elizabeth’s annotated guide to different medical procedures

This is a list of stuff i’ve had done to me. my friend Zora suggested i do a ranking system of them, which i think is an excellent idea.

i am ranking them between 1-5 – 1 being the worst, 5 being the most tolerable.

Ultrasound: non-invasive. if it’s abdominal, you don’t even need to hold in wee. if it’s pelvic, you need to hold in wee, and they might do an internal examination, which could be uncomfortable/awkward. however, there are no needles involved, they are relatively fast, and you sit up and talk to someone, rather than lying in the cream-coloured-tunnel-of-doom. not that time consuming. 4/5

CT scan: needle required. sometimes holding in wee, sometimes not. often fasting. sometimes drinking really gross iodine liquid. i’ve had CT scans where the contrast has felt like fire going into my veins, and others that are completely painless. when the contrast goes in, your neck and face get hot, you taste metal in your mouth, and you feel like you are going to wee. i hate CT scans with a fiery passion, but they are pretty useful, and quick, and usually don’t hurt much. 2/5

MRI scan: sometimes, but usually no needle required, and the contrast is painless. no weird wee feeling. they take AGES. they are really noisy (but the noise is sort of cool). i’ve fallen asleep in MRI scans. the worst thing was paying for abdominal and pelvic MRIs out of pocket. it cost me $1500 for three scans. they are subsidised for most things, just not abdominal scanning. 3/5 (mostly because they don’t hurt).

PET scan: scary because of the radiation, but the radioactive glucose doesn’t hurt going in, so it’s ok. you get a warm blankie and are instructed to nap for an hour. that’s pretty coo! the actual scans is really really long – over an hour, but you get a free sandwich at the end. one needle, and the nurses there are unusually good at cannulation. i’ve slept in both of mine. mostly annoying because you need to not get close to people for the rest of the day because you’re radioactive. 3/5

Gastroscopy: fasting. i hate fasting. needle, yes – but it’s medaz so it means you get a really rad little sleep. no pain before or after. you get a rad set of pictures of Inside Your Upper GI Track. you do go to sleep which means it’s a bit more unnerving than a scan. but it also means you don’t remember what’s going on, which is more often than not pretty great. 3/5

Colonoscopy: fasting & prep. prep is gross. you poop like a river for 24-48 hours. you can only eat white food for a day. your bum hurts after all the pooping. also, you get a little sleep, which is nice. but doesn’t make up for the pooping. not painful – which was a pleasant surprise. overall, not a complete disaster, but not much fun. 3/5

Biopsy (liver): i was The Most Scared about this. i had to be completely awake while a needle was inserted into my liver. however… MEDAZ! the sedative meant the whole thing was actually pretty fun, and the pain was minor. also, i can live with pain more than i can a lot of other things (like nausea). the medaz made the whole thing kinda fun, and i’d have another one, no fear. i was so terrified that they got in a second nurse just to hold my shaking hands. the nurses and doctor made the experience completely tolerable. 4/5

Chemotherapy (6 month FOLFIRI & Avastin): tedious. real tedious. but not that bad. the first few months when the cancer broke down the most were pretty hairy – nausea, fevers that never ended, hair loss, exhaustion – but as i got less cancered, i had less terrible side effects. my dose was too high to start with – thus the hair loss – and once that was sorted my hair started growing back. thankfully. towards the end of the six months, the nausea started getting worse, so i had more anti-nausea tablets during the infusion. the baby bottle of chemo i have to take home is a pain in the ARSE and i hate it because it’s annoying to sleep with, and my sweat smells weird. also, one time the needle dislodged and it was so painful i can’t even wrap my head around it. 2/5

Radiation (28 days, pelvic): THE WORST THING. i would refuse it next time. i got blisters over my butt, the nausea was severe and constant, i couldn’t eat much, and i lost the will to do anything, i was that exhausted. it was really painful, there was a LOT of mucous (i am not going into any more detail than that) and it’s plunged me into menopause. rotten, rotten, rotten. possibly life saving! but rotten. 1/5

Blood tests: i have a lot of blood tests. so many. i had them every day in hospital. i don’t really mind them much, but my veins were not good by a week after surgery, and i had a few that were excruciatingly painful. they are the exception. in terms of medical procedures, they bother me the least. 5/5

surgery (port-o-cath insertion): yeah, not that bad. huge bruise from anaesthetic. woke up in a robe covered in blood. it hurt a little bit. the stitches were badly done, so i have a huge scar there. the pain was never that bad though. my throat hurt a lot from the breathing tube. but, eh, it was fine. 4/5

surgery (liver resection fail. gall bladder removal. huge abdo wound): worst part of this was the morphine constipation which made me REALLY SICK to the point that hydromorphone didn’t touch the pain. that, and the fact the surgery failed. i had a cannula in each wrist, two in my neck, and one in my arm. there were a LOT of needles. but the pain was mostly well managed when i wasn’t being an idiot and trying to get a smaller dosage of pain killers. they gave me ketamine. the hospital food was also revolting and there was a terrible guy across from me. it’s slightly over 3 weeks since the surgery and i’m feeling pretty much fine. despite the wound crossing my whole abdomen, no biggy. would do again. 4/5

from this we learn that i hate nausea more than most things, including severe pain. and i don’t like blisters.


About elizabeth

various things.
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