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When we last left off on The State of Boots' Health, I had suffered a ruptured appendix, which was drained, and I was awaiting surgery. I wish I could say that I had it and it went off without a hitch, but unfortunately, there was more. Much, much more.

As a preliminary to surgery, my doctor asked me to have a colonoscopy to rule out any underlying causes of the appendicitis. So I did (after having to endure 24 hours of "prep" beforehand, which consisted of taking laxatives and living on clear liquids). They knocked me out for the procedure, and I was expecting to wake up and be told everything was A-OK and I was cleared to go for the operation. Instead, I was told that they'd found a "rectal polyp" and the doctor wanted me to have another test to get a clearer picture of it.

So off I went to another doctor, a gastroenterologist, who was going to perform the second test. Another 24 hours of prep, another going under general anesthesia. Well, a few days later I get an envelope in the mail from my surgeon, with no note or explanation attached - just a prescription for a pelvic MRI that said it was "for staging of rectal cancer."

Needless to say, I had a complete, total and utter meltdown. I tried calling the surgeon, but got no explanation from his nurse. Fortunately, I had an appointment the next day, at which point the doctor explained to me that what I actually had was either an extremely aggressive polyp - large and getting larger - or a very early stage cancer. In either case, it was caught before it could become truly dangerous - but I would have to have it surgically removed in any case. The MRI was to give him a more 3-D image of what was going on, and the wording on the prescription was so the technician would know to photograph it AS IF it were a confirmed cancer. He also apologized for my getting the prescription with lack of preliminary - it seems both the second doctor and the nurse who sent the prescription were both supposed to give me a full report on what was going on. Both failed to do so.

So off to another test I went (at least I didn't have to do full prep this time, just skip lunch). The doctor called me with his findings. The good news is the polyp looks like a "precancerous mass," it hasn't gone over the edge into full-blown cancer. The bad news is that because of its position - low in the rectum - I'm going to have to use an ostomy bag for at least a few months after it's removed. Yes, an ostomy bag is something you wear on your body that collects . . . well, what usually leaves the colon instead of it leaving by . . . yes, the usual route. Which sucks deeply. But I'm thinking of it this way - at least it's caught in time.

The surgeon said that, ironically, the ruptured appendix saved my life, because it drew attention to the real issue - the precancerous polyp. He also said he can't understand why I have this, because I'm "just a baby in medical years," as he put it, and I'm otherwise healthy. Furthermore, I have no family history of colorectal cancer - my mother has had a lot of polyps, but they've all been benign.

Fortunately, he cleared me to still go to California over Memorial Day Weekend - "You need it at this point," he said. After I get back, I have an appointment with him to discuss the surgery, which will probably take place sometime in June. Oh, and the appendix is being taken out the same time as the polyp. Almost forgot about the pesky appendix, didn't we?



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