Testing Times. 

So, I have a problem which I haven’t really spoken about. Partly because I’ve been digesting this new issue for myself. Partly because I’ve been embarrassed. But I shouldn’t be. This is a medical issue. A complication of one of my conditions, and it’s not my fault. 

Last night I went for a test on this problem area. A test I was terrified of having. It was then that it struck me. I’m not the only one going through this. I’m not the only one scared about these tests. The fear of the unknown can be a terrible thing. So I’ve decided to share my most intimate of troubles and my experience last night in the hope that it eases other people’s fears. 

Here goes… My name is Jennie and I have prolapses. Yup. That’s plural. I’m not going to sugar coat it. My bowel and back passage are pushing up into my vagina. My bladder is pushing down. My uterus seems to have dropped towards the front of my vagina and my back passage also prolapses out of my anus when I pass a motion. Basically my nether regions are one big old mess! Living like this isn’t fun. But explaining why is something I’ll brave another time. 

Luckily I’ve been referred to an excellent doctor who is determined to fix me. Even though, due to my underlying health conditions, I’m a very complex case. The first step on the road to surgery was a test called a defacating proctogram. This can be done either with X-ray or MRI. I was to have the MRI, and let me tell you I was terrified. 

My basic understanding of the test before I went was I would have something (I thought maybe barium) pumped into my back passage and then I’d have to poop it out in front of someone. My experiences of anything going up that area has always been incredibly painful. So I was nervous to say the least. 

The test was in the evening at Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield. Due to the time and location I travelled alone. The hospital was easy enough to find, and parking was abundant and free. Always a good start. I arrived a little early and buzzed the bell to let them know I was there. The nurse had a quick chat with me, as they were concerned about some bleeding I’d had previously, then I had a short wait until my turn. I apologised profusely about it being my ‘time of the month’ but they assured me if it wasn’t an issue to me it wasn’t to them. 

At the time of the test another lady came to collect me. By this point I must have looked like a dear in the headlights. Again she questioned me about my bleeding. She was also very reassuring about the upcoming test. In total there were three very kind and comforting women looking after me. 

For the test itself you change into a gown and then empty your bladder. Any metal must be removed for the scan and it’s advisable to leave your valuables at home. Then you enter the scan room and lay on your side on the scanner. 

 

Looking #hospitalglam in my gown.
 
I had two women in front of me and one behind, at the business end so to speak. The two ladies in front kept me chatting and relaxed whilst the one behind filled me up. In total she put 600ml, of what turned out to be the gel used for ultrasounds, inside my back passage. The aim is to fill you up to just around your sigmoid. Honestly, the srynges looked quite scary, but it didn’t feel too bad. The nozzles were small and they had been put in warm water to heat up the gel so it was body temperature. The sensation was definitely strange, and mildly uncomfortable. But not painful. Every now and again it would make a popping noise when air trapped in the srynges would pass into my bowel. That felt odd, but again not painful. 

You then carefully roll onto your back and a cushioned plastic ring is placed under you to collect what you expel. You’re also given a headset to protect your ears. A tray thing called a coil is placed over your abdomen. This helps get better pictures. 

At this point the ladies all left the room and I was popped into the scanner. My head was pretty much completely out, so I didn’t find it claustrophobic. First off they took lots of scans just with the gel inside me. Then I had to push as if I was trying to release it whilst keeping my bum clenched. This sounds a lot more tricky than it actually is. It takes a bit of thinking about, but it’s nowhere near as hard as patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time! 

At this point the lady who filled me up returned. She told me the time had come and ran through what I needed to do again. I’d be told to release and then I just had to push the gel out. Easy right? Wrong. For me this was the most difficult part of the test. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed. I swear I pushed harder than I did in labour. My veins bulged. My muscles strained. I even saw stars! But that gel was not moving. Eventually I shifted a bit of it. But only a bit. This part of the test apparently lasts two minutes or so. But it felt like much longer. 

Afterwards my lady returned to tell me what I already knew. I had failed in my task and was still full to the brim with enough jelly to cater a children’s birthday party. So after a quick clean up with the wipes provided I toddled off to the loo to evacuate the rest as best I could. Then it was back on the scanner for a final few images and that was that. Scary test over. 

