Week 6

A visit to hospital

Zach Moss
4 min readDec 16, 2022
Picture of me in my recovery bed at the Whittington hospital with some Bourbon biscuits.
Bourbons after colonoscopy. The NHS at it’s finest.

So I’ve had an unintended little break from writing. Partly because of a nice holiday in Copenhagen, but mostly because of a health scare which ended up with me in hospital for an afternoon yesterday.

What happened

Forgive the graphic descriptions that follow, but I think it’s more helpful to explain than not…

  • It started with me noticing some blood in a poo a few weeks ago. As soon as I noticed it I knew it wasn’t a good sign. I know it’s something you need to look out for and act on.
  • After an appointment with the GP (face-to-face) I was sent away to complete a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) which I did and returned.
  • Off I went on holiday to Copenhagen, and was expecting some pretty rapid results. I got back from holiday and sent a message to the GP to ask as I’d not heard anything. Only to get a call back within a few hours apologising and saying that in fact the test had come back, and had a ‘raised’ level of blood or essentially a ‘positive’ result of 34µg/g which required further investigation in hospital.
  • (after a bit of research it seems anything above 10µg/g in a FIT test conducted in primary care warrants an urgent referral whereas in the screening programme the cut-off is much higher at 120µg/g.
  • Long story short, within a matter of 4 weeks I went from a slightly suspect poo, to having an urgent 2 week wait referral for suspected Colorectal (Bowel) Cancer. Fun times.
  • The further investigation in this case is usually to have a colonoscopy to check inside the bowels. So yesterday I spent the afternoon in the Whittington having a camera all up in my bowels.

A huge relief

  • I was extremely relieved to be told that nothing sinister (cancer) was found. There was a polyp removed which is quite normal, and a few things sent off for biopsy but they were not worried.
  • The staff were excellent, nurses, Drs, reception staff. All really excellent. Bear in mind this was on the day of the nurses strike. Huge gratitude.

Reflecting on the experience

  • It goes without saying it has been a very stressful few weeks. But the experience of going from ‘being fine’ to being on an urgent referral for possible bowel cancer I found absolutely flooring.
  • It is incredible the way in which your entire outlook and mind shifts almost instantaneously when you have something like this hanging over you. For me, it tainted everything. Every decision, or thing was now seen through this slightly muddy lens of ‘what if’ and ‘why not me’ or ‘why me’…
  • I think a big part of this is me probably being overly aware of this sort of thing through work. Working in the end of life sector I think you are relatively over exposed to more stories of disease and dying than the average person. There are many ways this can affect you I think. A good way is that you appreciate how short life is. A bad way is that I’ve probably developed some form of health anxiety. It’s probably not normal to ‘expect’ a colonoscopy to find bowel cancer. But if I’m being honest I’ve thought that a lot over the past few weeks. I thought ‘lots of young people get diagnosed with bowel cancer’ — there is every chance I will be one of those soon. I am fatigued, I have lost weight…why not?
  • I actually don’t think this is an irrational thought. It is true that young people get bowel cancer. Lots of people are trying to lower the screening age to catch more bowel cancer earlier.
  • In my day job I can recall several blogs or articles all referencing the awful ‘limbo’ or ‘waiting period’ in between tests and results. Having now had a tiny experience of that I am struck by the difference between reading, appreciating and understanding something — and experiencing it yourself. It is almost night and day. Perhaps it explains why when doctors go through serious illness it sometimes changes their outlook when they become the patient? (reminds me of a blog I’ve been meaning to write on this topic)
  • One last thing, it’s weird when you have something like this knowing who to tell and how much to say…
  • One very last thing, you have to fast and expel your bowels before a colonoscopy. I missed proper food greatly…hence a glorious return to breaknotes…
Eggs, mushrooms on toast at Catalyst Cafe in London.
Eggs at Catalyst Cafe — 8.5/10

I wasn’t sure I was going to write this, as I am very aware that this experience has a reasonably positive outcome (I hope) which isn’t the case for lots of people. All I can say is that this has been written more for me than anyone else, and for anyone else going through the same with a different outcome I am sorry. It is awful.

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Zach Moss

I work @agooddeath. Trying to ensure a better end of life experience for people who want to think about death and dying (and those who don’t).