Saturday, April 6, 2013

Colonoscopies aren't that bad. Honest.

Originally posted in 2011. This topic has been on my mind lately, due to several loved ones succombing to and / or battling different forms of cancer. This post is personal, and describes things we don't normally discuss openly. But I've also had two readers tell me that they scheduled their first (and overdue) colonoscopy because of what they read in my post. And for that reason, I believe the benefit outweighs any risk of "over-sharing". So I'm re-posting. Because colon cancer is a hateful, fear-mongering murderer, and every time someone getes a colonoscopy, I picture them punching colon cancer in the throat.

Background (for those who don't know / remember my story):
Back in 2011 I was having some serious gastro-intestinal (GI) issues - think the symptoms of food poisoning... for five months - when my family doctor was unable to find the cause, he sent me to a GI specialist.

My GI doc came up with four possible causes, one of which was colon cancer. He also said with my family history of colon cancer (my grandfather passed away as a result of the disease), I should have been having colonoscopies regularly for years now (not one of my other doctors ever suggested it, even though my family history was complete in their records).

One of the reasons colon cancer is such a jerk, is that by the time you have symptoms, you are almost always at stage 3 or stage 4. In other words, if you don't have preventative colonoscopies, and wait until you have a problem, you are on for the fight of your life. For your life. Literally.

Preventative screenings, like colonoscopies (and mammograms, and PAP smears, and skin checks, etc) save lives.

So read this. Find out what it's really like to have a colonoscopy. Then talk to your doctor about your family history and when you should schedule your first. Or if you insurance covers it, just go get one.

Original post:

** warning: this post contains descriptions of bodily functions & body parts. Some readers may find it uncomfortable to read further **

Well... ends up, among the very few IRL folks who knew I was having this procedure done, most of them had a lot of questions. I suppose being a thirty-something year old woman having a procedure that most of them apparently thought was more well-suited for elderly men made me something of an oddity.

And the object of their curiosity.

So... I thought some of ya'll might be wondering too.

And... I'm hoping it might ease some fears out there, and maybe get someone to the doctor for this early-detection test, before it's too late.

So, what's my take?

It ain't that bad.

Honestly, the worst part was drinking the prep solution. Yuck! I honestly think that was the worst part of the whole thing.

My tests were on a Monday afternoon, so all day Sunday I was on a clear liquid diet*. That evening I took the prep. It took me 15 minutes to get it down. Sixteen ounces of nasty I tell ya.

And then... I waited.

The first time I felt something, I ran for the bathroom. It was gas.

Second time.... gas again.

Third time... still just gas.

But the fourth time? Jackpot.

I was on the toilet for 55 minutes. No lie.

And I will warn you, what comes out stinks. Like no other.

Have you ever seen those infomercials, trying to sell you a colon cleanse, telling you how that stuff has been sitting in your body for months?

I might believe it after that smell. Seriously. So bad. But only the first few times. Then it's practically odorless. Which is interesting, in & of itself.

Anywho... I exhausted the supply of reading material in our bathroom in no time, and asked Jason to bring me my laptop.

He complied, and I propped my feet on Jena's training potty, and proceeded to Facebook (I swear, it's the only time I've laptopped from the bathroom, promise).

But... my legs soon fell asleep being in that position, so... the laptop had to go.

The worst part about being stuck on the toilet? Besides, you know, being stuck on the toilet? Well, that and my legs falling asleep because I tried to laptop in there? I was B-O-R-E-D. I highly recommed stocking up on reading materials beforehand. I was not prepared.

But honestly... the, ahem,  action... itself, wasn't bad at all.

It's not like when you're sick. You don't feel bad in your stomach, there's no cramping, no pain... it just comes out.

I was very relieved at how easy it was.


Maybe I'm a little biased because I've been dealing with severe bouts of diarrhea for the past five months (you know, why I was having the procedure in the first place), but this was a piece of cake. It's not like being sick at all. It's just boring.

That... and tiring. Having not eaten all day, and then voiding yourself of whatever might have been left in your digestive system... my body was worn out. No energy at all.

If you have children, I highly recommend finding a sitter for the night (thanks Mom & Dad!). I also recommend no plans other than lounging on the couch in front of the boob tube.

Honestly, after the first round of... emptying... I didn't even have the energy to get on the laptop. I sat on the couch, catching up on my Netflix, pausing it about every 15 min or so for a potty break. Sometimes more frequently, sometimes less, gradually less... and less...

That went on for about three hours.

It is exhausting. But really... not bad. Not as bad as you'd think.

Went to bed about five hours after taking the prep. By then what was coming out was clear, and it was about 45 min between episodes. So I went to bed.

I usually get up at least once during the night to pee anyway, and when I did that, I had to do something else too. Other than that, I slept the entire night.

