Apparently it is common knowledge that men and women who are at average risk for colorectal cancers should undergo screenings at age 50. I know this because when I turned 50 there was no shortage of people lining up to remind me it was time for a colonoscopy.
“Happy Birthday, Ant! Hey, have you scheduled a colonoscopy yet?”
Sheesh. How about I blow out the candles on my cake first?
When I finally wrapped my arms around the idea of having a colonoscopy and called the gastroenterologist to schedule one, I was informed 1) I would need to make an appointment for a consultation first and 2) my doctor’s first available appointment was three months away. The office staff person apologized for the long wait, but all I could think was Phew…this gives me plenty of time to get mentally prepared for voluntarily submitting to a camera being stuck in my butt.
They say time flies when you’re having fun and it does. Instead of mentally preparing myself for my inevitable colonoscopy, I elected to merrily go about my business and put it completely out of my head for most of the summer (the latter being infinitely more fun than the former). Three months flew and before I knew it, I was completing a five-page medical history on the eve of my GI consultation, all the while calmly expecting it would be another three months before I eventually would undergo a colonoscopy.
Not only was I wrong about the timing (the colonoscopy was scheduled for three days later), I also was advised that I was eligible for the buy-one-get-one-free colonoscopy/endoscopy combo deal AND under no circumstances was I going to be allowed to stay awake for any of it.
“Antoinette, since you suffer from chronic reflux, I’m recommending we do an endoscopy along with your colonoscopy. It’s standard for people with reflux and you’ll already be asleep for the colonoscopy so it makes sense to do the endoscopy at the same time.”
“What…WHOA…didn’t I mention I’d planned on being awake for the colonoscopy?”
“Well, can I mention it now?”
“While it rarely happens, there is a risk for intestinal perforation during the colonoscopy, but it happens with far less frequency when patients are asleep than when…”
“Never mind. Put me out.”
Dr. W——m went on to describe the procedures to me. She would insert long, flexible tubing into my rectum for the colonoscopy and down my throat for the endoscopy (not the same one, thankfully). I couldn’t help thinking we should invite my gynecologist to join – get the pap smear done while we’re at it. Anyway, she must have sensed my growing angst because as she handed me the prep instructions, she smiled compassionately and offered, “I’ve been through it and really, the worst part is the prep.”
So I’ve heard.
Fast forward two days. A clear liquid diet is the prescribed menu for the entire day preceding a colonoscopy. In case you’re wondering, and even though one might argue that you can see clear through a glass of Pinot Grigio to the person sitting across from you in a dimly lit restaurant, white wine is not a clear liquid, but Jell-O is. Go figure.
At 3:00 pm, per doctor’s orders, I took two Dulcolax tablets and dissolved 238 grams of aptly named Miralax (short for “miracle laxative”) with 64 ounces of Gatorade. At 5:00 pm, per doctor’s orders, I began drinking the Miralax-Gatorade concoction in 8 ounce doses, at 10 minute intervals. I did this 8 times – until every last drop was gone. At 8:00 pm, per doctor’s orders, I took two more Dulcolax tablets on the off-chance that 15 days worth of laxatives crammed into two hours might not do the trick. Then I waited…
Let me tell you. When it’s time for a colonoscopy, you’ll receive all sorts of advice from people who want to share their stories. They’ll tell you things like which Gatorade flavors taste best and not to get too far from the bathroom, and blah, blah blah. However, there are a couple of things no one tells you. These things are very, very important, so pay careful attention.
DO NOT LOOK IN THE TOILET. Like I said, no one told me, but I am telling you. Do not, under any circumstances, look in the toilet after making a deposit. The first few visits are pretty much what you’d expect, but after that there’s no telling what you’ll find.
“PAAAAT,” I screamed for my husband from my perch on the commode,” THERE’S A PLANT IN MY POOP!”
“Relax,” he shouted back,” you eat a lot of salad and we had broccoli for dinner last night.”
“THIS IS NOT A LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLE NOR A FLORET. THIS IS A VERDANT, FLOWERING PLANT. COME LOOK… IT HAS ROOTS!”
“That’s okay. I believe you.”
For nearly 15 hours I continued to pass various species of plants, sediment, and other pieces of debris. Among the identifiable was an eraser (I recall accidentally swallowing it in sixth grade while chewing on the end of my pencil during a particularly stressful math test), a mosquito or possibly a tse-tse fly, and what appeared to be either the remains of a bratwurst I’d eaten at a Braves game back in 2007, or a chunk of my appendix – both equally disconcerting. Take my advice. Do not look in the toilet.
Finally, and possibly the most important thing no one else will ever tell you about preparing for your colonoscopy. In fact, it’s so important that if I was allowed only one piece of advice to give you, it would be this. It’s never just gas.
© Copyright 2012 Antoinette D. Datoc