Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A real "Pain in the Ass"

End result of No Shave November

Long time readers of my blog will recall that I used to write about other subjects than just shoes.  While I love sharing my passion for shoes I have missed sharing more personal stories.  Other than my shoe reviews, my highest viewed stories have been about health and diet.  In the last view months I have been through a couple of medical scares that I have wanted to write about, but thought the subject matter might be to personal.  After much thought and discussion with Amy I have decided to write about it.  After all, it was just Mens Health November month and my story relates.  This topic is not easy for a lot of people to talk about, but embarrassment is no reason to neglect your health.

NOT what pee is supposed to look like..
On Sept. 29th, in the middle of a beautiful sunny trail run and only 5 miles in, I stopped to pee.  Even thought I had new sunglasses on, my pee looked strangely dark.  I lifted my glasses and saw that it wasn't dark, it was bright red.  Like watered down cranberry juice.  I was totally confused.  I am pretty aware of what the different colors of urine indicate, especially in terms of dehydration.  Thats just the type of stuff you know when you are an ultrarunner.  It is an excellent visual guide of your level of hydration and possible issues with your kidneys.  I also know several different reasons that you might have blood in your urine.  But having so much blood after only running a short distance scared me.  I slowed my pace down and took the quickest route home.

When I got home I was terrified to pee again, but when I did everything was fine!  Now I was really confused.  I called the Dr.'s office and they saw me first thing the next morning.  After taking a urine sample they confirmed that there was still blood present.  I was instructed to do no exercise for the next 5 days and return to give another sample.  The results of that test were negative and the Dr. felt that it was a simply exercise induced and nothing to worry about.  Call again if it happens any more.

Shortly after this I noticed that I started seeing very dark spots in my feces almost every time I went. I went to the internet and scared myself for all the possible issues that it could be.  The most common thing I saw was that it might be blood.  Dark blood may indicate several things, but most likely it would be coming from the stomach or high in the intestines.  Colon cancer and stomach cancer was mentioned as possible causes frequently.

Since I had a physical scheduled for Oct. 23 I decided to wait to discuss it with my Dr. then.  Probably not the smartest idea if something was really wrong, but it is just what I did.  I had not had a physical for 15 years and Amy had been urging me to have one.  I tend to ignore that stuff because I am very healthy.  My Dr. went through all the usual stuff, but now that I'm over 40 I got the added bonus of having my prostate exam too!!  As she lubed up, she told me that I would feel a "little pinch"... I then learned that my prostate is located way, way, way further up my ass than I knew.  Like maybe 4 inches behind my eyeballs...

She ordered a full battery of blood tests.  She also recommended getting a Colonoscopy.  This I was not excited about and asked her if it really was necessary.  She decided that we would wait for the results of the blood test and have me give some stool samples.  In case you have never done this, it's pretty gross.  You have these little matchbook things that you have to smear a tiny bit of crap on.  No other way to explain it.  Sorry...

Yes, the sticks are for....oh nevermind.

I received back the results of the blood work and every thing was excellent.  Total Cholesterol is 173. HDL is 73, LDL is 83, Triglycerides is 83.  My liver function, kidney function, blood sugar, thyroid function, calcium, potassium and complete blood count were all normal.  The only thing they recommended was to take 1000mg of vitamin D daily as my count is 22.

I returned the stool sample cards about a week later and they told me that there was no evidence of blood.  After discussing with the doctor and explaining that I was still very frequently having the same symptoms she told me that she wanted me to have the Colonoscopy. She said I would be getting a call from the GI department shortly to schedule it.  About two weeks later I realized that nobody had ever called me back.  On Tuesday November 20th I called to find what was going on.  They told me that all the paperwork had been shipped to the GI department on the 15th and I needed to call them.  So I called the GI department.  They told me that they had received the paperwork on the 18th and would call me when they were ready to schedule the appointment.

So I waited.  And waited.  And started to get upset.  On December 5th I posted something on Facebook about how pissed I was that I pay a huge amount of money for health insurance for me, my family, and my employees and I got treated like a number.  What if I did actually have some type of cancer?  Don't they tell you over and over that early detection is the best offense?  It was now almost a month and a half since my physical and they still hadn't even scheduled the appointment!  The next day I called again and finally got an appointment for the 18th for the Colonoscopy.

Today was that day.  And the reason I decided to write this post is because I thought it might be helpful for anybody who is scared to have this procedure done.  As I was.  I'm sitting here, letting the effects of the sedation slowly wear off and can honestly say that it was not a big deal at all.  Here is what happens.

Two days before the procedure I had to stop eating all fibrous foods.  Since I eat a plant based diet, that's not that easy.  The day before the procedure I had to switch to a 100% clear liquid diet.  Amy was nice enough to make me some veggie broth which was nice and salty.  I took a big container of it to work with me as well as several bottles of seltzer water.  By the time 10am had rolled around I was starving.  They told me that I could eat Jello (as long as it was not red), but I didn't want to do that.  I ended up going out and getting some Hammer Heed.  It turned out to be a really smart move.  I sipped on bottles of it all day.  It has 100 calories per scoop and it really kept me from getting too hungry.

