Up Mine: The Colonoscopy Papers

So once you reach the ripe old age of 50 Earth years, they tell you to take get the F.I.T. Not to get fit, though you should do that too, but rather to take the Fecal Immunochemical Test. You go to the pharmacy and they give you a kit comprised of a collector swab dealio that you scrape into your scat to get a stool sample. You do this on your own time, and is quite an alarming procedure, and you return the poop to the health professionals, they check the sample for blood, and if they find it you win the prize of a colonoscopy!

My report came back positive with “occult blood,” which I’m quite certain will be a future song title for The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. BC Cancer Colon Screening sent me a package in the mail including an info pamphlet and a letter stating that someone will be in touch. They also include a number you call to find out how long you will have to wait to get contacted: 10 weeks in my case. The pamphlet was very specific that I should not worry that I have cancer, because “abnormal results are common” (but not common enough to be normal, I guess?) and does not mean I have or will develop cancer. Knowing that I suffered chronic hemorrhoids for well over a decade, despite the not-even-remotely-best efforts of my proctologist, I assume that these banes of my fartbox were the source of the occult blood. Two months later they called me to set up the colonoscopy, which would take place in a further month. I was given multiple opportunities to eschew the test altogether, I guess they really thought it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Detailed instructions were provided! Seven days prior to the test I was to go to a pharmacy and pick up 4L jug of PegLyte laxative. I wasn’t supposed to take the laxative until the day before the procedure, so I’m not sure why the instructions specified 7 days exactly, but despite it being very inconvenient to my schedule, I picked it up on that date. I asked the pharmacist about that and they kind of shrugged, suggesting only that waiting until the last minute would be a bad idea in case they were sold out. I also asked them about getting a pill instead, as someone on my facebook mentioned I should try, and they said if you were told to take the liquid, take the liquid.

Five days before the anal probe, you’re supposed to “stop eating foods that contain seeds (eg: blueberries, flax seeds, etc), nuts, popcorn, corn, granola, multigrain bread.” On the advice of my proctologist, I had been consuming oat bran daily to beat my turds into submission. Would that fall under the no-fly list? What about my current fruit obsession – pomello? They have seeds but you don’t eat those. I had so many questions, so I called for clarification. The nurse explained that certain foods might get stuck in the hardware they’re sending up my bottom, and if the probe-ologist detected such intestinal cling-ons they would abort the mission. By the end of the conversation, pomello was approved but oat bran, quinoa, and even rice were banned. It would have been nice if they had sent a list with every food known to mankind either on the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ list so I wouldn’t have to use my own terrible judgement. The next three days were confusing and stressful.

Two days prior to the colonoscopy, it came time to prepare the dreaded 4 liters of evacuant. “Berry flavored.” Okay. The jug, when purchased, just had some powder in it, and to transform it into liquid you simply added water up to the fill line on the bottle and shook vigorously. Then, refrigerate.

The day before the exam, start the clear food diet. No solid food! No dairy! No nothing except clear broth, gatorade, and jell-o. I mean I could have had coffee or tea without milk but I don’t drink that rancid shit. Luckily my lovely wife made a big ol’ pot of chicken broth for me and that was a life saver. Oh…also you can have lifesavers and other hard candy. At 4pm I began a 1.5 hour process of drinking 2 liters of the lax-o-juice, one “glass” every 10 minutes. How much is a glass? Well, being a classy S.O.B. I chose a wine glass. The first one was fine, but after a few, I was NOT into it. The documents had advised drinking it through a straw to better “tolerate” it, but that just made the drinking part last longer.

After about an hour through the process, the flood gates opened. It’s weird and not-so-pleasant to pee voluminously through your anus, which certainly seemed to be happening. I used an entire T.P. roll throughout that night. I had the runs until about 10pm. Then I hit the sack and set the alarm for…

5am the morning of the colonoscopy. Now I had to finish the second half of the 4L jug. Horrible. Yucky. Very difficult. After about an hour, I started to feel not so hot. I tried to distract myself by watching Zulu on Tubi. But soon I was moaning and shivering on the couch and my dedicated wife piled a number of blankets on me and cranked the thermostat. She lay on the floor next to me to make sure I didn’t die, because I was being very dramatic. I thought I would puke, but I didn’t. I also didn’t finish the medicine 100%, but I felt very okay with that at this point. After about an hour, I started to feel better and drifted off, but was awoken (Woken? Awakened? Woke? Am I woke now?) regularly thanks to my sleep apnea. I got an hour of real sleep before it was time to get ready for my appointment. That prep was, of course, punctuated with watery poops.

