My boring colonoscopy

With the exception of a bit of diverticulosis, there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about my Nov. 22 colonoscopy.

That’s why I want to share about my experience with the prep and the procedure itself (that part will be extremely brief (thank you, fentanyl and midazolam!)). One in every 20 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer at some point. I figure that would be totally out of the ordinary in every way — uncomfortable, expensive, frustrating and worrisome not to mention possibly fatal — that if I can reassure you regarding the colonoscopy process, I can help you avoid being among the 1 in 20 (or at least catch it early enough to have a better outcome).

I agreed to have a colonoscopy in alignment with the CDC recommendations that people ages 50-75 be screened for colorectal cancer and continue every 10 years after their first.

The prep

It’s absolutely true what they say – the prep is worse than the procedure. There are dietary restrictions for seven days prior to the procedure, as well as the need to adhere to a clear liquid diet the day before.

Here’s what happens when you give a grammar-lover unclear instructions.

My boring colonoscopy

I have to admit I was prepared to avoid seeds and nuts. I did not know about fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, does this mean no raw fruit and no raw vegetables, or does it mean “no vegetables” at all?

I read some other colonoscopy prep diets, which were all stricter than this one, so I decided it meant no raw vegetables. (I know I could have called to clarify — I guess I decided to live dangerously.)

I must have done OK, because my results said, “The quality of the bowel preparation was excellent.” Hooray.


Seeing red

Another thing about the prep period is that you can’t have anything to drink that has red or purple dye.

I wasn’t thinking about that part (hadn’t read it, I don’t think), when I grabbed the bottle of magnesium citrate required as part of the day-prior preparation. Given a choice of “lemon” (clear), and “cherry” (red), I chose my favorite color and flavor. THEN I really reviewed the instructions. It was less than $2, but it’s the principle of the thing! If anyone needs some cherry-flavored magnesium citrate, it’s yours!

Chugging (and chugging and chugging) a gallon of prep drink

Starting at 6 p.m. the night before your colonoscopy (and two hours after drinking the non-red magnesium citrate), there’s the matter of drinking a gallon of GaviLyte-N. The instructions are to drink an 8-oz glass every 15 minutes — downing 2 quarts the night prior to the procedure and 2 more quarts the next day 6 hours before your exam.

My boring colonoscopy

I have to admit, I was down to the wire to finish this the morning of my procedure. The taste wasn’t unmanageable, but neither was it delightful to stuff my otherwise-empty stomach with two gallons of liquid at 5 a.m. I almost gagged getting the last down in time for the cut-off, but I did!

A friend of mine was given pills instead of gallons of solution for her prep, and I think that is worth exploring in the future.

Calories matter the day prior to the procedure

I did not plan nearly well enough to get enough calories during the “clear liquids” day. I had a full day of editing, which in a perfect world involves keeping your brain fueled well enough to put complete sentences together. I had consumed the Gatorades I had bought by around 1 p.m. I had to forgo the chicken broth I had bought because it turned out not to be fat-free. I went through plenty of other things, all zero-calories, and practically pounced on my husband when he arrived home with the calories I had requested (I couldn’t run out to the store because ^^^^ see above re: the gallon of laxative I had just consumed).

Take my advice: Stock up on caloric drinks and fat-free broths for the day prior to your procedure. Then you’ll be able to continue using subjects and verbs effortlessly.

The day of the procedure

There’s nothing remarkable to say about the day of the procedure. I didn’t take many pictures, mainly because I handed my phone over to my husband before getting onto the bed. I did capture this lovely wardrobe item (and I love the saying “you deserve the best”). The nonslip socks were pretty great too.

My boring colonoscopy

There was a funny moment when I approached the bed. It was set REALLY HIGH. It took a few gymnastics to get onto it. The nurse showed up and asked how I got there. I explained that I just figured it out and she said she could have lowered it. Well … yeah…

I did have a brief conversation with the physician, but after that discussion, the nurse upped the sleepytime meds and the next thing I know I was leaving with my husband. Apparently they explained everything to me four times.

I also had to ask Wayne later that night if I had indeed bought grapes when we went to Publix afterward.

Moral of the story: They’re not kidding when they require you to have a driver. Not at all!

The results

My results were pretty unremarkable. As I mentioned, I have some “diverticulosis in the sigmoid colon” but I don’t need to go back for this procedure for 10 (count ’em 10!) years.

Why it matters

Yes, it was inconvenient to do the food/liquid prep. No, I didn’t enjoy the trips to the bathroom that resulted from the prep. No, I don’t remember anything about the procedure itself.

What I do know is that a friend of Wayne’s and mine did not come out of her experience with such a nondescript story. Her colonoscopy resulted in a diagnosis of colon cancer, so she now has to deal with treatment protocols and uncertainty. Another friend had colon cancer in his early 40s. I imagine we all know about Katie Couric losing her first husband to colon cancer. She even went with Jimmy Kimmel for his first colonoscopy!

I doubt Katie Couric will show up at any of our colonoscopies, but I’ll be happy to send you a paper umbrella for your prep (as seen in the video) because this process should be as fun as possible.

I also want you around.

My boring colonoscopy

I’m linking up with Kat Bouska’s blog. The prompt is, “Tell us about something you’re procrastinating on.” I should have gotten my colonoscopy done five years ago when I was 50 — I wasn’t really procrastinating because of anxiety — I just let other things get in the way. Take it from me — there’s really not that much to say about it (unless you’re a blogger trying to make a point).

14 thoughts on “My boring colonoscopy

  1. I’ve had one colonoscopy and am about due for the next one. Thanks for sharing your experience. You’re right, the prep is much harder than the actual test. 🙂

  2. Congratulations, you passed to 10years!! My husband had 3 this year due to the first one showing sneaky polyps that had to be removed by a specialist. Then said specialist wanted to be super sure he got all the sneaky ones. He is now good for only 3 years but after 3 in 6 months that is a long time! Before his situation I never knew polyps could hide and be sneaky.

    • Oh man I didn’t know that about polyps either. Thanks for educating me. I hope all goes well for him.

  3. Ahhh, I need to at LEAST have an appointment set up for this before my next check-in with my oncologist…I’ve mostly been a very well-behaved patient but I just keep not picking up the phone to make the appointment.

    • Yes, Bonnie! You’ll feel so much better (hopefully) when this little detail is handled. (I’m no longer a fan of phone calls either … but this is worth it.)

    • Agree! I’m glad I found that video — it takes some of the “serious” out of the whole process and makes it very accessible.

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