For all you out there who live to cuss (aka my people), the ‘C’ I’m referencing in the title to this blog post is not what you think. So, if you clicked on the link that brought you here in the hopes to find a dissertation on swearing…
Sorry, gentle reader, I’m here to discuss something that every newly christened 50-year-old is taught to dread - the colonoscopy.
Now, now. Don’t be afraid. I’m here to break it all down for you because honestly, it’s really not that bad. This will be a pretty long post, though, so maybe grab some coffee before you start reading.
For those of you who may not even know what the fuck I’m talking about, you’re probably too young to be reading this blog anyway. But just in case you have absentee parents, or maybe you’re the third child and they just don’t have the same enthusiasm for preventing child endangerment, I’ll give you the quick answer - a doctor puts a camera up your butt in order to look at your colon for cancer or pre-cancer issues.
Seems simple enough, right? It pretty much is.
Listen, listen. Before panic sets in, or you get all “that’s not to be discussed in polite circles” prude on me, all sarcasm aside, this is an important issue for everyone. EVERYONE. The older I get, the less worried I become about discussing things that are considered inappropriate, impolite (for mixed company, as they used to say), gross, or scary - death and funerals, end of life protocol, medical procedures, and the list keeps growing.
So if you want to hear about my experience with getting a colonoscopy, and aren’t afraid to get a little down and dirty (jeebus, I’m not gonna share my imaging scans or pics of what came out of me during the prep process - I’m not going to be THAT liberal with my sharing), then read on.
As many of you know, I turned 50 a couple months ago. At 45, my gastro doctor kindly reminded me that at this special point in my life, I’d need to get a colonoscopy. Like a rite of passage or something. And, as I have a healthy respect for authority figures (doctors, police, my master…uh, I mean firefighters), I scheduled an office visit to talk to him about it, and another stomach scope (it’s been six years since I had one of those and I was feeling a little off in that department, so why not take care of it at the same time, if possible - spoiler alert: it was possible). I got it scheduled, and they sent me home with instructions.
Here’s where it’s gonna get a little dirty folks - and not in the sexy way. Unless you’re into that kind of thing…
Because I was getting an endoscopy along with the colonoscopy, I only ate soft foods two days before the procedure. Hey, donuts, mashed potatoes, and cheese? I’m okay with that. But for most people, it’s just one day of prep. The day before your scope, you can only have clear liquids - and no, vodka does not count. No-pulp juice, broth, tea, water, pop, coffee are all acceptable, as long as you don’t have any dairy (sorry, no cream for that coffee) or anything red or purple. My guess is the red dye fucks shit up. Literally.
Starting at 3pm, you take a few tablet laxatives. In my case, the house cleaning began 90 minutes later. I’m 99% positive that all the solids were out of my system in those first two trips to the bathroom before I even started the liquid laxative portion. And the smell…it didn’t smell like shit. It was more like dead fish on a 98 degree day at the beach.
I told you this was gonna get dirty.
Then, beginning at 5pm, you need to drink 64 ounces of Gatorade mixed with 238 grams of a powder laxative (I bought the Gatorade Zero in the Cherry Ice flavor). The laxative itself is tasteless, but it does make the mouth-feel of the sport drink seem a little…off. If you keep it in the fridge, that helps. It’s better cool or cold than room temperature.
They recommend one (1) 8 oz glass of the drink mix every 10-15 minutes. However, if you start to feel bloated or nauseous, you can spread that out to every 30 minutes instead. That’s what I ended up doing because I almost horked after the second glass. By the 4th glass, my body started to figure out it had no choice but to acclimate all this extra liquid.
And when the doctor’s office tells you to stay home from work or be close to a bathroom at this point, THEY ARE NOT FUCKING KIDDING AROUND. I think I averaged every 4-7 minutes having to get up and empty out. And at this point, it’s basically straight water, though it’s not clear, it’s yellow. But that’s normal so don’t panic.
If you can handle the faster timeline, you should be done drinking around 7pm. I didn’t finish up until 9pm, but that was okay. They’d rather you get it all down and not throw up, than be quick draw McGraw. And maybe because I didn’t finish until later, I was up until about 2am running to the bathroom. At least, by that time, I was able to doze on the couch for more than 10-15 minutes between toilet visits.
When you get to that point, where your intestines are empty save for the irrigation mixture pumping through them, the smell becomes something completely new. I can’t even describe it because I’ve never encountered anything like it before. I don’t know if it was the laxative mixed with my body chemistry, or perhaps it’s what my innards actually smell like, my colon cologne if you will. Whatever the case, I highly recommend you burn candles from Bath and Body Works for as long as possible. Because that stank permeates EVERYTHING - your sweat, your pee, everything. So be prepared to shower a lot for several days after the procedure, and keep those candles burning.
