Friday, 18 January 2019

Tests and Results

It had been a long four weeks over Christmas and New Year waiting for the results of my biopsy and for my next gastroscopy. I’d done my best to put it all to the back of my mind, although it did keep coming up and catching me unawares. While there is always plenty to distract you at this time of year, it is also a period for reflection on what has gone before and what is to come. Cancer patients are by nature apprehensive. You get tested more often than others and you know the devastating consequences of a bad result.

So, T and I again went to the South Tyrone Hospital. It was easy this time, we knew the way. I had been fasting overnight and my gastroscopy would be done in the afternoon. It meant missing breakfast and lunch. Not much of a hardship. Indeed, three years ago I had been made to fast for 12 days when my lung collapsed after surgery in the Belfast City Hospital. The first part was the hardest, but after a few days you began to lose interest in food. After 12 days, with only fluids, you had to learn to eat again.

In the small theatre, I found a new team doing the procedure. It was certainly more uncomfortable than the previous time. The doctor seemed to push the endoscope in more rapidly and there was some sensation of choking for a while, but nothing like as bad as the first time I’d had it done. Happily it was also over fairly quickly. My stomach was empty and they got down as far as my duodenum and took another biopsy.

They found nothing untoward in my stomach. There was some inflammation in my duodenum and the biopsy was to check for the presence of a virus, H pylori. I was told that the biopsies taken four weeks earlier showed that I had ulceration in my oesophagus. This was caused by acid reflux. Importantly, the lab found no sign of cancerous or even pre-cancerous cells. I gave a sigh of relief. I might be one of the few people who were happy to be told that they had an ulcer. In the short-term I would need to have a course of high dose acid reducing tablets (a PPI), which I might need to take in a low dose for the rest of my life.

I was taken to a small recovery room and was monitored for pulse and blood pressure. Then a nurse came and told me that the biopsy they’d taken today was negative for H pylori, another good result. She then did my discharge from the hospital, which included a long list of what I should and should not do in the next few hours. This concluded with one of the most unnecessary pieces of medical advice I’ve ever received, ‘if you start to vomit blood go straight to A & E.’

I can only hope that my run of test results continues, for I have my regular cancer surveillance CT scan next week.

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