Colonoscopy 101 - Ellen Dolgen
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Colonoscopy 101

I am still totally focused on all things vagina, but beginning at 45 years old, we must pay attention to the vagina’s next-door neighbor.  Time for a colonoscopy screening. Before you click delete, let me remind you that prevention is the key to good health.  A colonoscopy is not painful as you are sedated, however, the prep protocol is a total pain in the ass!

It is generally recommended that you have your first colonoscopy at age 45. If you have a higher risk of colorectal cancer, your physician may recommend earlier and more frequent testing.  Screening is vital because colorectal cancer often shows no signs or symptoms in its early stages.  To help you understand your risk level, check out this link from the American Cancer Society.

During a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist will use a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). They are looking for ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding. Often they take a tissue sample to biopsy and they will remove abnormal growths. A colonoscopy can also be used as a screening test to check for cancer or precancerous growths in the colon or rectum (polyps).

At the age of 67, I am a colonoscopy veteran.  If you receive a clean bill of health (no polyps), you can wait 10 years for your next colonoscopy. Time flies, especially in colonoscopy years. If you have polyp or colorectal cancer in your family, your protocol may be different.   Recently I had some genetic testing done and found out that I possess the CHEK 2 Gene.  This makes me twice as likely to have breast cancer and colon cancer.  Therefore, my protocols for breast imaging and colon screening have changed drastically.  It is now recommended that I have a colonoscopy every 5 years, and I also have to include an endoscopy. An endoscopy is a procedure used to visually examine your upper digestive system with a tiny camera on the end of a long, flexible tube.

Here is my story and a few helpful tips for a smooth passage:

Usually, your gastroenterologist meets with you to chat before your colonoscopy. This year I had this appointment virtually. Do you blame them for wanting to see some faces rather than the views they normally deal with??

Every doctor chooses the prep kit that they think works the best.  My doctor had me do the Prepopik – Split Dose Regime.

Not sure which I was dreading more; being on clear liquids for the day before the procedure, drinking the prep, pooping like crazy, having that colonoscope jammed up my tush, or perhaps all the above!  Regardless, I grew a pair of ovaries and began my prep grocery shopping.

The day before your procedure, you will be on clear liquids and your doctor will give you the exact time that you need to begin drinking the first bottle of Prepopik.  The next day, the day of your colonoscopy, you are instructed to drink the second bottle at a specific time as well.

It’s best to pick up everything you need well before the day you begin.  I bought 3 bottles of non-flavored Pedialyte to keep from getting dehydrated and depleted. I also picked up the white grape juice, chicken broth, lemonade, and Jell-O (non-red).  Be careful to read the Jell-O label…you do not want anything with red dye in it.  Some non-red Jell-O’s have red dye in them, too.

I was instructed not to ingest nuts, popcorn, corn, seeds, iron pills, vitamins containing iron, vitamin D or K, fiber supplements, anti-inflammatory meds, and blood thinners for 5 days before the procedure.

At 5:30 PM, I was instructed to drink Packet 1.  The instructions are precise about how much water you mix in with the powder and how much water you must drink afterward. I am a big water drinker, so this was not a problem for me.  I can see where someone who is not used to drinking many liquids could struggle with this.

While my husband ate dinner, I polished off every single wiggly morsel of the lemon Jell-O that I made the day before in a 20 X 20 Pyrex dish!  It was a bit nostalgic for me as my Mom used to be the queen of Jell-O molds.

When the rumbling starts, you only have seconds before lift-off! I ran to the bathroom, and there I sat for quite some time.  I was so thankful that I prepared my bathroom with magazines/books for this pooparama, as I did not get off the toilet for quite some time.  It is rather shocking how much poop one can house in their body.  Who knew?!

I was able to drink fluids all night – up until 7 AM.  So, I continued to drink my white grape juice, a little lemonade, and more Pedialyte. The flow finally subsided. I  peeled myself off the potty, showered, and went to bed.  Set my alarm for 5:45 AM…….as I needed to take my next packet at 6 AM. I meditated myself to sleep, hoping to sleep through the night.

Around 2 AM, I was awakened with the rumbling and thunder urgency that gave mere seconds before the dreaded drip began shooting out :< (

I woke up ravenous at 5:45 AM and immediately had a cup of black coffee.  I wanted to avoid caffeine withdrawals.  Then I downed Packet #2 with the required water and drank more Pedialyte.  I was instructed to stop drinking all liquid by 7 AM.  I was doubtful that there was anything at all left inside of me. I glanced at my stomach.  It was completely flat. I had forgotten what that looked like!

I kept myself very busy answering emails from women and one husband, desperate for menopause support until it was time to shower. I was shocked that I had anything at all left inside of me, but apparently, I did! Good Lord!

Although there is a small video camera attached to the scopes for these procedures, I quickly surmised that there was no need to do my hair or makeup before these tests. These pictures will not be posted on Facebook or be included in my folder of cherished family videos.

I pulled off my “exit only” sign that remains firmly planted on my tush, and David drove me to the hospital. I was certain that he would suggest that this was the first time in our marriage that I absolutely was not full of sh-t!  Of course, he knew better than to make that joke!!!!

I was immediately checked in and taken directly to the pre-op room for vitals.  Then I signed away my colon to my gastroenterologist’s great hands.   I recommend that you bring in a list of the medications and vitamins that you are currently taking.  Although you may have already entered them into your medical portal, the prep nurse may ask you to repeat the list again.  It’s hard to remember anything when you haven’t eaten or had the best night’s sleep.

The doctor spoke to me prior to the procedure and confirmed that he would be administering Versed and Fentanyl for my anesthesia.  He reassured me that they would keep monitoring me throughout the procedure.  They put oxygen on my nose and asked me to turn on my left side. I don’t remember a single thing after that.

The next thing I knew, the nurse was handing me my clothes to get dressed. They called David and he was waiting for me outside. I slept all the way home.  David made me an egg and toast, which I immediately scarfed down, and then I showered and got into bed.  I slept the rest of the day away.

If you are 45 or older and have not yet had your first colonoscopy, get your head out of your ass and get an appointment for this important test!

I gotta go now. I am pooped!

Remember:  Suffering in silence is OUT!  Reaching out is IN.

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* does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.


5 thoughts on “Colonoscopy 101”

  1. I just wanted to share that while everything surrounding a colonoscopy is a pain, my first colonoscopy back in 2017 (at age 52) was extremely enlightening. Afterward, when I had the opportunity to speak with the doctor, she mentioned all looked great…except for one thing. A portion of my colon had ischemic changed…changes not normally seen in a 52 year old colon.
    After various doctors and many test later, I found out I had Fibromuscular Dysplasia or FMD. A non atherosclerotic, non inflammatory disease that causes abnormal cell development in artery walls. Not only was it located in my mesenteric artery that feeds the colon, but it is also in my carotid, renal, and iliac arteries. It also explained why I had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection back in 2008 when I was 43. Having an unexplained “heart attack” was overwhelming to say the least and left me and my doctors scratching our heads.
    That pain in the ass test sure did give me plenty of answers and I am thankful that my team of doctors really did the research to figure out what was going on with me. While we don’t like to hear there is something wrong with us, being prepared for the future is a gift.

    1. Wow, Darla, that is quite the colonoscopy report. I am so happy you had such a great team of doctors. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Stay well!

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