And now, the day of your appointment arrives. I wasn’t as nervous as I could have been because, like I mentioned above, I had an endoscopy six years ago. For these kind of procedures - less invasive and short - you don’t get the heavy narcotics you’d get for say, a hysterectomy (I can do a blog post on that experience, too, if you want). The procedures (endo and colon) last about 20-30 minutes each so you don’t need to be unconscious for hours on end.
After you check in and sign on all the dotted lines, you go back to the staging area. Basically, you get naked and are given one of those beee-YOOOO-tiful hopspital gowns, they ask you a bunch of questions, take your vitals, and get that all important IV going. Here’s one pic of mine I will share - my right arm gave the nurse, Julie, a little trouble so she had to put the IV into the back of my left hand instead.
And I waited my turn, like a plane on a busy airport runway, while my husband sat with me and tolerated my nervous rambling. Like I said, I wasn’t as nervous as I could have been, but I was still a bit anxious. I talked a lot about the food I wanted to eat as soon as possible. By that point, I’d gone about 36 hours without solid food, and was feeling hungry. Not as hungry as I thought I’d be, since my stomach acid had nothing to do but sucker punch my muscosa, leaving it sour and persnickety.
Then, after the anesthesiologist came to collect me and roll me into the procedure room, she asked me one more time my name, birthday, and confirmed the procedures I was there to have. It may seem excessive (I’m pretty sure I spoke to at least three separate people about the same stuff), but with all the ridiculous malpractice suits out there, and genuine fuck-ups, I can understand the necessity. It made me feel like we were all on the same page through the whole process and I didn’t have to worry about waking up sans one leg.
Since I had two scopes going on, this is what I had to do after rolling over onto my side. If you’re not getting an endoscope, just skip this first part and go down to the butt stuff (heyooo). They strapped a little plastic thing in my mouth that helps guide the stomach scope. Once that’s secured, the anesthesiologist told me she was giving me the night-night drugs and to enjoy my nap. She also patted me on the shoulder, which was kinda nice (thank you, Theresa). In about five seconds, the noises in the room go hollow, like you’re all in a giant tin can. Then my eyelids got soooper heavy and I drifted off to sleep.
And I woke up in recovery.
You thought I had butt stuff to talk about, right? Well, I don’t. Because you will be knocked out for the actual procedure. You won’t feel a damn thing. All I was told was that the scope line was no bigger than my pinkie finger and if necessary, the Slayer of Polyps is attached and can snip those buggers off right when the camera sees them.
In my case, the camera found a few so I’ll have to go back in three years to have another procedure. Apparently, the doctor came in to talk to both me and my husband about it, though I don’t remember that at all. Hubby said my eyes were open, but I really wasn’t there, you know?
And that’s it. I stayed in recovery until I was fully awake, but still wobbly. It was like being heavily buzzed off two of my favorite chocolate martinis. That’s why you can’t have this done without bringing someone to drive you home! Also, be prepared to feel a little damp when you get up. Don’t worry - there’s already a piddle pad on the bed when you go to the staging area. It’s almost like they expect it, so it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I was offered a warm wet washcloth, which was HEAVEN, before getting dressed and leaving the building.
For the rest of the day, they want you to just take it easy. Trust me - the lingering anesthetic, general soreness from being poked, prodded, and in my case, clipped, and that all-over blah feeling, you’ll just want to lounge anyway. Or, in my case, cram three donuts in your cake hole and pass out for two hours.
Again, I still wasn’t that hungry. I knew I hadn’t eaten solid food for about 39 hours by then so I wanted something on my stomach asap. I ate a couple more, plus some ramen when I woke up, but didn’t feel the need to hoover my entire refrigerator. I was also in bed by 9:30pm that night and slept pretty hard for about 10 hours.
So that’s it. Not the most horrible experience I’ve ever had. The prep was not as horrendous as many people have made it out to be. As a child who suffered through a lot of constipation and enemas, I’ll take the water guts over trying to pass cement bricks any fucking day of the week. Plus there was no pain, or cramping, or gas. I think the worst part, aside from the nausea caused by the Gatorade concoction, was all the wiping needed every time I hit the toilet. Anus Megairritatus was not fun, so I suggest you employ a dabbing motion instead. But if you still get sore, a thin coating of Vaseline or Aquafor is very soothing for that raw skin (old trick from my cement brick days).
If you need to get this, or any gastro procedure done, but you don’t have a doctor, I highly suggest mine - Dr. Michael Cannon. If he’s not taking new patients, I know there are a bunch of other doctors in the collective at Gastrointestinal Specialists PC in Troy (on Maple Road between Main and Crooks). No, no one is paying me to promote them. I’ve just been very, very happy with Dr. Cannon and all of the staff over there.
If you made it this far, congratulations on your awesome attention span! You should now have a better understanding of this necessary, but not scary, medical procedure we all gotta face sooner or later. Welcome to Adulthood. There are some cookies to your left, warm milk to the right, and a giant cushy sofa in front of the TV where Matlock streams 24/7.