I’m 44 years old. I thought I had at least another 6 years to mentally prepare for my first colonoscopy. Instead I had about a month to wrap my head around what my mom had avoided until she was in her late 60’s. All I’d ever heard was how horrible it was – both the prep and the procedure. I mean, ew. Certainly nothing like the breath test I’d taken to rule out h.pylori – breathe into a bag for a few seconds after drinking something. So, the prep instructions were 4 pages long. Oh my.
A trip to Target was in order – specific items were needed – brands, sizes, flavors. I probably stood in the Gatorade aisle for 15 minutes trying to determine which flavor I could handle 64 ounces of, another 10 minutes in the laxative aisle trying to find exactly what was listed. Ok. So the medical supplies were ready. Now for the other stuff – the stuff that will allow me to not leave my bedroom/bathroom for around 24 hours. For at least a week in advance I DVR’d anything and everything that could be remotely appealing (i.e. not involving food). Cottonelle wipes had to be plentiful and nearby (and Preparation H wipes on hand, just in case). And, of course, lots of toilet paper.
I was instructed to eat a “low residue” diet the day before – sounds like a good excuse for a burger and fries! No need to stick to my usual multigrain/whole grain choices…potatoes, white bread, all the good stuff was on the table and even doctor recommended! Yum! Had to make sure that I followed those directions…
So the prep morning came – no usual Sunday morning bagel – boo! I had to mix up the lovely laxative solution and start drinking. Glacier freeze, it turns out, is a charming blue color – most certainly not a color that occurs in nature. Flavor-wise it was ok – vaguely citrusy, but no specific flavor. Glug glug glug. Lots of drinking that glacier freeze/laxative cocktail – maybe I should have put a decorative umbrella in there? Then it was time for the real purpose of the day – purging everything in my digestive tract.
I set up camp in my bedroom. My bed was my couch, just steps from my bathroom. The good news was that I had set up my tv just so to allow for the perfect viewing angle from the throne. I could even change channels or fast forward through commercials while being safely positioned on the toilet! So I spent the whole day going back and forth from the bed to the toilet, drinking clear fluids and the laxative cocktail. By the time I was ready for bed, I was fairly well cleaned out, but properly hydrated.
The instructions had me getting up a few times in the very early morning to drink more laxative cocktail, just to get the last dregs out of my intestines – by then there really wasn’t much of anything in there. The early fun was because I had an early call time – report to the hospital by 8:30. I was just as glad to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible – and back to my regularly scheduled programming (i.e. food).
My mom was my designated driver – she took me to the hospital bright and early. The procedure itself was a breeze – after checking in and being moved back to the on deck circle, I changed into a gown (fashionable, as ever) and met the anesthesiologist. My other health issues were discussed in relation to the procedure and I was given the all clear – time for an IV. No big deal for that part, either – it wouldn’t be in too long. After that I was wheeled in to the procedure room and positioned very carefully – and I drifted away. The drugs are wonderful – nice, deep sleep leaving me with no memory of the procedure whatsoever.
I woke up in the recovery area…a bit woozy for a few minutes. That passed pretty quickly and I was okayed to get dressed. The doc came by to review the results and he gave me a few pages of paperwork. They took out my IV and I was free!
My mom and I went back to the car and made a big decision – where to eat lunch!
Thinking back on it, the actual prep was really gross; Glacier Freeze was really neither here nor there; and the procedure itself was easy-peasy. Am I looking forward to having another one in 5 years – definitely not. Is peace of mind worth the grossness – totally.
Remember, March is colon cancer awareness month. For more information about colon cancer prevention and getting involved:
- Colon Cancer Alliance http://www.ccalliance.org/
- Fight Colorectal Cancer http://fightcolorectalcancer.org/do-something/raise-awareness/
- American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/myacs/midwest/areahighlights/march-motm-2014
- American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons https://www.fascrs.org/colorectal-cancer-awareness-materials
- Katie Couric’s colonoscopy prep video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbUesuxT1IE
Ellen Liebman is a friend of OncoLink and Associate Director of Administration, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania. Thanks to Ellen for sharing her experience!