Friday, January 13, 2012

Diary of a Colonoscopy

I just earned my colonoscopy badge.  I wasn't given an "I survived my first colonoscopy" sticker, but would have proudly displayed it on my lapel had one been offered to me.  It's a life rite of passage that deserves some sort of attaboy token.  My decision to subject myself to a colonoscopy did not come easily.  Apparently, I had long passed the recommended age as my proactive medical insurance company's mail correspondence was feeling more and more like hate mail.  Ok!  I'll do it...

Many of my friends and family members had raised their white flags to the colonoscopy pushers long before I did, so I had several "been there, done that" accounts of the experience to help in my understanding of what to expect.  The mantra was always the same-the actual procedure is a piece of cake, it's the day before that's a little rough.  I managed to block the entire existence of this  scheduled procedure from my mind until 2 days prior to my prep day when I discovered there was a lengthy information sheet that had to be in the doctor's office 10 days prior to the procedure day.  Oops.  A telephone call and fax machine fixed that little snafu.  I opened the amazingly thick envelope that I had received many weeks prior and began reading in earnest.  Knowledge is power.  Armed with my new power, I was off to the druggist to pick up my prep day prescription.

I am not sure what I expected, but being handed a seemingly empty plastic bottle with a cute little packet taped to the cap had never crossed my mind.  For some unexplained reason, I was embarrassed carrying it as I walked through the store on my way to leave.  I am quite sure I saw several Mona Lisa smiles.  They knew.  It wasn't until I got into my car that I began to stress.  The empty jug beside me very much resembled the emergency water ration jugs we scrambled to purchase for Y2K.  It was huge.  

Prep day came and I was ready.  I had fasted before, so how hard could this be?  White grape juice, green Gatorade, lemon Jello and banana Popsicles all met the clear liquids-no purple or red criteria spelled out so clearly and repeatedly in the thick informational packet so these were included in my arsenal of treats to make it through Prep day.  I added water up to the "add water to here" line.  Just in case there was any confusion with this task, even though this was indeed the ONLY "add water to here" line, there were also not one, but two humongous arrows that pointed to this only "add water to here" line.  Reassured that I had completed this task correctly, I cleaned out a good portion of my refrigerator to accommodate my Y2K jug and began the chilling process.

The instructions were to start drinking the prep liquid around 5:00 pm and to "try" to drink 8 ounces at a time.  I didn't understand the "try" request, but I knew there was no way I could down the whole Y2K jug of liquid by a time that would prevent me from being up all night peeing if I started so late in the day.  So, I made the intelligent decision to start at 1:00 pm.  I poured some of the cloudy liquid into a glass that I estimated to be around 8 ounces and took my first sip.  Hmmm.  It wasn't horrible, but the just short of lemon taste was curious and I wondered why they didn't give a few more grains of flavor in the cute little packet to actually make it lemon flavored.  Makes sense.  It also had a hint of salt and something else I didn't immediately recognize.  Then I did.  It was a just short of lemon flavor with a twist of gag......

Suddenly it all came full front and the mantra that included it's the day before that's a little rough and "try" to drink 8 ounces at a time became crystal clear.  And, let me just say this cloudy liquid takes its assigned task of cleaning out your colon VERY seriously.  Within minutes, all the food I had stuffed into my body the day before for fear of not being able to eat for a day was history.  Whoosh.  A colon is typically about 6 feet long and all coiled up in our bodies.  This just short of lemon with a twist of gag solution magically straightens out your colon, shortens it to exactly match the distance between your throat and the escape hatch and then turns it into a vacuum shoot that is handy at a bank but has no business whatsoever being inside your body.  Annie get your guns!  My day became a surreal B rated version of the movie "Ground Hog's Day" and the tv show "The Twilight Zone".  Every 30 minutes I would "try" to drink a full glass of the prep liquid, within minutes it exited my body like a volcano geyser, I would use foul language, repeat.  The very cruel piece of this "Twilight Zone" episode was it seemed like no matter how much I drank, the liquid in the Y2K jug never seemed to go down.  Plus the 30 minutes between glasses of this just short of lemon with a twist of gag liquid seemed more like 5 minutes.  Time flew and stood still at the same time.  Even almost hypnotizing myself with thoughts of "My Happy Place" and chugging to match any college kid at a frat party, there were several times I thought I was just not going to make it.  But I did.  I finished my last glass around midnight, had my last mini explosion and went to bed with no doubt whatsoever that my colon was squeaky clean. 

I arrived at the hospital at 9:15, quickly registered and was escorted to the outpatient wing by a volunteer.  I was surprised how large it was.  There were dozens of little fabric rooms just big enough to hold a gurney sized hospital bed and a single chair.  These curtain caves housed patients in different stages of procedures that used to be hospital overnights but now are "wham, bam, thank you ma'am" and get your designated driver to get you out of here.  I really tried hard to follow the "never look into another family's cave" rule, but it was difficult not to sneak a glance.  Everyone looked miserable, but most especially the expressionless designated drivers.  The book/movie "Coma" came to mind and I wondered if anyone was leaving without an organ.  I was shown into my curtain cave, given a top of the line paper dress (very different from the one I spoke of in The Ambush) and hooked up to an IV.  My designated driver was allowed to leave until after the procedure.  There I sat confined in a gurney bed with the sides up and an IV dripping for 2 hours.  I hadn't had anything to eat for 40 hours and nothing to drink for almost 12 hours.  In an attempt to ease the delay, a nurse gave me a "Time" magazine from several years ago.  I wasn't interested...

