After repeated doctor's appointments and a range of inconclusive blood and stool tests, yesterday I finally got the chance to receive a definitive diagnosis on my gippy belly issues, by way of a gastroscopy (camera into my stomach) and colonoscopy (camera up the bum. Lovely.)
For those of a squeamish disposition who don't cope well with Too Much Information, I would advise you not to read on. Neither procedure is particularly pleasant, though to be honest, the prep is the worst bit, if only because it induces symptoms far worse than those that prompted the investigation in the first place. To be diagnosed and thus cured, you have to make yourself sicker - it's faintly ironic.
The whole thing starts with a couple of days of eating a "low fibre" diet - essentially the opposite of everything a doctor might normally tell you to eat. White bread, white pasta, white rice, butter, cheese, and no fruit, veg, nuts or wholegrains. Sounds kind of fun in theory, but it's a bit of a blood sugar roller coaster in reality. Then, 24 hours before the procedure, comes a total ban on solid food and ten (TEN?!) senna tablets, the purpose of which is a bit unclear as you follow this 'gentle' laxative with two rounds of Picolax, which produces an effect akin to being washed out by a fire hose on full. Repeatedly. For hours.
Once I had accepted this was happening, it wasn't too bad. I just wish the evacuation hadn't kicked in midway through cooking Duckling's tea, necessitating multiple dashes between the loo (upstairs) and kitchen (downstairs) to avoid pan fires / put foodstuffs in bowls / stick on the Thomas the Tank Engine film / check Duckling wasn't choking or throwing himself or his dinner out of the highchair. Typically, Drake waited until Duckling was fed, bathed and in his PJs, I'd missed two knocks on the door, a call from my Mum and I'd angrily hung up on a "accident claim line" caller ("No, I haven't had an accident in the past three months but I bloody well will if you don't let me go back to the toilet!") before he came home. By this point the fire hose bursts had become a little more intermittent and I was in full story reading mode, so there was not much left to do. He did kindly fetch me a mug of hot marmite water though. Mmm, delicious.
My night was fairly sleepless, though thankfully I only had one howling session from Duckling (who is sleeping terribly at present and was in bed with us by 2am) as I unceremoniously bundled him over onto Drake's side of the bed and rushed to the toilet. Nothing like pooping while a toddler wails "Mummy! Where you gooooo?! Boobie Mummy, boooooobiiiieee!" outside the door. Come the morning, I managed a few minutes extra sleep while Drake (who had kindly taken the day off to escort me to and from the hospital) took Duckling to the childminder. However, being the practical multi-tasker he is, he had also booked in to have some scaffolding put up on the side of the house and a few blown window panes replaced. My lie in was therefore totally ruined by clanking and swearing outside the bedroom window, and the need to clear our windowsills of five years of accumulated crap. Plus the need to empty myself of my remaining crap.
Once installed in the hospital I was given the usual flattering bum revealing gown to wear (no sign of the 'modesty pants' my letter promised disappointingly) and entertained my nurse with some fainting as she put the cannula in for my sedative. I reassured her that I have notoriously low blood pressure and faint a lot (particularly after 24 hours of no food and major bowel evacuations) so it really wasn't a big deal, but given the frequency with which she subsequently checked I was still alive, I'm not sure she was convinced. Then, when I had recovered my poise and my blood pressure had returned to something close to living, it was off to the endoscopy suite, where I was asked, for the fourth time, my date of birth and whether I had any allergies (none, apart from nurses with cannulas apparently), before being wheeled in to meet my consultant. Who if I'm honest, I may have a teensy bit of a crush on. Somewhat awkward when you know they're about to stick a camera up your bottom. Glad I'd trimmed the hedge (front and back garden, just to be sure).
In the event, the endoscopy was actually more unpleasant than the colonoscopy, mainly because it involved some involuntary gagging and an odd banana flavour throat numbing spray. The sedative was nice, but it had largely worn off when it came to the colonoscopy, so I remained awake for the whole thing and watched the little camera go on its merry journey round my colon. It was surprisingly interesting, even if I was faintly concerned a lurking conger eel or tunnel web spider was about to leap out at us at any moment. It's possible the sedative may have had more of an effect than I realised.
In the end, nothing of any interest whatsoever was found, meaning the official, definitive diagnosis is: I have Nothing Serious. Whether this Nothing Serious is a food intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome or something else remains to be seen, but for now, I am simply happy that I can get on with my life without perpetually wondering "but what if...?". And that I can eat normally again. Oh Soreen, how I missed you....