Susan… we’ve got a problem!

On this cold winter day I’m sitting here at the computer, getting  ready to compose my blog, sipping a hot cup of coffee, and organizing some thoughts in my head before I start typing on the keyboard. I recall for the five years following my surgery I had routine Cat scans and blood work every three months. Everything was looking good. Once I reached the five-year mark I breathed a sigh of relief. Though, I have to admit that after surviving the rare form of cancer in my small intestine I kept thinking to myself that I got off easy. Too easy. Even after being so sick for three years prior to being diagnosed. Afterall, I didn’t have to go through chemo like so many other people do. My incision healed well without complications. All the black and blue marks on my stomach (from being held open with a retractor during surgery) disappeared over time. I won’t be wearing a bikini ever again. Because of the location of the incision I no longer have a belly button. I was actually reaching my sixth-year anniversary of my surgery when things suddenly took a turn for the worse.

Early in 2012 I visited my general practitioner for my annual physical, EKG, and blood work. She personally called me at home one night several days after my office visit and told me my hemoglobin was low. She wanted to admit me to the hospital for a blood transfusion as soon as possible. She had me alarmed. However, I told her I wanted to see my oncologist about this before doing anything. Luckily I was scheduled to see her in two weeks. Well sure enough, my blood work at the hospital also revealed some trouble with my blood counts. Upon seeing that, my oncologist conducted a test of my stool and found blood which meant I was bleeding internally. “Oh no… I can’t go through all this again!” I yelled. She told me to set up an appointment immediately with the GI doctor who had discovered my cancer the first time.

My GI explained the procedure that he wanted me to undergo. It was a capsule endoscopy. Basically it was a miniature camera inside of a capsule that I would swallow. My GI would be able to observe the inside of my small intestine as the capsule made its way through and out of my body. The camera would take thousands of pictures along it’s journey. What would modern technology think of next? This is way better than a regular endoscopy because that can only allow the doctor to see inside the esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small intestine. If there was a growth, this tiny camera would detect it. To ensure that this procedure worked successfully I was instructed to begin a liquid diet at noon time on the day before I would swallow the capsule. I had to stop at my pharmacy to pick up some MiraLax to mix in with whatever I would be drinking. However, my drink of choice couldn’t be red or purple. Why is it that prepping for the procedure is so much worse than the procedure itself? Drinking yucky-tasting liquid is horrible on it’s own but then not being allowed to eat solid food is even harder for me because I love to eat! You know what I’m saying?

The next day, when I arrived at the facility, the technician attached sensors to my stomach with an adhesive so they wouldn’t come off. These sensors would allow the camera to wirelessly transmit images of my small intestine to a recorder. Next the tech put a velcro belt around my waist with a data recorder attached to it. I was really quite impressed with all of this. Once everything was in place, the technician opened up the sealed package that contained my capsule. The numbers on the capsule packaging had to correspond with the numbers on the recorder. She handed it to me with a glass of water and I swallowed it down. It was the size of a vitamin pill. The capsule was very smooth and easy to swallow. Easy peasy! I was sent on my way and told to return the next day.

When I returned the technician removed the velcro belt that held the recorder as well as the sensors that were still attached to my stomach. The recorder would be sent to my GI to hook up to his computer so he could review the images. The capsule passes through the body naturally with a bowel movement. The tech told me to look for it to be sure it passed. Ooo… kay!

So if your GI recommends a capsule endoscopy don’t be afraid. There is no sedation involved and recovery is immediate.  Unfortunately, when my GI viewed the images he saw that the capsule had stopped somewhere in the small intestine and did not go any further. He asked me if I passed the capsule. I had no idea.

Until next time…