It is 3:54 p.m. on a Tuesday, the day before the exam.
It’s a good thing I checked my calendar a second time yesterday. The appointment I have with the gastroenterologist isn’t until 6:30 a.m. tomorrow; I’d originally thought it was today. So – I slept in – it’s going to be a late night tonight and an early start tomorrow.
I’m not worried about having my first colonoscopy since I have seen all of this before, as a spectator. I accompanied my friend Eddie earlier this year when he had his first one done. Since he was sedated, he didn’t feel a thing. The nurse in the waiting room was a prude; she didn’t appreciate my ribald sense of humor.
What I imagine will be the most annoying part has already begun. The two slices of cheese toast I had for breakfast, along with the accompanying coffee and Nestle Quik, are to be my last non-clear food until tomorrow. I ate a handful of Cheese Puffs a couple of hours ago anyway. My logic was this: even though they’re not technically transparent, these are mostly air and ought to be considered clear. Now I’m beginning to get the munchies so the next 14-and-a-half hours are going to be interesting.
Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.
Did you know that colon cancer is the second leading cause of death (after lung cancer) from cancers affecting both men and women? According to the folks at UNC Health Talk, Colonoscopies are now recommended for anybody over the age of 45 (formerly 50) and for folks over 40 who also have a family history of colon cancer.
Sometimes the procedure is also ordered for patients who are experiencing weakness or fatigue or who have levels of anemia (like me) that can’t be attributed to other causes.
This relatively simple and routine procedure is done to prevent colon cancer. Death from colon cancer is almost completely avoidable if the cancer is caught in the early stages. Taking a peek inside at your colon is the easiest way to do that. Looking around is done by a trained doctor who sticks a flexible tube tipped with a high-definition camera up and inside, using the same opening through which things usually exit.
I thought it might be fun to Google “recipes for the day before a colonoscopy.” Well, “fun” isn’t exactly how I’d describe the results, Cheesy Poofs, as fate would have it, are out as “clear foods.” Bastards. I have broth, Jell-o, and popsicles to look forward to, and then only flavors that don’t include red, orange, blue and/or purple dyes. Oh joy. But there is some disagreement about the need for a totally clear liquid diet before a colonoscopy.
Time to consume the first of the split-dose cleaning-out procedures. This method of preparing for a colonoscopy is supposed to be superior to the old version – there’s less laxative fluid to drink and, allegedly, it tastes better. At least that’s what I’ve read.
So here we go…
I mix one bottle of prep solution with enough tap water to make 16 oz. of water (about 475ml) and chug it. Bleh. It tastes salty and vaguely grape-flavored. Not good, but not the worst tasting thing in the world. Now I have to drink two additional 16 oz. cups of water within the next hour, so I set reminder-alarms at 15-minute intervals to pace myself.
I’m not naturally a drinker – of anything. Outside of my daily dose of Nestle Quik, I usually only have iced tea or an occasional soda with meals. I wouldn’t be surprised if I walk around constantly dehydrated. Downing this much liquid is a chore, but not impossible.
No effect so far.
Starting to feel a bit gassy. I hear some gurgling in my tummy. Could explosions be very far away?
Okay. It’s definitely time to run to the loo!
Whew! That was an adventure. The first wave of material (and perhaps a demon or two) have now left my system.
More gurgling and gas. At least I hope that’s gas. Me thinks more demons are on the way out soon.
Time for jokes:
Q: What’s brown and sits on the piano bench?
A: Beethoven’s last movement.
Q: Did you hear about the constipated math teacher?
A: She worked it out with a pencil.
Q: What did one fly say to another?
A: “Pardon me, is this stool taken?”
Having returned from my second seating upon the porcelain throne I can announce the exorcism of several more spirits. Well, I assume they were spirits . . . as they were mostly liquid.
All’s quiet at the southern gate. Since I have to repeat the process at 3 a.m., it’s time to turn in and get a little shut-eye.
