The Colonoscopy Experiment – November 21, 2019
So I’ve learned that when one turns 50, there are a few things one must do. After you have dealt with the weirdness that is the realization that you have lived halfway to 100 (that is a kick in the knickers), it is time to take stock and pay attention to the doctor’s suggestions at your “well” visit.
This year in addition to being lectured about that pesky 5 pounds I still need to shed, and the vitamin D I should be taking on a regular basis, my doctor recommended that I schedule a colonoscopy before the end of the year. Truth be told I really did not even know exactly what this mysterious test was all about. I kept mistakenly referring to it as a colostomy, which, it turns out, is a very different thing altogether. I got the referral and made the appointment for the end of November and it seemed very far away. In the meantime I was seeking feedback from friends and coworkers about this procedure. The basic summary from everyone was as follows: the procedure is not bad at all – what sucks is the prep. End stop. No more specific information was shared. What does not even mean?! Now, I know this is a rather, *ahem*, personal matter, but inquiring minds want to know – what’s the scoop? Give me the 411 on what sucks so bad about the prep? When I pressed people, they still didn’t really share much with me. I don’t know if they smelled my fear, or they had repressed their experience so much that they actually didn’t remember it anymore – like having a baby, or what, but no one was forthcoming with the gory details. This is where I come in!! I am going to do you a solid (so to speak) and give you the straight “poop” (tee-hee) about my experience. Think of it as a public service announcement. I know everyone is different, but at least this will give you one example of how it could go for you if you have not yet had the pleasure. If you are squeamish and/or just don’t care to know the details about my bowls, turn back now. I have no judgement, but you are forewarned.
As my date got closer I began to get more anxious about this procedure. I decided to try to detach from it by thinking about it as a scientific experiment. I decided to track my experience in order to share it with others (and also to distract myself from it)! I kept thinking, I can do this, right? I had a baby! I ran a marathon! All I have to do is drink stuff and go poop. Seems simple. Did I mention I hate being hungry, I get nauseous easily and am not good with anesthetic?
I got the appointment confirmation call on Monday saying my procedure was at 11am and I was to be there at 10:15am. The worst thing was I could not have coffee on Thursday morning! Ugh. But, turns out, that was not the worst thing…
The instructions said I was to follow a low-residue diet on Monday and Tuesday. This meant no raw fruits and vegetables except for bananas. I had to eat stuff like white bread, white rice, chicken and canned vegetables and avoid things with fiber (which is lots of what I eat!) I suppose the reason for this is so the “prep” day is less dramatic than t would be if you had lots of fiber rich stuff in your system. Here is what I ate on Monday: Breakfast – 2 pieces of white toast, with peanut butter, coffee with almond milk. Lunch – 2 slices of white toast, can of tuna fish with a bit of miracle whip, banana. Dinner – white rice bowl with baked chicken, green beans and soy sauce. Snack at night – 2 pieces of white toast with peanut butter. On Tuesday: Breakfast – 2 pieces of white toast topped with banana slices, coffee with almond milk. Lunch – 2 slices of white toast, 3 scrambled eggs and 2 babybel cheese wedges, banana. Dinner – white rice bowl with baked chicken, green beans and soy sauce. Snack at night – 2 pieces of white toast with peanut butter and some honey drizzle. I felt just okay on Monday and Tuesday. I went to work as normal. I found myself really ready for every meal and looking around for snacks during the 3pm – 5pm hours. I wasn’t that hungry at night, but it was just the idea that I had a couple days of not eating ahead of me so I wanted to “stock up”! Also, I just wanted a bit of sweet. I just do not do well with a deprivation type of situation. However, I did it!
On Wednesday (the day before the procedure) I had to follow a clear liquid diet. In the morning I started with a ½ cup black coffee. Yes, black coffee was on the list for the day! I did not want to drink the whole thing on an empty stomach so half a cup did the job. I started feeling a bit hungry by 8:30am (let’s face it, I wake up hungry. I’m definitely not one of those “I lost track of time and worked through lunch” type of people) so I started with apple juice. I took a shower and began to find things to distract myself. By lunch I had gone through 3 big glasses of apple juice and about a half a season of Atypical on Netflix. I sat at the table with my bowl full of orange jello for lunch. Not bad. I had Mike get the “prep” medicine ready for me when he was home for lunch so it could get cold. It was a jug that held 4 liters of fluid. Ugh. The powder medicine was already in it and you were to add water and the flavor packets that came with it. You could alternatively use Crystal Light, if desired. Yes, it was desired. I had to start drinking the prep stuff at 6pm. The rest of the afternoon I focused on a project on the computer and had some carbonated water.
