Interview 46

Age at interview: 68
Brief Outline: Invited to be screened for bowel cancer in 2006. The result of the Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test was abnormal, so she had a colonoscopy, when five polyps were removed. One polyp was cancerous, so she had a left hemi-colectomy.
Background: A white English woman, a retired senior pensions officer, married, 4 children.

More about me...

She was invited to be screened for bowel cancer in August 2006. She did not have any symptoms. The result of the first Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test was unclear, so she repeated the test. This was abnormal, so she had a colonoscopy, during which five polyps were removed. One polyp was found to be malignant (cancerous), so she had surgery, a left hemi-colectomy, to make sure that all cancerous tissue had been removed. No other treatment was needed. She now feels well, though tired at times. She will go back to see the surgeon for a check-up in February 2007. She will have another colonoscopy in September 2007, just to make sure the bowel is normal.


She was hungry and enjoyed the tea and biscuits after the colonoscopy. She had no side effects.

And then after the colonoscopy, what happened?

They put me on a bed for half an hour. And they made me a cup of tea and two biscuits. Best two biscuits I've ever eaten [laughs] because I hadn't had anything for 26, 27 hours. And then as I say he came and had a word with us, myself and my husband, and said he didn't think there was anything for me to worry about.

Did you have any side effects after the colonoscopy?


None at all?

No. They do say that you've got to be looked after obviously, I mean I was, I stayed in, sort of thing, but no, no.

You weren't too sore around the anus, the anal area?

No, no. Nothing.

So you've come back from having had the colonoscopy and you thought everything was fine.

He said he thought everything was fine, but I'd got to go back the following week, on the Thursday, for the results, to see the girls at the clinic again.


She didn't like the idea of sending samples through the post.

How did you feel about putting it in the post?

Well, I mean it was no problem, I just put in the post, and then I thought, 'Oh I wonder if the postmen know what they are handling? Perhaps they don't'.

How did you feel about that?

Not very nice really is it?

Could that have deterred you from doing it do you think?

It could, Oh well I don't know. I think it perhaps would have been better if it could have been taken to a clinic or a doctor's, and they [the test kits] could have been sent off in bulk.


She didn't do the Faecal Occult Blood test immediately because she thought it would be ¬ďa little...


And I think there was a time, you hadn't got to do it right away, you could leave it a few weeks, but it had got to be done within a certain time. And I thought well if every time I open the drawer, it's going to be at least once a day, I'm going to see it, and I thought, “Oh, I might as well do it. At least there's nothing wrong with my health”, never thinking, probably there might be something wrong. Because I hadn't had any symptoms at all. Nothing at all.

What put you off doing it?

Just because I thought it was a little bit messy.

That's what it was really. A little bit messy. But it was, because it was just the thought of the messing, just messing. Although you have babies, and you move whatever, sort of thing, you just think, “Oh I can't be bothered with this.” But I decided to do it, and in a way I'm glad I did, because they did say, [the nurse] said, in six months after we knew the results, in six months if I hadn't have done it, it could have been a lot worse. And I would have had to have had follow up treatment, so I think I've been very lucky actually.


The laxatives tasted like dirty salty water and made her feel sick. They took about half an hour...

There were two girls there [nurses], the one was more or less just sitting and the other one did all the talking, and explained that the abnormal result didn't necessarily mean cancer, it could have been anything else, but she also explained what could happen if it did turn out to be cancer. And that I'd got to go for the colonoscopy. And then the decision was mine, I hadn't got to do it if I didn't want to.

But you think well I've done the dirty bit [laughs], I might as well do the rest of it, and then she said they'd have to give me this stuff to drink. It was foul.

Was it?

It was absolutely foul. I'd got to drink one, I hadn't got, I'd got to do it the Tuesday, I'd got to go for the colonoscopy on the Wednesday, so I'd got to start taking the stuff on the Tuesday, hadn't got to have anything to eat after lunchtime Tuesday, and I'd got to have it at 6 o'clock, the first one. 

You dissolve it in about half a glass of water it was, and she said, she told me it was not very nice, and I said, 'Well I'll drink it right off.' She says, 'Oh no, don't, because you'll bring it right back.' [laughs] She says, 'That's what I've been told, I haven't tasted it, but I've been told you'll bring it right back.' So I sat on the chair with, and I'd got to drink half a glass of water after it. So I'd got two glasses of water, sat there got two glasses of water on the table, and I sipped the first sip and I thought it tasted like very very salty, dirty, salty water. And I drunk it in about five goes. And it'd be about ten minutes after, I ain't got any left, and you do feel sick, and I think if I'd have gone to the toilet I would've been sick, then I drunk the glass of water after, and then you can drink as much water as you like, so I was just drinking water, and then I'd got to have another one the next morning. So, I got up, I'd got to have it at 7 o'clock, so I got it in before I had a wash and that. Got it all ready, sat down and drunk exactly the same, about five sips. And then drunk the water after, and then I went to have a wash and clean my teeth, and I found cleaning my teeth, had I known, took the taste out of my mouth, I still felt a bit queasy around the stomach, but it did take the, so that's something people might think, oh I'll just clean my teeth, then just sweeten your mouth a little bit. But it was nasty.