We had debated how would we get downtown to the doctor’s. Would I rather shit my pants on the bus, skytrain, a cab, an Uber or our own car? Definitely not our own car because time spent hunting for parking would increase the risk. As it happened I felt reasonably fine and we masked up and called an Uber. Zero shits were given.

Shake your booties

After signing the various forms I was directed to a change room and stripped down to my socks, then donned two gowns (one front, one back for added protection) and booties. As always in such situations I worry about my wallet and phone, but the staff assured me nobody else would use that room while I was having my probing. My wife was dismissed, as they would call her 20 minutes before I would be released so she could go have a coffee and collect me then. It was mandatory that I have someone to pick me up, because the sedation they would use would have me legally impaired for 24 hours, and if I didn’t have a trusted escort they wouldn’t even glance at my chocolate starfish.

They took me to the exam bed, took my blood pressure, put my finger in the thingy-thingy monitor, and tried to jab a needle in my arm for the intravenous sedative, but I guess she had trouble with my vein so it went through the back of my hand. I asked “how far in do you usually go?” and about three feet was the reply. They asked a couple times if I consented to the sedative, so I found out that it was optional only at that time, and asked what would happen if I declined. The answer was that it would be more uncomfortable for me, because the human bowel does not like foreign objects in it, and will try to paristalsis it the fuck outta there. They mentioned it was 2 separate sedatives, but I didn’t think to ask which ones, and yes I consented. When I first read that I would be sedated, I assumed that meant I’d be unconscious, in which case I couldn’t watch the fantastic voyage through my intestines on the monitor, and that made me sad. But I was wrong! I was conscious and watched with glee, rolled onto my left side. I was advised that I might not remember what happened because of the drugs, but I remember them finding a single small polyp and excising it. The whole procedure wasn’t painful at all, and took about 15 minutes. I asked them if they found any tiny submarines and they said sadly no.

Fantastic Voyage, 1966

I was up, but a little wobbly on my feet, and after I got changed and rested in a chair for about 5 minutes, I was free to go. And that meant…FOOD! Glorious solid food! Tacos! Butter chicken! Cannelloni! #torentries!

They told me it would be 2-3 weeks before I get the results of the test. So all told that’s over 3 months from first test to results (which, I guess, could come up with more bad news and demand further tests). So here’s a tip, if you’re applying for life insurance, don’t schedule any medical tests of any kind, because they won’t approve you until all the test results come back okay.

That’s my story. Hopefully they tell me I’m cancer free and I can do this all over again in 5-10 years. Next time I’ll ask for the pill laxative.

Caustic Soda Podcast 5: VOLCANO!

What’s it like to be horribly killed by a volcanic eruption? What’s a cryovolcano? How would you score on the volcano pop quiz? Find out in the hottest episode yet of Caustic Soda yet. Pompeii, Mt St Helens, Krakatoa – you got nothin’ on us! Features “Too Darn Hot” by Cole Porter featuring Ann Miller. “You’ve gone too far this time, Joe, Toren & Kevin!”

Listen at causticsodapodcast.com

Caustic Soda Episode 3

Tonight Joe put up Caustic Soda: The Podcast #3. It’s all about radiation and it’s extra long and extra special because it’s our very first guest – Dr. Rob Tarzwell, nuclear physician. Check it out!

And if you use iTunes, please rate the podcast (particularly if you’d rate it favourably) so that it will pop out at more listeners. Thanks! Next episode: Black Holes.

What’s the Harm…in A Truffle Divining Rod That Also Detects Explosives?

First, read this blog post

Now, recently (paraphrased) from a New York Times Article:

Despite major bombings that have rattled the nation, and fears of rising violence as American troops withdraw, Iraq’s security forces have been relying (at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq) on a device (a small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel) to detect bombs that works on the same principle as a Ouija board – the power of suggestion.

The Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the devices at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each. Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints, have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of physical inspections of vehicles.

ATSC’s promotional material claims that its device can find guns, ammunition, drugs, truffles, human bodies and even contraband ivory at distances up to a kilometer, underground, through walls, underwater or even from airplanes three miles high. The device works on “electrostatic magnetic ion attraction,” ATSC says.

Asteroid, Not the Video Game

Recent actual news. All emphasis mine:

JAKARTA – Picture this: A 10-meter wide asteroid hits Earth and explodes in the atmosphere with the energy of a small atomic bomb. Frightened by thunderous sounds and shaking walls, people rush out of their homes, thinking that an earthquake is in progress. All they see is a twisting trail of debris in the mid-day sky. This is what happened on Oct. 8th around 11 am local time in the coastal town of Bone, South Sulawesi.

Meteor scientists have given it their full attention. “The explosion triggered infrasound sensors of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) more than 10,000 km away,” report researchers Elizabeth Silber and Peter Brown of the Univ. of Western Ontario in an Oct. 19th press release. Their analysis of the infrasound data revealed an explosion at coordinates 4.5S, 120E (close to Bone) with a yield of about 50 kiloton of TNT. That’s two to three times more powerful than World War II-era atomic bombs.

The asteroid that caused the blast was not known before it hit and took astronomers completely by surprise. According to statistical studies of the near-Earth asteroid population, such objects are expected to collide with Earth on average every 2 to 12 years.

Good idea for a story: asteroid triggers nuclear war.

I Skeptically Endorse This

Monte Cook, co-author of D&D 3rd edition, has released a book called The Skeptic’s Guide to Conspiracies. So if you love D&D and believe the moon landing is a hoax, this book may be for you!

[link to amazon.com]

For more info on skepticism, logical fallacies and how to construct an argument, I strongly suggest you check out the podcast SGU 5×5. Each is 5 minutes long and offers valuable insights on skepticism 101.

What’s the Harm?

A couple years ago I was explaining how ridiculous astrology is to my girlfriend at the time and after all my trying to explain about how the plural of anecdote is not evidence and that the arrangement of the stars cannot possibly influence one’s fate or personality (having astrology buffs try to guess my sign based on my personality is a fun hobby of mine), her final argument for being a believer or at least following it is “what’s the harm?” I didn’t really have a tangible specific answer.

Now that I have an mp3 player I’ve been catching up on all the podcasts I’ve been accumulating over the past couple of years. Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, NPR Science Fridays, and CBC’s Quirks & Quarks to name a few. Rebecca Watson from SGU mentioned whatstheharm.net and now finally I have an answer to the above question.  The website says:

Not all information is created equal. Some of it is correct. Some of it is incorrect. Some of it is carefully balanced. Some of it is heavily biased. Some of it is just plain crazy.

It is vital in the midst of this deluge that each of us be able to sort through all of this, keeping the useful information and discarding the rest. This requires the skill of critical thinking. Unfortunately, this is a skill that is often neglected in schools.

They have stats and figures and links to news stories. Of course, as a critical thinker I have to ask where they get their figures and what is the bias of the reporters who write the stories they link to. That’s part of the process. Nevertheless, the stats don’t seem unreasonable and the stories like

astrological prediction of a planetary alignment that would cause a devastating cyclone, over 60,000 workers fled [Alang, India] in fear. This caused the ship-breaking yard there to shut down at a loss of up to $60 million


Myanmar’s General Ne Win’s astrologer and numerologist told him his lucky number was 9 and he would live to be 90 if he was surrounded by 9s. He reissued the currency in multiples of 9 causing mayhem and new insurgencies.

are tragically hilarious.

Pretty Planet

from esa.int

This Envisat image captures a plankton bloom larger than the country of Greece stretching across the Barents Sea off the tip of northern Europe. Envisat acquired this image on 19 August 2009 with its Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) instrument. MERIS’s primary objective is to provide quantitative ocean-colour measurements, but the sensor has enough flexibility to serve applications in atmospheric and land-surface science as well.