At 4pm the fun started. Thats when it was time to "Prep".  Luckily they had allowed me to do the prep using something called Osmoprep.  It is a pill about the size of a large vitamin.  But you have to take 32 of them.  Four pills washed down with at least 8oz of water every 15 minutes for the first hour and 15 minutes.  Then at 6pm you do it again for another 45 minutes.  Traditionally to prep you have to drink a huge amount of foul tasting liquid that is extremely hard to drink.  My friend who had to do it that way told me horror stories of simultaneous throwing up and violet diarrhea.  Sounds great!!!

Fortunately the pills had no such drama.  They were very salty, but not hard to get down.  I felt a little tummy rumbling after the first hour, but no cramping or anything uncomfortable.  A little while after finishing all the pills they started to work.  I was expecting to reenact the "Turbo-Lax" scene from Dumb and Dumber, but honestly it was no big deal.  It was rather alarming to have that volume and pressure of water ejected from my rear, but it wasn't uncomfortable.  By bedtime things had calmed down and I only had to get up once in the middle of the night for another quick Old Faithful impersonation.

Look! It's me on the toilet!
My experience today where the procedure was done was completely different from what I expected.  My appointment was for 8:45am and by 9:15 I had been checked in, brought to a room and prepped by an extremely nice nurse and was in my gown and ready to go.  I was wheeled into a room with a nurse, an assistant and the Dr.  He introduced himself to me, talked a bit to me as to why I was there since I am so young and explained the entire procedure.  The injected a sedative into the IV and had me lay on my side.  In front of me was a large monitor that showed what the camera saw.  I got to watch the entire thing and saw what the inside of my colon looks like.  It looks like exactly what you think it would...except really clean.  It did get uncomfortable as he went really deep, like crampy and bloaty feeling, but it didn't last long.  The entire process only took about 15 minutes, or so I'm told.  I lose track of time when drugged up like that.

I was brought into a room to sleep for a while and when they woke me up they told me that I couldn't leave until I started to pass gas.  I was a bit afraid of not passing just gas... but finally things started to loosen up and they let me leave with Amy.  The entire thing took about 3 hours.  The good news is that everything looked perfect.  I'm not sure where I go from here, but I'm glad I had it done.  I don't have to have it done for another 5 years and I'll be much less nervous the next time.  If you have to have it done, I highly encourage you to do the prep with the Osmoprep Pills.  It was a lot easier than I expected.

I'm writing this in the hopes that anybody who might need a scary or potentially embarrassing procedure take action and have it done.  Whether its a lump on your testicle or breast, concerns of hemorrhoids, a prostate exam or what I had to go through.  Its just not worth jeopardizing your health for the sake of vanity.


Unknown said...

Great post Nate! I had a colonoscopy earlier this year for similar fecal symptoms and had a few benign polyps removed. You're absolutely right - better safe than sorry, and I'm glad I did it even if it wasn't the most pleasant experience. Unlike you, I had to do the Golytely drink, and it was indeed foul. Gagging the last few glasses of it down took some serious effort. I fell asleep during the procedure, barely remember a thing, but the prep was far worse than the actual "insertion."

Unknown said...

Funny and useful blog

Thanks Nate and I hope that you are OK

leeapeea said...

Thanks for sharing this, Nate. It's oddly comforting to know that someone brave enough to tackle 100 mile races and starting one's own business still has fears about the doctor. It's inspiring, as always, to see you take on yet another scary thing and move through it.

Steve Pero said...

Nate....at 61 years now, I have had all of this and more, I fear nothing ;-)
Glad to hear you're ok...did you ever get an answer as to the blood in the urine?

Anonymous said...

I recently experienced blood in my urine as well and it ended up being kidney stones that were pretty much dormant for years but running would cause them to jar somewhat and cause bloood in my urine. I ended up have them (one in each kidney) blasted into smaller pieces to pass.

I've had stones before but these were larger and didnt move around so I had no idea they were there...until I started doing longer runs.

Good Luck

Runnin' Ric said...

first: thanks for your honest and detailed -- and yes, lightening as well as enlightening -- article. It may end up saving a life or two some day by encouraging other men to do what oughta be done health-wise.

Second -- a thought on where else the red urine and stools could come from; beets. Any chance you used beets in a green smoothie in the 24 hours before the color reared its frightful presence at the rear? I've had a couple of alarming looking whizzes and, uh, such, only to remember that half a beet I'd added to my smoothie that morning or the day before. Bright red urine! Yep -- twas just beets. Ric

Nathan Sanel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan Sanel said...

Ric, Thanks for the thoughts. I only very occasionally eat Beets. That wasn't it. The doc said it was most likely the walls of my bladder contacting each other. Its actually pretty common. The blood in my urine is not the worrying thing. That only happened once. Its the other blood that nobody has been able to tell me a reason for.


Steve..see above (and its good to hear from you!)

Lea, thank you so much!

Diego, thanks! Hope to see you at one of the races this year.

Brad said...

Excellent post and very useful. The hardest part, for me anyway, was just getting to the doctor. It is so, so important and so many wait out of fear and a lack of education. You neglected to answer the volativity of your passing gas experience. While not useful for this post, you left out quite a bit of humor! I was knocked out for some of my procedure and my gas moment woke me from my slumber. Thank you again.

Nathan Sanel said...

Thanks Brad,
Actually I was really surprised at how little gas I had when I was coming out of it. Its pretty funny that they won't let you leave until they hear you farting!