A bowel obstruction in small intestine is nothing to take lightly. As it turns out, the abdominal pains and constipation I was experiencing where the result of a blockage and perforation in the small intestine. In this post, I want to talk about my experience with this, and why it was the worst and most painful experience of my entire cancer ordeal.
After my third chemo treatment, I began to experience stomach pains whenever I ate. As soon as I “passed gas”, the pain went away. I contacted the nurse navigator at my old oncology clinic, who said it was possibly constipation, caused by the chemo drugs. So, she had me go and get some over the counter medicine, to see if that would help.
Not thinking that it could actually be a bowel obstruction in small intestine, I let this go for a few months. I was inbetween clinics, and wasn’t scheduled to continue my chemo for a few weeks. I was also going to meet my new primary care doctor, which we’ll discuss in a future post. Over time, the pain just got worse. Again, thinking it was only constipation, I ignored it.
It wasn’t until I talked to my uncle, who basically convinced me to go to the ER to get checked out. His thought was, it could be dehydration (which is another common side effect of chemo). If so, they would rehydrate me using an IV, and I should be fine. So, he came to pick up my mother and I, and we headed to the Maricopa County Hospital ER.
The first thing they did, once I get passed the Triage, was take an x-ray of my abdominal area. They also gave me something for the pain, so I could relax. When the results came back, the doctor in charge explained that, there was a bowel obstruction in small intestine, which also caused a tear, or perforation, in the small intestine. The result was that, the tear was causing stool to leak out of the small intestine, which was poisoning me from the inside.
It was not known whether I would need surgery at this point or not. Sometimes, intestinal tears will heal themselves. But, because of the cancer, and a suppressed immune system from both the cancer and the chemo, it was a very likely possibility.
The first step, was to clear out as much of the liquid stool as possible. So, they put in what is known as an NG tube, or, Nasogastric tube. Basically, the tube goes up your nose, then down your throat, and into the stomach. NG tubes are used for many things, including feeding and, in my case, pumping the stomach. The tube was attached to a clear cannister, so they could measure how much stool was being removed. They also would send some to their lab, to test for anything else that might be of concern.
Shortly after starting the NG tube, I was admitted to the hospital. As soon as my room was ready, I was taken upstairs. This was the beginning of the most difficult part of my cancer experience, and would make everything else I went through in life look like a cake walk.
If you ever happen to experience similar symptoms as I experienced, especially if you are a cancer patient, get checked right away. A “bowel obstruction in small intestine” is nothing to take lightly.