6pm finally came and I shooed Mike and Zach out of the house to get Chipotle. I didn’t want to see that food in front of me. I got the prep out of the fridge and got ready to drink my first 8 oz of stuff. I had to drink an 8 ounce glass of the stuff every 10 minutes until 2 liters was gone. The second half was then the job for the next day, starting at 6am. I got it out and got out the measuring cup, but I could not get the stinkin’ cap off! It was one of those “push down and turn” things, but it was not happening. I tried everything for like 5 minutes. At this point I was sweating, my arms were sore and I was swearing like a sailor. Remember I was hangry times 1000. I called Mike at Chipotle and asked them to get their food to go so they could come home and help me get this blasted thing open! Meanwhile I was texting a friend asking for help. That string of texts is pretty hilarious. I was seriously thinking this was a sign that I wasn’t supposed to do this and was ready to throw the whole jug outside when the cap suddenly finally came off as Mike and Zach were walking in the door, Chipotle bags in hand.
Game on! I drank the first 8 oz like a champ. The drink tasted like a thick, saltier version of Chrystal Light’s – like its diluted, lower-calorie cousin. Not my favorite, but not a big deal. I set the timer for 10 minutes and began the process. By the time I was halfway through my 8 glasses the drink was getting a bit old. I started adding more time to the timer – 15 minutes instead of 10. By glass #7 I was on the struggle bus. It wasn’t the taste exactly, but the shear volume of fluid I was consuming. Halfway through glass #7 I gagged and yukked a bit in the kitchen sink. There was nothing really to come up except for that good, old orange jello. Twenty minutes later I successfully consumed my last glass for the night with minimal gagging. I sloshed over to the couch, feeling very full and bloated and waited for the magic to happen. And waited. And waited. I had finished my prep at 8:37pm and the instructions said bowel activity should start 1-2 hours from the start of drinking the prep. Um, nope. At this point, I was so uncomfortably full and wondering if this stuff was going to work for me. I had peed here and there, but no action anywhere else. I had some gurgling and tooting, but nada in the poop department. Finally at 9:40pm – 3 1/2 hours after starting the prep all systems were go and the medicine did its thing. I was going to keep track of the number of bathroom visits, but the truth is I couldn’t really keep track. It was so strange, however, because it wasn’t like any other type of diarrhea I’ve ever had. There was no pain or cramping and after the first couple of times it was just liquid. It was like I was peeing from my butt, but I wasn’t sick. So strange. I was relieved that the medicine was working and relieved to finally get rid of a lot of this liquid! I finally felt clear to go to bed around 11:30pm.
On Thursday I got up at 5:45am to begin the second half of the prep. I was to consume the second 2 liters of stuff by 8am. This time the bowls were more consistent and I was less bloated and uncomfortable. It was still gross and got to be too much by glass #5, but I pressed on with minimal gagging. I did have one accident in my jammies that morning (yuck) which prompted me to bring a second pair of clothes and a towel to sit on to drive the 30 minutes to the hospital. Thankfully I did not need it! We arrived on time to the hospital where I proceeded to use the bathroom 3 more times while we were waiting in the lobby. At this point there was no poop to speak of. There was just yellow liquid, but it was coming out of my butt. Such a weird sensation. Hey, I forewarned you!
I got ready for the procedure, met the anesthesiologist and the doctor. I was most concerned about getting sick from the anesthetic, but the doc reassured me that I should be fine since it was just a twilight level of stuff. Next thing I knew I was waking up and I immediately felt alert and fine, but just really cold. After being in recovery a bit the doc informed me that she found one small, 3 mm, polyp and removed it. She would send it to the lab and depending on what type of polyp it was I would have to come back in either 5 years or 10 years. Fine by me – even if it is 5 years, that is still a long time! I felt good that at least the polyp was out of me and that now it can’t grow into anything bad! That is the whole reason why these things are recommended to be done as preventative thing. I’m a believer, for sure! Yes, it was gross, a bit uncomfortable and a bit inconvenient, but well worth it! I’m thankful to be able to have this sort of preventative care and good insurance to support it. Check this off the turning 50 list! Now, about that Shingles shot…