. That's almost like flipping a coin. The surgery took place on a Monday - 4th October 2010.
  • The surgery went smoothly - I was a little groggy for the first couple of days, and I was on introvenous and a catheter (no colostomy bag). All my systems were hooked up again after 2 days and I was eating low-fibre - soups etc., for the first few days. The surgery was laparoscopic (key-hole surgery) - I just has a couple of small holes on my left side, and a small 4cm slit in my belly button (that's the route that they take the piece of colon out through). The surgeon removed about 8 inches - around 20% of the colon, plus appendix and Ileocecal valve and some lymph nodes and issue to biopsy to be absolutely certain that there was no cancer.
  • After three days in hospital (shorter than usual owing to the laparoscopic surgery approach), I was sent home. Diet was low-fibre to start with and lots of soups. That week the final biopsy came back clear - a great relief that I was cancer-free in the colon, and with that section removed zero % chance of cancer there in the future. Things are going well - back to work the following week - some days home office the first week, but fine after that. Pain in the belly button region subsided in three weeks (car seat belt was noticeable), diet fairly non-restricted by that time (even a beer or a glass of vino seems ok), and off pain meds after the first week.
All-in-all things are going well - weight restriction on lifting over 20 pounds for six weeks is still in place for the beginning of November 2010, but I'm managing to do a little lifting and cuddling of my 30 pound 18 month little girl. Well, who could resist her? And now I'll be around a lot longer to keep cuddling her and hopefully her children!
Stay well, work hard, and make sure you get time to look after yourself and your family!