Close to noon, a woman with a paper muffin on her head came into my fabric cave to ask some questions.  She was one of the anesthesiologists and wanted to review some of my information.  I have a minor heart issue that I take medication for.  Basically, occasionally my heart has a mind of its own and goes a little crazy.  Medication keeps everything under control.  I understand why she was concerned and needed the details, but I just couldn't seem to give her enough information or the information she was looking for.  I started out using words like tachycardia, it gets a little out of rhythm etc. and she just kept asking more and more questions.  I just couldn't explain it in any other way than I already had.  Finally, I said it just sort of goes nuts every so often.  She looked at me with the same Mona Lisa smile I had seen when I picked up my Y2K jug and stated in what I perceived to be a condescending way-"ma'am, nuts is not a medical term..."  Let me repeat.  I had had nothing to eat for over 40 hours and nothing to drink for over 12 hours-including coffee.  It was all I could do not to slap that paper pastry right off of her head.

Finally, my turn came and I was rolled into the inner sanctum.  There I am sure I experienced a tesseract from "The Wrinkle in Time".  The nurse asked me to roll over on my side and then the physician was smiling as he handed me a picture of my very normal colon.  I believe the whole experience lasted roughly 1.5 seconds.  It was absolutely amazing.

Colonoscopy?  Been there, done that.  It's a piece of cake.  It's the day before that's a little rough......





  1. Well done - following everything to the letter. But, isn't it great to know that there is NOTHING to fear?

    As carer to my husband who has had to go through this procedure, plus several similar tests, I do agree about the day before being the worst.

    Hope all now goes well for you.

  2. This (and all of your writing) is so hilarious! My cats get concerned seeing me laughing aloud,tears of joy flowing and they start looking at each other with that "should we figure out how to call 911?" look. It is a serious laugh work out. Keep Writing it is a treat for all of us. You took a serious subject (my sister has colon cancer and never had a colonoscopy) and brought it forward so we could all appreciate it, or remember it with a smile.

  3. My wife works in a Gastroenterology office so when I hit that magic age that the doctor wants you to have one, there was no talking my way out of it. At least after it was over I had a great nap!

  4. I do enjoy reading your stories - they are funny and spunky and relatable. I've been to the curtain caves (love that phrase, btw) several times with my husband.

    Many years ago, right after my husband and I first started dating, he needed me to be his designated driver for a colonoscopy. When the doctor found out I was a new girl friend, he took great delight in providing me with printed pictures of my then-boyfriend's colon. I used to tell people I knew him inside and out even before I married him.

  5. My last one wasn't quite so bad, cause they had me mix that awful "stuff" with gatorade. Still, it is a necessary evil and I am happy to hear you have joined the club! It is important!
    New follower. Looking forward to your posts! Growing Old With Grace
    Hugs, GraceinAZ

  6. I have included you in the "Versatile Blogger Award" because you share so many interesting things on your blog.
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  7. I must admit I too dreaded this and waited for several years before I did mine. I took the pills and there were a gazillion of them! It was so easy but I still don't look forward to it in 3 1/2 more years.My oldest grandson has Crohns and has to do this occasionally so now I feel terrible for fussing like a child about doing it,when he is a teenager and has already done it 3 times.I have a friend who suffered through colon cancer and has survived but what he went through was horrible. This can so save us from that terrible fate!(psst but it still is no fun!)

  8. The VA here in San Antonio was going to do a colonoscopy on me until they realized that my driver was not going to spend the afternoon at the hospital with me. Charles, the son of a friend of mine, said "call me when you need a ride home and I'll come get you." That wasn't good enough for the VA, so they cancelled the procedure.

  9. Currently undergoing my own “day before prep”, I googled to see if anyone had been so open as to share their experience. You had me at “It was a just short of lemon flavor with a twist of gag......” too funny and so true! My husband keeps looking at me each time I skull a cupful with sympathetic eyes while I try not to gag, we both had a giggle at what you wrote, thank you for helping me to make light of my current situation.

  10. We offer a convenient, open access colonoscopy in Los Angeles . You can set up an appointment for colon cancer screening examination, without first having to obtain a customary referral from another physician. Our flexible scheduling allows an appointment with our GI doctor usually within 1-2 week of calling. For those busy individuals who have other matters to attend to during work days, we provide Saturday appointment for your convenience.

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  14. Helpful information... I have heard a scary things about colonoscopy and how painful the whole process is.

  15. Scary things about colonoscopy is completely wrong. The doctors make you feel comfortable before the procedure.