The thought of having to get a colonoscopy to me was mortifying.
I feared the preparation, the procedure and, most importantly, what they might find.
My mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 Colon Cancer in October of 2012 (I’m not allowed to disclose her age, so I’ll just say she’s older than me), so it was recommended that all of my mom’s children (a twin brother and two sisters, both in their 40’s) get a colonoscopy when they turned 40.
I put off scheduling the procedure as long as I could, but when I turned 40 in October of 2013, it was time (and my mom would not let me forget it!). I scheduled the appointment and immediately called my mom to let her know.
I received some literature in the mail regarding my appointment, how the preparation for the procedure worked and a prescription for the “prep” medication. I read through the information and honestly, I wanted to cancel the appointment. It looked overwhelming and would require a lot of time in the house (and in the bathroom).
Two days before my procedure I was at the hospital working, so I took my prescription for the “prep” to the FirstHealth Outpatient Pharmacy. The pharmacist did not hand me the typical small prescription bag, but instead a large jug (I mean large, like the kind you could put water in and drink for two days and still have some left) that included the “prep” mixture. I was ready…
My appointment was on a Tuesday at noon, so I told my supervisor that I planned on working up until the procedure and would then just take the rest of the day off to recover. In hind sight, that was a really naive plan!
The Monday before my procedure the fasting started; only clear liquids, Jello, Italian Ice and chicken broth (all of which I will never have an appetite for again). I think I was so focused on the procedure and the “preo,” that I was not prepared for the fasting before hand. I was so hungry! I was at a lunch meeting being catered by Panera, and I could only eat chicken broth. Everything looked so good. As tempted as I felt to eat just one little bite of something, I did not. I knew that it was very important not to eat.
Monday evening arrived and it was time to start drinking the “prep.” This is the part of the procedure my mom warned me most about. She described the taste of the “prep” as tasting like puss (I am dry heaving just thinking about it while I write this!).
I told my two boys that we would have to hunker down at the house that night because “mommy would need to be close to a bathroom.” I told them I would be drinking a solution that would make me poop a lot and just as I thought, they loved that! They started to get excited, like they were getting ready to watch a good movie. I felt loved…
So it began. I took the first sip of the “prep” and it tasted like sweat or salt water. I tried not to think about puss. I finished the first cup of “prep” and waited…and waited.
My boys kept asking, “when is it going to happen, when are you going to poop?”
Well, it happened and there was no “holding back.”
You do not want to be away from home when you start the “prep!”
It took about one hour for it to kick in and then it (the pooping) was pretty constant for about three to four hours. I had to drink half of the jug before going to bed and then get up in the morning and begin drinking the second half.
I woke up that morning and finished drinking the second half of the jug. It was easier to get that second half down than the night before. I made my self drink it faster to get it over with.
Also, there was no going to work that morning like I had planned. I still spent a lot of time in the bathroom and work is the last place I wanted to be.
My mom picked me up for the appointment and the first thing I said to her was, “I am so hungry but so well cleansed.”
We got to my appointment, checked in and waited to be called back to the procedure room. This was the easy part from what I was told, and they were right. The nurse asked me some questions; put an IV in my arm and lastly the doctor came in and spoke to me. I was wheeled into the procedure room. When you have your colonoscopy for the first time, I would recommend you don’t look around at the equipment in the room and think about what they will be doing to you! Just close your eyes and go to your happy place. Some sort of medication was then put into my IV and I was out. I do not remember a thing…nothing.
My mom was waiting for me in the room when they wheeled me back from the procedure area. I woke up and asked her several times how she got there. I still felt a little foggy from the medicine they put in my IV, but other than that, I felt fine.
The doctor came in and told me I had diverticulitis, but other than that everything looked good. I was released and got back to normal activity the next day.
The first thing I ate when I was able to was soup and chicken salad. Let me tell you, it was so good.
By the way, my mom is doing great and got a good report on her year follow-up colonoscopy. So very thankful!
The colonoscopy part wasn’t fun. I knew it wasn’t going to be and I didn’t like it. But part of taking care of yourself is doing things you don't always like. Sometimes we don't really want to know what is wrong (if anything is) because then we have to deal with it.
Colon cancer is very treatable and more treatable when caught early. If you have a family history of colon cancer and your doctor recommends a colonoscopy at an early age, just go do it.
Cindy Laton is a health educator with FirstHealth Community Health Services
Ann Loyd, Cindy's Mother