Sunday, February 05, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0073 - Peristalsis

Saturday was one of the worst days since my treatment began. Things were so bad that I called the on-call radiation oncologist for a phone consultation. I was in pain most of the day and had come to the conclusion that I was suffering from a partial bowel obstruction. There were so many bowel movements in such a short period of time that it made no sense to even attempt using the suppositories I had been prescribed by the on-call radiation oncologist on Friday evening. But it wasn’t the frequency of bowel movements that had me doubled over in pain. It was the feeling that although I was passing stool that there was an obstruction causing searing, burning pain.

My family is not used to seeing (or hearing) me in pain. They all suggested I either go to the emergency at the hospital or call the radiation oncologist. I was becoming convinced that I needed either an enema or a laxative. Thankfully, I listened to them, made the call and discovered that my thoughts about self-medication were completely wrong.

It turns out that there is no partial bowel obstruction. The feeling I had of incomplete passage of stool is simply a side-effect of radiation proctitis. What I needed was Imodium. Even though the stool I pass seems to be reasonably formed, it is the peristalsis in the bowels that is making the pain in the rectal and anal tissues so much more profound. Sure enough, after taking the Imodium, I was able to get a decent night’s sleep and apply another suppository in the very early morning hours.

Another problem surfaced with self-medication. My nutritional research has always led me to favour a high-fibre diet, especially with cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, etc. I also eat lots of leafy greens, fruits, beans, etc, all of which is recommended by virtually everyone to prevent or battle cancer. The problem is that my symptoms and the side-effects of my treatment make my bowel far too sensitive for these highly nutritious foods. The radiation oncologist recommended that I do the exact opposite of what I have been conditioned to do; namely, eat low-residue foods – white bread, white rice, yogurt, maybe a little potato, and as much meat and fish as I want. Wow! Talk about a reversal of what I would normally expect!

But I’ll do almost anything to relieve the pain I’ve been experiencing. It has been so debilitating that I can hardly walk, much less work out at the gym. For the next few weeks, here I go – a white bread kind of guy.

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