I Got a Colonoscopy for my Birthday!
First, let’s get one thing straight – I am not 50 years old; the recommended age for the start of routine colonoscopies. Last Thursday I had my first colonoscopy, but yesterday, on Groundhog’s Day, I turned a young 41 (remember when 41 seemed so old?).
So why the colonoscopy you ask?
Do I like the idea of someone shoving a long tube into my body? About as much as I like trying to use a public restroom with a toddler. Was I doing some investigative reporting to tell you the ins and outs (pun intended) of having your anal cavity invaded? That’s been done already, and truthfully, I am not that dedicated to writing.
Nope, unfortunately I was having some annoying symptoms and it bought me a colonoscopy, along with a little bit of anxiety.
On the eve of my procedure, a friend sent me a link to a blog post describing Dave Barry’s first colonoscopy. It’s worth a read and set my mind to ease about the procedure itself.
Dave and I had very similar experiences with the procedure, but the prep itself was different for me.
While I had been mildly nervous but feeling up to the challenge of the prep, when I saw the jug that I had to drink, I felt instantly defeated. Dave had a drink called MoviPrep (and only had to drink 2 liters) but I had to drink 4 liters (!) of a product called, don’t laugh, GoLytely.
I am liquid-aversive. I know it is bad for my body, but I probably live in a constant, slightly dehydrated state. Milk with cereal in the morning, maybe a glass of water throughout the day, one 8 oz Pepsi, one glass of milk with dinner, and one tea at night are my normal daily intake. I just don’t enjoy drinking. One of the hardest things for me to do during my 5 pregnancies was to increase my fluid intake.
But somehow I had to get 4 liters of liquid into my body.
The instructions said to start at 5pm and drink 8 oz of liquid every 10 minutes. I dutifully poured the first glass (chilled and over ice), and surrounded by all 5 children, tried to chug it down. Only something went instantly wrong. The minute the horrendously-tasting liquid hit my throat, my gag reflex took over and my body sent it all back out. I tried holding my nose, sipping, closing my eyes, sending the children out of the room – nothing worked. I couldn’t hold it down.
The kids were fascinated, horrified and worried for me. Ever the rule-follower, Number 2 just kept telling me, “Mom, you have to drink it all. The instructions said so.” Number 1 ran from the room to hide downstairs until it was over. The others were laughing but were also kind of grossed out.
I didn’t know what to do. So I did what any self-respecting modern woman would do. I called Spouse in panic-tears. He called the doctor who said I was supposed to get flavor packets with it, not drink it straight up. Well of course! It couldn’t be that I was the ultimate wimp that couldn’t choke down 8 oz of that vile stuff – it wasn’t my fault! He told Spouse to get some lemon Crystal light to mix with it.
I waited for Spouse to get home and dutifully started again around 6:30. I added a little Crystal light powder to my glass and although it still tasted terrible, I was able to get the drink down by chugging it. Number 2 was my personal coach. He kept a timer for me and set it for 10 minutes every time I took another glass. The others were more interested in the end result – “Have you gone yet? When are you gonna go? Did you have diarrhea Mommy?” About what you would expect from a house full of Y chromosomes.
The wait seemed endlessly long as we came up to and passed one hour after the first full glass (the time at which the instructions said I would have my first bowel movement). At about this time the drink was tasting worse and worse. I decided that maple syrup qualified as a clear liquid and started taking a teaspoon of maple syrup before and after I chugged the drink. Whatever it takes, right?
After 1.5 hours I started to worry – was it possible that some people weren’t affected by the drink? Was I drinking this stuff for no reason?
It was almost a relief when I had to make my first run to the bathroom. I found the going in to be much more difficult than the coming out. Unlike Dave Barry’s experience, the outcome of the drink was not violent. Without going in to too much detail, it was more like a constant stream that had to be evacuated every 10 minutes or so.
The rest of the evening fell into a pattern – drink, go the bathroom, drink, go the bathroom until I had about a glass and a half left and couldn’t drink anymore. At this point, the stuff that was coming out matched exactly the stuff that was going in, so I figured I had done a good enough job.
The next morning I went into the procedure and I really only have 2 words to say about it:
Propofol should probably come with an extra warning that it should not be given to tired mothers. With only 2 blinks of the eyelids, I had the most blissful, restful nap imaginable. I woke up cocooned in a warm blanket feeling just deliciously cozy. I dreamily talked to the doctor with my eyes closed when he came in and told me that everything looked good. I just had a few internal hemorrhoids, much less than what he expected from a woman who had 5 children. “Yes,” I said. “I have 5 hemorrhoids and they are named Number 1, Number 2, Number 3, Number 4 and Number 5.” Then I drifted away again.
The next thing I remember was the nurse asking me if I would like apple juice or ginger ale. I said no thanks, I was fine. But she told me I had to drink something and get up and get dressed. I actually felt a brief spark of anger that it had to end.
But eventually I got up and begrudgingly went back home. And felt much better knowing nothing was wrong and that I didn’t need another colonoscopy for 10 years.
A piece of advice I read after it was all over – if you are allowed to mix your prep drink with something, don’t mix it with your favorite drink. You might link the experience with that taste and not be able to drink it again.
Oh boy, I hope this doesn’t turn me off maple syrup!