I know what you may be thinking: She’s really going to tell us about her colonoscopy? Is there nothing sacred to that woman?
While I don’t normally make it a habit to tell you about my … uh … habits (bathroom habits in case you needed that made clear), I have no problem opening up about everything related to my colonoscopies. My father died of colon cancer when he was in his mid-50’s; a cancer that could have been either prevented or caught early enough to lengthen his life had he gotten a colonoscopy. So in answer to your questions, yes, I’m really going to tell you about my colonoscopy, and no, there’s not much sacred to me when it comes to this topic. This issue is not only fair game for me, it’s a critically important one, and one that I have no problem discussing in detail. You’ve been warned.
I had my first colonoscopy when I was in my early 30’s, and yeah, I was terrified (and more than a little grossed out). But since colon cancer can be extremely genetic, I had no choice. Actually, that’s not true. I totally had a choice, in much the same way I have a choice to get a mammogram and a Pap smear every year. (Don’t worry, I’ll save the Pap smear PSA post for another day.)
There’s a commercial running right now for a flu vaccine that begins with, “If someone told you that eating one piece of broccoli every day could prevent you from getting cancer, would you?” I think the obvious answer is yes. I mean, even if you detest broccoli, you’d surely choke it down once a day if it meant you wouldn’t get the big “C,” am I right? Then why is a colonoscopy any different?
Listen, I get it. It’s an awful thought; some doctor sticking a tube with a camera up your butt and snaking it around your colon. It’s supremely indecent. It’s embarrassing. It’s slightly horrifying. But here’s the truth—it can be life saving. And guess what? While sure, it’s a bit indecent, embarrassing, and horrifying, it’s really not a big deal. Take it from someone who’s had four colonoscopies over the past 13 years—and who is an admitted baby when it comes to discomfort—it’s not a big deal. Especially when you consider the alternative.
A few days ago, when I was chugging my fourth glass of Miralax and Gatorade and complaining about my already burning ass (don’t worry, I’ll get to that in a minute), my 13-year-old asked me this question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most horrible, how bad is it having to do this?”
“Well, there’s no question I’d rather be doing something else, but in the grand scheme of shitty things in life (pun totally intended), this isn’t even on the chart.”
Sure, the day of prep isn’t pleasant, as you’re about to find out. But guess what would be more horrible? Chemo. Or a colostomy bag.
At age 45, I’ve already had polyps removed during colonoscopies. Polyps that left undetected might have become cancerous. Might not have, but any form of “might” is enough for me.
So if you’ve never had a colonoscopy (and if you don’t have a family history of colon cancer or any worrisome symptoms, you won’t need to until you’re around 50), here’s what to expect. I’m honestly not over-sharing here to be humorous—although if you can’t find the humor in sitting on the toilet for seven hours and literally not being able to get off, then I feel sorry for you—but to let you know that while it may seem like a horrible experience, you, too, can get through it.
And if you have had already a colonoscopy, enjoy reliving the experience. It might aggravate your PTSD (Post Traumatic Sh*t Disorder), but I think you’ll agree, the one day of discomfort is a small price to pay for what you could be saving.
Three days prior:
Your instructions state that you should “begin a low fiber diet,” which basically means you’ve been given a free pass to eat white flour and sugar for two full days.
At least, that’s how I interpret it.
Two days prior:
Continue with low fiber diet.
I literally eat nothing but cinnamon rolls, potato chips, crackers, and french bread all day. I’m not kidding. In my case it was Super Bowl Sunday, so instead of my usual 7-layer bean dip and chicken wings, I had this:
I wasn’t complaining.
One day prior:
Liquid diet day — clear liquids only. No coffee, dairy, or for the love of God, anything with RED DYE.
By 10:00 a.m. I am ready to eat ALL THE THINGS in my fridge (even the furry things) and kill anything that moves.
The cats steer clear of me.
At noon I take the requisite laxative pills, but I cannot imagine they’ll do anything.
[Spoiler alert: they do.]
3:45 – Emergency stop at a grocery store bathroom on the way to take my daughter to her voice lesson.
Promise never to question the power of laxative pills ever again if I can just pleaseohplease make it home without shitting my pants, which, thankfully, I do.
4:45 – 6:45 p.m. –
As if my colon needs any more help other than those delightful laxatives, it’s time to mix up the Gatorade/MiraLAX solution and begin chugging.
Let me point something out: There are 14 daily servings of MiraLAX in one bottle. Your instructions state you are to mix THE ENTIRE BOTTLE in 64 oz. of Gatorade (two bottles) and drink every drop over the course of two hours (one 8 oz. glass every 15 minutes).
FOURTEEN DAYS OF MIRALAX IN TWO HOURS.
Just writing that makes my colon quiver.
From 5:00 until about 11:00 I remain attached to the toilet. Why?
BECAUSE FOURTEEN DAYS OF MIRALAX IN TWO HOURS.
Thank God for Netflix.
And diaper rash ointment.
From 11:00 until 12:30 I play a fun game every five minutes where I think I’m done and try to lay down in bed, only to immediately have to run back to the toilet.
At 12:30 I (surprisingly) fall asleep.
Don’t worry, I put two towels on the bed just in case.
Day of procedure:
At 4 a.m. I drink the bottle of Magnesium Citrate that is required four hours prior to the procedure. It tastes like ocean water and pure glucose.
I dry heave my way through it.
From 4 – 6:15 I play the same game I played from 11 to 12:30 the night before.
I’m a slow learner.
At 6:15 I put on some makeup, because I’m sick of Netflix and there’s not much else to do in the bathroom.
At 7:15 I arrive at the gastroenterology center, and congratulate myself on making it there without incident.
Husband (my designated driver) is pretty happy about that as well.
From 7:15 – 8:00 I’m checked in, given an IV port (ouch), and talked to about the procedure and the MAC sedation I’ve requested.
*Sidenote: Colonoscopies aren’t supposed to hurt. My last two did. Like, really hurt. Like, I hollered my way through the maximum level of sedation for the entire time the doctor was rooting around in my colon. She’s actually the one who suggested the MAC-daddy of sedations this time, which is actually Propofol, which if you remember, is what Michael Jackson used to sleep at nights. (Which is also what killed Michael Jackson, but I choose not to think about that.) My doctor called my colon “twisty and turny.” I like to call it “delicate.”
8:00 – I walk to the procedure room and meet the nurses and anesthesiologist (happily she looks nothing like Conrad Murray).
Hooked up to my IV of happiness, and covered with a warm blanket, I’m instructed to imagine myself anywhere I’d rather be than here.
Before I can even say, “Target,” I’m off in a lovely, very deep, dream-filled sleep.
Michael Jackson was no idiot. Propofol is my ass’s new best friend.
8:25 – Wake up in a different room with no recollection of the procedure, and with a lot of awkward and embarrassing sounds coming from my ass.
I apologize profusely.
8:30 – Doctor comes in and tells me I have the most beautiful and amazingly perfect colon she’s ever seen.
Fine, she doesn’t, but she does tell me that she didn’t find any polyps this time and gives me a five year pass.
I may or may not give her a high-five.
After I make sure she’s washed her hands.
9:00 – I’m out the door.
9:08 – On the way home we stop for an Egg McMuffin, which tastes like enchantment.
10:00 – Nap time. Sweet, sweet, well-deserved nap time.
I leave the towels on the bed, just in case.
There you have it. Other than the seven hours of flushing (your colon and the toilet, repeatedly), it’s over and done with in under two hours.
A pain in the ass? Sure. But c’mon, isn’t it an ass worth saving?
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