Honestly the fear of the test was much worse than the test itself. I have been left with some discomfort the day after. But I think that’s mainly because I really went to town trying to ‘release’.  I’ve strained just about my everything. If I have any advice it would be not to push so hard that you feel like your eyes are going to burst from their sockets. Otherwise it’s really not too bad. Of all the tests I’ve had this is one of the few I wouldn’t be too upset if I had to repeat it. 

I hope that if you’ve got this test coming up I’ve helped ease your fears a little, and I wish you luck with your treatment on the whole. 

Time to heal. 

A lifetime ago I was a young and energetic (ish) uni student. I studied Surface Pattern Design and had a summer internship set up with Emma Bridgewater. I was going places. I knew my path. It involved graduating from my course and speeding off on my exciting roller coaster of a career. I’d continue to study. I’d travel. I’d make good money and fulfil my dreams. 

But life had other plans. My health problems were already there. Though undiagnosed and less severe than today they were already dragging me down. Like lead weights tied to my heels they slowed my progress. Put me forever behind the pack in the race to qualify. But I was determined. I could do this! I would work extra through the summer and take my third year part time. Unfortunately my tutor did not agree. My tutor who also happened to be head of the faculty. 

Because I only had a crohns diagnosis she didn’t see how all my other complaints fitted with that. Though I had mountains of doctors notes she felt I had just fobbed off uni. Though, with my allowed extra time, I was on track to pass the year she felt I hadn’t had enough taught time. Her recommendation was repeating the second year and doing the third year part time. I didn’t have enough funding for that. I told her so. I told her I’d have to leave. She stood by her recommendation. 

It was then that my life altered. It was the that everything I’d hoped and dreamed of since being tiny crumbled to dust. This was the first major blow dealt to me by my health. The first of many. But this was possibly the one that broke me the most. Not only because it crushed my dreams. Also because my self esteem was shattered. Surely if I had any talent at all my tutor would have fought to keep me on the course? Supported me, as I’d seen her do other students. Not cast me out like last weeks rubbish. 

That was almost ten years ago. At the time I believed I picked myself up and carried on, unfazed. But that’s not true. My self belief had taken a huge knock. From that day forward I stopped drawing. I didn’t paint. My sewing machine lay idle and was eventually gotten rid of. Looking back through my social media accounts there’s been many times I’ve sworn I’ll get back into my drawing. My art. But I never did. I remained broken. 

Then I started this blog. The first creative thing I’d done in such a long time. Even though I wasn’t writing for anyone in particular it still terrified me. But I ploughed on. A few people seemed to enjoy it, and a friend asked me to share it on her site. (https://www.consciouscrafties.com/) Conscious Crafties is a selling platform for disabled people and their carers. It gives them an outlet for their creativity and helps them to build up their confidence and self worth. Not only did I join the site. I also joined the private group for the Crafties. Being a blogger for the site meant they kindly let me in. 

I have to say that being around such a creative group of people has been incredibly therapeutic for me. Their makes are beautiful and inspiring. So inspiring that a few weeks ago I picked up a sketchbook that I’d been given two years before. For the first time in such a long time I sat and I drew. And I enjoyed it! I felt relaxed and at peace. Since then I’ve been to an art master class and enrolled in a life drawing class. Only once a month. But it’s something to look forward to. I’ve drawn more and more and even took some tentative steps into crafting. 

I will never be the high flying designer is hoped to be. But thanks to the creative environment I happened upon in Conscious Crafties I’m now starting to enjoy art again. I’m starting to heal. 

Here’s a few of my pieces I’ve done and a beautiful key ring which is one of the many items which can be found on Conscious Crafties. 
 

Squid drawn from my daughters animal book.
  
 
My first craft.
  
Pencil seal drawn from google image on my phone.
  
Matisse sketch in oil pastel.
  
Keyring can be purchased at http://www.consciouscrafties.com

NB Please note I have received no financial incentives or goods for this blog post. I just wanted to share such a positive influence on my life. Thank you.