Like flossing with barbed wire

Barbed wire

Certificate 15This blog post contains the words “penis”, “urine”, “urethra”, and the phrase “Get that ****ing tube out of my **** you ****ing ***** of Satan!”

Author’s note: Please feel free to laugh at any or all of the following post. I wouldn’t have shared it with you if I didn’t think that you would have a good laugh at my expense!

Getting there

Well, today was the day that my parcel of doom warned me about. This morning I had my flexible cystoscopy.

Despite the lack of signage (apart from one tiny sign, in 18pt text sellotaped to a wall) I got to the Diagnostic Centre with about five minutes to spare … just as the nurses were all disappearing into a side room for their 09:00 hobbit-like second breakfast. The diagnostic centre turned out to be four chairs in a corridor.

At 09:15 I was invited into a dressing room and instructed to strip off and when ready enter the next room wearing only a hospital gown, my dressing gown (Debenham’s finest … about 10 years ago), and my shoes. My blood pressure was taken and sky high (121/101).

I may have been a little anxious.

Corrections to the leaflet

It occurred to me fairly early on in the procedure that whoever wrote that cheery little leaflet Having a Flexible Cystoscopy — a guide to the test that was sent to me, had never in fact ever had a flexible cystoscopy themselves.

In the paragraph “Why Flexible Cystoscopy?” it reads

The flexible cystoscope adjusts itself to fit the curving male urethra. This allows it to pass painlessly, avoiding the need for a general anaesthetic. The examination can be done with the patient lying flat, in a comfortable position.

Let me get the easy bit out of the way first. It’s clear that the last sentence wasn’t describing someone who is 6′ 4″, as my feet hung off the end of the table making for somewhat of a less comfortable position. At least that helped me take my mind off the “painless” insertion of the cystoscope.

Painless … apparently

Painless?! PAINLESS??! Who are they kidding?!! It felt like they were flossing my urethra with barbed wire. That had first been seasoned with salt. And vinegar.

Oh my word! I’ve never felt such pain, and I have quite a high pain-threshold. I honestly thought that I was going to pass out. Not that the nurse supposedly attending to me would have noticed, she was too busy gossiping with her friend, whose job it appeared was to hang onto a drip stand.

Why such pain? Surely they were going to administer a local anaesthetic. Doesn’t it say so in The Magic Leaflet of Spurious Facts? Indeed it does:

Although you do not need a general anaesthetic for flexible cystoscopy, the urethra needs to be prepared with anaesthetic jelly, this being squeezed gently into it from a tube or syringe. The jelly numbs the urethra and lubricates it. It may also contain an antiseptic.

It may also contain acid! A special type of freezing acid developed for the military. And hospitals.

“Hmm, that’s an unpleasant sensation I’ve never experienced before,” I said when asked by the nurse doing the procedure how I was doing.


I like jelly … but not this sort!

The local anaesthetic jelly takes at least five minutes to work — men may be asked to stop the jelly escaping after it goes in by gently squeezing the tip of the penis for a minute or so.

When the jelly has had time to work, it is time for the flexible cystoscopy.

If I may offer a few corrections to that paragraph, from my experience today.

The local anaesthetic jelly takes at least five minutes to work … but the nursing staff will likely wait about 5 seconds before getting stuck in with their instruments of torture. Nurses may be asked to stop the patient escaping after it goes in by gently squeezing the tip of his penis for a minute or so.

Long before the jelly has had time to work, it is time for the flexible cystoscopy. Mwahahahaha!

Momentary stinging

Men may be asked by the doctor to try and pass urine when the instrument reaches the sphincter below the prostate gland. In trying to pass urine the sphincter naturally relaxes and the cystoscope can pass through more easily … There may be a momentary stinging as the sphincter opens.

Yeah, there was a momentary stinging sensation. That moment lasted for … ooh, about three hours!

What are the after-effects?

Most patients have no trouble after a flexible cystoscopy. A mild burning on passing urine usually gets better after a day or so …

A day or so?! What a pisser!


It turns out that there was nothing wrong with my bladder. Other than, of course, that it had more of an audience than usual, and a dirty great camera poking into it through a tube! I’ve to have a scan in a month or so — something nice and non-invasive — otherwise I’ll just have to keep taking the drugs.

My BP afterwards was a more healthy 134/90. I got dressed and waddled back to the car thanking God that National Genital Mutilation Tuesday was over for another year and that I can get back to normal life, and normal blog posts about weird websites and geeky tips.


Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Former Scrum master at Safeguard Global, Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

8 thoughts on “Like flossing with barbed wire”

  1. Gareth, you poor thing! I did laugh a little bit, I’m sorry, but in sympathy, especially with nurses not paying the closest of attention…

    I was in hospital briefly in november (viral meningitis apparently, mwahaha, although the lumbar puncture was worse than the feeling ill) and it was only after I’d been in for 16 hours and kept dropping my BP that someone thought to take my blood sugar level, which was pretty low – they brought me some food but didn’t appreciate that because I was unable to sit up without blacking out it might make it somewhat difficult to cut, spread and eat a roll, let alone eat cereal! I love the ‘she’s young so she’s fine’ attitude.

    Anyway, I hope your man bits are recovering from their violation!

    Take care,

  2. I passed out, merely reading this harrowing account of the horrors perpetrated on your bits. I had a similar experience about twenty years ago – as a result, I occasionally wake up in cold sweats, and can’t bear hearing the word ‘catheter’ mentioned (only joking, but I do sympathise).

    Still, it’s good news that nothing untoward was detected.

  3. Thanks for the sympathy Doctor Jo and Fr Dave, it’s now 22:04 and I’m feeling much better and not quite as sore as 12 hours ago, praise God.

    I have to say that I’ve not prayed with so much determination and concentration as I did for those unpleasant few minutes.

    Phew! Glad that’s all over.

    I mean the procedure, not the praying.

  4. I had this procedure a few years ago in the southern general
    apart from the obvious embarrassment I didn’t find it painful
    that five minutes must make all the difference – or whose doing the procedure
    they didn’t find anything wrong with me either.
    there was one nurse who was a bit stroppy but the rest of the staff
    seemed to me to be very competent.

  5. I’ve had local anaesthetic before — I’ve had my big-toe nail completely removed on a number of occasions using local anaesthetic, and I’ve had a tooth removed also using local.

    And on each occasion I had to have two or three times the normal amount of anaesthetic to numb my various appendages. I’m now beginning to realise that had they waited then it may well have been less traumatic.

    I got this in an email from my good friend Kenny:

    P.S. I do enjoy your blog but any more pieces on invasive urethra procedures may be too much for my delicate empathetic pain threshold. I shall pass on your report to Amnesty International who should surely act on this.

    That made me laugh. A lot.

  6. I’m a medieval historian. Honest, that’s my job. I read lots of things about horrible events, deaths, mutilation etc.
    That blog entry is the most gruesome thing I’ve read this year, and we’re four months in.

    Glad all is well (although the long-running unnamed illnesses must be frustrating). My Mum, who had a camera exploring her bowel (guess where that went in) on Tuesday is also all clear. Mum won’t be blogging though…

  7. I got this comment in an email from my friend Kenny, which made me laugh:

    I do enjoy your blog but any more pieces on invasive urethra procedures may be too much for my delicate empathetic pain threshold. I shall pass on your report to Amnesty International who should surely act on this

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