Wednesday, 12:12 a.m.
So much for that bit of wishful thinking. Amid a rather interesting dream, I was awakened by Casper the not-so-friendly ghost attempting a fast exit through my gift shop.
Fortunately, I showed him the door and he left without further incident.
Round two begins.
For whatever reason, the second 16 oz. tumbler of laxative (a combination of sodium, potassium and magnesium salts) is a bit more difficult to chug than the earlier one. I grab a straw to assist.
Ugh. The artificial saltiness has not improved in the dead of night.
I set my alarms to help me down another two 16 oz. tumblers of tap water as a chaser and prepare for the upcoming eruption of my anal geyser.
I feel the gaseous bloat return and hear gurgling once again.
Woosh! Here we go again . . .
I finish drinking the last of the water for a total of 96 ounces (2.84 liters) or 3/4 of a gallon!
A few remaining demons exit through the gift shop, leaving me just enough time to grab a quick shower. I consider corking up the chute in case of any lingering fluids. Guess I’ll chance it.
I grab my computer bag and dash out the door. Since my colonoscopy (like many others) is a procedure which requires sedation, I meet up with my friend Eddie who has agreed to drive me to the doctor’s office. For safety’s sake, I won’t be able to work or drive for several hours after the procedure so we park my car and take my friend’s.
We pull into the parking lot at Northeast Digestive Health Center, right on time for my appointment.
Here I am with Leigh Ann, the delightful nurse’s assistant who checked my blood pressure and other vitals, attached a heart-rate monitor, then gave me a fetching green hospital gown to wear for easy access to my used-food chute. I placed my clothes in the plastic ‘Patient Belongings’ bag provided and kick back on the gurney to await my turn.
Another pleasant nurse came and inserted an intravenous (iv) line for administrating the anesthesia. Propofol, the same drug that, when misused, ended Michael Jackson’s life, is the drug of choice in these procedures.
Fun fact: Propofol is sometimes referred to as “Milk of Amnesia” for its milky color and memory-erasing effects. When used as intended, the drug is both safe and very effective. It is found on WHO’s list of essential medicines and patients should not fear its use by a professional anesthesiologist.
Then my friend, Eddie comes into the waiting area to keep me company while I wait. (I accompanied him to his own colonoscopy earlier this year.) You can see below how excited he is to return the favor.
I am wheeled into the exam room.
The very pleasant anesthesiologist asks me my name, date of birth, and reason for being there.
My gastroenterologist, Dr. Sara Hawkes, greets me and asks me the same questions I just answered.
As I feel something cold flow through the IV tube and into my arm, I attempt a joke about needing a Cesarean section and I’m out like a light.
I awaken to the voice of another nurse who has come to check on me and to remove the heart-rate monitor sticky pads.
Note to others: Manscape strategically before your colonoscopy noting the future placement of the heart monitoring pads. (Unless you love the brisk pull of adhesive tape yanking the hair from your body.)
There is no butt pain, just a good amount of air-pressure that has built up inside me.
And then, suddenly: a mighty wind!
The nurse suggests a more efficient farting posture: face down, ass up, my knees drawn up to my chest. The typhoon winds blow furiously as the pressure subsides. I have produced some rather impressive tuba sounds.
The results of the test? All is well. Except for a small shallow sore spot, likely from an Ibuprofen. I am told this is nothing to worry about. Whew! That’s over.
All in all?
Not nearly as troublesome or inconvenient as I had imagined. Absolutely no pain (save a single stick of the IV needle and the hair-yanking I mentioned earlier) and no memory of the procedure itself.
Now I’m all good and not due to have a colonoscopy for another ten years.
The best part of this entire saga: breakfast!
Coffee and delicious Eggs Benedict served with home fries, peppers, onions & cheese.
I hope the telling of my little saga is useful, educational, and perhaps a bit entertaining. Colonoscopies are a good thing and not so tough after all, in the end!