I had to set my alarm the next morning, to make sure I was up in time to take my 2nd dose of the prep.

Yep, they make you drink that yucky stuff twice.

This time, the resulting "action" is even easier. There's just not much left in there, you know? Although... surprisingly more than I thought there'd be...

Still trying to figure out how you go from clear at night, to brown in the morning....

Anywho... still on a clear liquid diet, but rested from my night of sleep, I managed to fold one load of laundry before running out of energy. And so I resumed my position on the couch. I could've fallen asleep, if I weren't running for the potty every so often.

About an hour before I had to leave I started getting an itsy bitsy hemorrhoid, but to be fair, I had just had one the week prior from all the pooping I was doing from my illness (or whatever), so... that may or may not be normal.

Time to head out for my appointment, and I decide to take the advice I was given and put one of Jena's diapers in my undies.

Since we had to be there at 1:45pm for a 2:45pm appointment, Jason wanted to hit McDonald's up for his lunch, so we stopped there. He got his food to go, while I visited the bathroom.

If it weren't for that pit stop, I probably would've needed the diaper.

Mental note - borrow a diaper from someone, buy some Depends, or stuff an old towel in your shorts for the drive to the doctor. I got that advice from three different people, and it's the best advice ever. Seriously.

Got to the office, signed in, went to the bathroom. Came back out & waited for them to call me up. They got my info, gave us some after-care instructions, and we waited for the nurse.

Now, since I was having a colonscopy, EGD, and multiple biopsies, mine might get a little different from the routine colonscopy here, but not by much.

They called me back, weighed me (seriously, liquid diet for 2 days & pooping my brains out, and only lost 2 lbs?!? are you kidding me?!?), and I went to the bathroom. Again. They put me in a hospital gown & booties, I got two hospital-y bracelets, they took my vitals, started my IV, and brought me a blanket. Then they brought Jason back.

Somewhere in there, I had to poop. Bad. Couldn't find my nurse, so I ended up pulling the call string. A different nurse came running. I felt kinda bad when I told her I just had to poop, but had my IV in, and she just smiled and said that they hear that a lot there, before grabbing my IV bag & helping me to the bathroom.

I pooped one last time.

Got back to my bed and after just a few more minutes they wheeled me in to the procedure room.

The nurse took all my vitals again, had me roll onto my left side, then the doctor came in. We chatted for a second, then they started the anesthesia.


Next thing I know I'm back in my bed and they're telling me to wake up and I'm yelling at them that I'm tired. Well, I was trying to yell at them, but Jason said it was barely a mumble because I kept falling back asleep.

I do a little too well on the anesthesia, I think.

Apparently Jason got me into the car & drove me home, because I slept on the couch until... sometime later, when I remember my parents bringing Jena home. I ate some Arby's in there somewhere too, but I don't really remember it, I just saw the empty bag sitting there. And then I fell asleep again.

I slept for about four hours at home in the afternoon, then nine hours overnight, and still had a hard time waking up the next morning, was groggy the entire day at work, and ready to fall asleep at any moment even into the evening.

Seriously, I do really well on anesthesia.

My throat hurt a bit from the EGD, but just minor discomfort that went away by evening.

And... to answer the question asked most frequently... no, my butt did not hurt. Not one bit. Honestly, would never know they'd been in there, if they didn't tell me. And I have a funny feeling they don't lie about stuff like that.

I'd like to repeat that: my butt did not hurt.
It did not feel weird. I did not feel violated in any way.

My annual gyno visit is way more invasive. Seriously.

Now, if you happen to be age 50 or older, and have not yet had a colonoscopy, or it has been more than 10 years since your last: GO! It's not that bad. My butt didn't even hurt.

If, like I do, you have a family history of colorectal cancer and/or colon polyps, and have never had a colonoscopy, talk to your family doctor about when to start, and how frequently to get them.

I'm good for another five years.

GO! It's not that bad. My butt didn't even hurt.

Sorry. I was asked so many times if my butt hurt, that now I just think it sounds funny to say that.

My butt didn't hurt!

Now, go!

* instructions vary per each specific test given, follow your doctor's instructions exactly

As for my results, it was none of the bad possibilities. Ends up I was having a severe reaction to one of my medications, even though I had been on it for nearly six months before the symptoms started, which is why both my family doctor & GI specialist had ruled it out. Which is why I also tell people if they're having medical problems that they can't figure out, to look at their medications, even if they've already been on them for a while. You just never know.

Thanks for checking in, and go take care of yourself!

1 comment:

Susan said...

Thank you for your honest and informative post. Yes I am over 50 and have been ignoring the referral for this thrilling experience. Honestly I have been dreading the prep more than the procedure (just knock me out and I'm fine with it). So I am planning on loading up on reading material and biting the bullet. I will make the appointment.

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