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Interview 38

Age at interview: 62
Brief Outline: Invited to be screened for bowel cancer 3 times, between 2002 and 2006. The last Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test result was abnormal so she had a colonoscopy, but nothing abnormal was found in the bowel.
Background: A white English woman, a retail manageress, married, with 1 child.

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She was invited to be screened for bowel cancer as part of the pilot study. The first Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test in 2002 was normal, the next was also normal, but the test in 2006 was unclear, so she repeated the test. This was found to be abnormal, so she was invited to have a colonoscopy. During the colonoscopy the doctors found that she had a slightly enlarged value between the small and large bowel, so a biopsy was taken, but the result of this was normal. 

 

The nurse answered all her questions about the colonoscopy, reassuring her that there was nothing...

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So, when we came back from holiday, I did the test straight away, sent it off, with a covering letter to say that I did sometimes bleed because I'd got haemorrhoids, had them for years, not a major problem you know. And the letter came back two days later. My husband rang me at work and said, 'Do you want me to open it?' And I said 'Ooh yes' [laughs]. And he said, they would like me to go to hospital and talk about the results. We went to the hospital, my husband came with me and we were interviewed, a lovely nurse, really really caring nurse. She spoke to us for at least an hour, I timed. Before we went I thought there's questions I need to ask, so I wrote down loads and loads of questions that, actually by the time the nurse had finished, it only left me with about two questions on my list that hadn't be answered. And it all sounded very very positive, really.

 

After she had taken the laxatives her husband helped her with her enema. It helped to wash out...

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After she had taken the laxatives her husband helped her with her enema. It helped to wash out...

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So if you could just say a bit more about the preparation?

Yeah. I think I was having the procedure on the Tuesday evening so on the Sunday I went on a very low fibre diet; white bread and potatoes, very sort of limited things and lots to drink. On the Monday after breakfast it was just fluids all day, so I just drunk anything. They give you a whole list of things you can have. It wasn't a problem, I was hungry on the Monday, and then I think four o'clock in the afternoon, you have a sachet of laxative, which took about three hours, and just sitting to watch Emmerdale and [laughs] the alarm bells rang, and that was it, upstairs. And you continue on fluids the next day. You have the next one, the next laxative at ten o'clock in the morning,, and again after about three hours it worked and then you're given an enema. I was okay in the end, but I think some people might struggle with that, its just a sachet of liquid and I said to my husband, 'How will I know when its empty?' so actually he helped me, I laid on the bed and he squeezed it to make sure it was empty. You sort of feel that going round, you can feel it, and that's just washing out any last residue of faeces in the bowel really. 

So there maybe some people who don't even know what an enema is. So do you mind starting at the beginning?

Yes. They send you, with your packet of instructions, they send you the two sachets of laxative which you mix up, just with water and drink it. Its not unpleasant, quite a sharp taste, but not unpleasant at all. And the enema is a little bottle of about half a pint of liquid I suppose with a long tube and you take the cap off. Insert the tube into your bottom, lay on the bed, insert the tube just into your bottom, and just squeeze it gently until it's empty and then you lie there, just lie on the bed for ten or twenty minutes until, it's quite fast working, until you feel that you need to go to the loo. And that just washes out any last bits, just gives your bowel a good clean like.

And you got your husband to give you a hand?

Well, I had, yeah, because I couldn't see when it was empty. It was a bit difficult, but they still give you the opportunity if you can't manage it yourself, get to the hospital an hour before your procedure and one of the nurses will do it for you. So it's really not a problem. You know if I'd have been on my own, I might have opted for that. Because when you're laid down you can't see if this thing's empty can you? But it was, that was probably the most unpleasant thing about it, all to be honest.

That was on the day of the colonoscopy?

Yeah. It was within about one to two hours before you actually go to the hospital.

 

She was given antibiotics just before the colonoscopy because she had a leaking mitral valve in...