And then what happened to your bowels during that time?

Oh dear [laughs]. I was up and down off the chair like a yo-yo. 

It took about half an hour, to start working, but once I'd got into bed I think I only had to get out once in the night, and then basically in the next morning after I'd taken it, it was just water basically that was coming away.


When she was telephoned to make an appointment with the surgeon she realised something was wrong,...

And they removed the polyps. After I'd had half an hour's rest, the doctor came out to talk to my husband and myself, and he said, they sent, they've been sent to histology, and he didn't think there was anything to be concerned about. I'd got to go and see the girls again the week after for the results, but the night before I'd got to go I had a phone call asking if I was available for an appointment with the consultant, the week on the following Friday. I panicked a bit, and I said, 'I've already had my colonoscopy', and she said, 'I know you've had your colonoscopy, are you available for an appointment with the consultant a week on Friday?' So I looked at the calendar, yes, I could do that. And then I started really to panic, because I really knew then that something was the matter.

But anyhow the next day I went to see the girls, and they explained what they'd found. They'd found a cancer in one of the polyps. And'I was basically devastated. We got through that, went to see the consultant, and she was lovely, she really was. She didn't have to say, would you like me to do this, or would you like me to do, she just said what she was going to do, and what part of the bowel she was going to remove.


She was given an enema on the day of the operation to prepare the bowel for surgery.

And so then the next day you went to see the surgeon.

No, it was a week on the Friday.


A week on the Friday.

Oh that's right, and she explained everything.

She explained everything, she told me what she was going to do.

Before the operation did you have to go through all the same preparation again, with the laxatives?

No they gave me an enema [laughs].

When you went into the hospital?

When I went in to have the operation they gave me an enema. Because I said to the, because they'd been calling other people in, to go down to theatre, I was the last, because she came in to see me, the consultant came to see you, and I said, 'Where am I on your list?' and she says, 'I'm afraid you're last.' I thought, 'Oh dear, I've got to sit here and watch everybody else go down.' She said, 'Because yours is going to be the longest operation,' she says, 'So we'll leave you till last.'

And, then they gave me an enema, and then when they came to fetch me, I said, 'I haven't had my pre-med.' And she said, 'Oh, you've had an enema, that'll do.'

So you didn't have to have any laxatives at home the night before, like you did with the colonoscopy.

No, no, no.

People who don't know what an enema is, do you mind explaining what an enema is.

It's a solution, I would think myself it's a salty solution that they pour into your bowel, and then its about 10 minutes, I think it'll, they advise you not to move far away from a toilet. Its not really unpleasant, it's just the fact that people are messing with your body parts all the while really. But'

Were you lying on the bed while they do this?

Lying on the bed, yes. And they just insert a tube up your back passage and just, it's in a bottle about that big.

And that makes you go to'

That makes you go to the toilet yeah.


Describes the operation, the pain relief, and post-operative care. She got 'fantastic' care from...

Basically, I went in at half past seven, and then they took me and did all the tests, and signed more forms, I've been signing forms all the way through [laughs], and then they took me into a ward and did all blood pressures and everything and put my fancy theatre stockings on [laughs] and then I just had to sit there and wait. '.And then I had to go, I was about 2 o'clock, they fetched me down to the theatre, and then they couldn't get the needles in because I'm not very good with giving blood anyhow, but the veins, they had difficulty finding them. So they just had to put me under with a mask, and then found the veins while I was under. Next thing I remember was my son saying, 'Are you alright Mum?''and then, my husband said, 'We're going now, we'll see you tomorrow.' And then I don't remember anything else till I came, and because I'm diabetic they have to keep coming to do your blood, check your blood, and she came and checked my blood and I said, 'Can I have a drink of water?' While I was waiting to go down to theatre, they kept talking about the colostomy bags, and I thought I don't really want one of those, and she painted all my tummy and everything where they'd got to go if they'd got to put one on. So when I came round I asked for a drink of water, I said, 'Have I got a bag on?' [laughs], so she looked and says, 'No, you haven't.' So that was a relief.

But then I'd got tubes, and pipes and everything coming from everywhere. And the next, and I was on a morphine pump, which was fantastic [laughs], it was fantastic. Apparently they had tried to put an epidural in, but they couldn't, they couldn't get it in, so they'd gone for the morphine pump. And then a few hours later they got me out of bed, for a few minutes on the chair. Then put me back in. And then from then on, everybody kept saying I looked fantastic, considering what I'd gone through, I didn't feel it actually [laughs], even if I looked it.

And you were in hospital for eight days?

Eight days.

What was the nursing care like when you were in hospital?

Oh fantastic, fantastic. And I mean the doctors were around every morning, to check on you and that. Basically they're overworked, but they couldn't do enough for you. And I must admit the food was not too bad either.

Oh good.

I have seen worse food in hospital when he's been in. But, no the food was absolutely first class.

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