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She was given antibiotics just before the colonoscopy because she had a leaking mitral valve in...

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Went to the hospital, and again they sort of explain everything. The nurses were very, very sweet, very nice, kept saying, nothing to worry about, but that doesn't help enormously [laughs] because you do, don't you? It was explained that, you have a sedative which has got a'short term memory thing; that you won't remember what has happened and you will feel very woosy, you mustn't work. You could sort of go and book three days off of work really, the one before, the one with procedure and the one afterwards. I also have got a heart condition, small heart condition, a mitral valve, leaking mitral valve, so which means with any surgery I have to have antibiotics. I've told them this and when the doctor went to, you know, give me the anaesthetic he said, he said, 'I'm giving you your antibiotics'. Everything was explained to me all the way along the way. I was shown the screen, you know you can see it, but a lot of people apparently just shut their eyes and almost go to sleep. I also, I had to, well they give you a painkiller. Pethidine. Because when they pump air into you so they can get a clear picture, obviously that feels like trapped wind. And that again bothered me, because I said well what happens if that wind comes out, you're going to make noises, and she said, 'Yes, but its not like passing wind - its getting rid of this air', and they take no notice at all. But I still found that bit embarrassing. But it didn't actually happen when it came to it [laughs]. You go into the operating theatre, you lay on your left side, you see the screen. The doctor actually puts a gloved finger inside your rectum and then passes the tube in, and I was looking at it on screen, it fascinated me [laughs], and then I think you lay on your back for minute or two, then turn over and the other side and the nurses help you. Lots of nurses around and they are talking to you all the time, and then yes, all of a sudden it was over. And although they said it was about twenty, twenty five minutes, it felt more like five.

 

She thought she was OK the morning after the colonoscopy, went shopping with her husband, and...

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She thought she was OK the morning after the colonoscopy, went shopping with her husband, and...

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Yes, they tell you mustn't, they're very strict about the fact that you mustn't drive, you mustn't take public transport, when you're coming home after this because it does make you woosy, and you mustn't sign any legal documents within 48 hours,   and I must admit, I very foolishly, my husband came home from work on the Wednesday morning, and I said, 'I feel absolutely fine, I need to go out', so we went shopping, and I felt really odd in Tesco and he had to bring me home because the whole world was swimming round. So, very foolish of me, I did it because I felt fine at the time, but...

Was that the same day?

That was, no, that was next morning.

Oh so really.

Really and truly I do think you need to sit round in the house and just relax the day after.

Because I was in Tesco and I just said, 'I'm going to pass out', Tesco was just [laughs] going round and round. I felt like I'd had six Gin and tonics. It was silly, it was my fault, I shouldn't have done it.

Did you have any other side effects of the colonoscopy?

No, absolutely none. No. Just wind afterwards. You have to obviously get rid of the wind, just go to the toilet and just keep passing wind until the pain goes. Once the pethidine wears off that they give you as a pain killer, about two hours, and when I came home and I had just had something small to eat, just had some soup and bread, because you've gone two days without food, you don't want to pig out do you, and yeah the pain was pretty, like very very bad wind pain. And I just went up to the loo and sat there for an hour and read a book [laughs] until it had all gone. And I slept like a baby [laughs] through the night. It was great. 

 

Immediately after her colonoscopy the nurse told her that the doctor had seen a slightly enlarged...

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Immediately after her colonoscopy the nurse told her that the doctor had seen a slightly enlarged...

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And then you go into the recovery room and the nurse came to see me, the original nurse I'd seen at the other hospital. Because she was there, that was nice, because I actually knew one of the nurses. And she said they couldn't find anything, but they'd taken a small biopsy from the valve [where the large bowel meets the small bowel] because it was slightly enlarged, but, they weren't, really weren't expecting anything, it was just a precaution. And that she would either, I could either go to the clinic, or she could phone me at work, or at home, within two weeks [to get the results of the biopsy].

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