Monday, February 20, 2012

Into the Tunnel of Darkness: My Colonoscopy

After having two bouts of diverticulitis in less than a year, my doctor urged me to get a colonoscopy. At the mere mention of the word colonoscopy, my butt cheeks involuntarily clenched. From what I'd heard, I knew that colonoscopies were only slightly worse than being stretched on the rack, getting buried alive, or taking your kids grocery shopping. I decided to make an appointment, but the whole "diarrhea of epic proportions and a camera shoved up my butt" thing held me back. After procrastinating for the maximum allowable time, I finally picked up the phone. (The maximum allowable time is different for men and women. Since I'm a woman and therefore not a big baby, I could only procrastinate for a year. Men can procrastinate for more than 10 years.)

When I had my consultation, the nurse explained the procedure and gave me a couple different options to prepare for the test. Prepare for the test. This is where the deception starts. In my world, prepare for the test means study and memorize how to conjugate irregular verbs in Spanish. But that's not the kind of preparations or tests they're talking about.

One of the options she gave me was to drink some concoction called GoLytely. Go lightly. Well, that sounds nice. It's the name of Audrey Hepburn's lovable character in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Lightly. Go lightly. It sounds nice and calm. Deception number two.

The first two choices she gave me entailed drinking some sort of vile liquid. I knew I wouldn't be able to get down, let alone keep down, any kind of disgusting drink. I had flashbacks to the many glucose tolerance tests I've taken while pregnant. Take my word on this, the technicians do not like it when you throw up on them. I asked the nurse, "Do you have a third choice? How about an xray? A blood test? Anything less um, icky?"

She said, "Well, since you're young and healthy, you could take pills instead, but we'd need to do bloodwork first to make sure your kidney function is okay. And if you opt for the pills, you need to take 32 of them and you'll need to drink 8 ounces of water every time you take the pills."

"Water I can handle," I said, relieved I wouldn't have to drink any foul fluid. Sign me up!"

So, the day before my colonoscopy comes and I begin my prep.

4:00 PM – I’ve had nothing but water all day, figuring the less in, the less out. I swallow the first 4 pills that I'm pretty sure are actually those little salt pellets you use in your water softener. I down my 8 ounces of water and wait, poised outside the bathroom door, ready to make a dash. I’m not sure how long it will take before I begin to experience the, um effects. Fearing it will happen instantaneously, I refuse to move from my post next to the toilet.

4:15PM – I feel fine and prepare to take my next 4 pills, followed by an additional 8 ounces of water. Waiting is scary. How long will it take to kick in, I wonder. Will I really be locked in the bathroom for the rest of the evening or had my friends and family exaggerated when they spoke of their experiences?


4:30PM – As I look at the clock and prepare to swallow my next four pills, I begin to feel some bubbling and gurgling in my tummy. For those of you who are new to the whole colonoscopy experience, take heed. That bubbling means – Get your butt on the toilet NOW!

4:35PM – I grab my book and head for the toilet. I can't help thinking of the Seinfeld episode when George takes a book into the bathroom with him, is forced to buy it, then the book is flagged so George can't return it. I wonder how many library books have undergone the colonoscopy prep. Then I think it’s probably better not to ponder that. I decide this isn't too bad. I’ve had worse gastrointestinal viruses in my life.

4:45PM – I finish my business and wash my hands. As I take my next 4 pills, it hits me again. And by hits me, I mean, I not only do not have time to dry my hands, but I very nearly don't have time to pull down my pants. Oh. My. Gosh. I had no idea my body could hold that much. I see things I ate when I was five years old come out. All the partially digested pieces of grape Hubba Bubba I'd swallowed when the teacher caught me with gum in high school came out.

5:00PM – I manage to choke down pills 17-20 and pray for death wonder when the "effects" will let up. My legs are numb from sitting on the toilet. Great, I think, I'll get up and have to crawl out of the bathroom and heaven forbid the urge hit me again because there is no way I'll be able to get back to the toilet on these rubber legs. I wonder if my kids will be scarred for life if they find me lying in a pool of "effects" on the bathroom floor. I make a mental note to start saving for their therapy just in case.

7:00PM I leave the safety of the bathroom. It doesn't last long. But now I can manage to go 5 - 10 minutes between effects (effects sounds so much nicer than explosive diarrhea, doesn't it?).

8:00PM – At this point, my colon is clean enough to eat off, not that I recommend eating off colons or anything. However, those 20 salt pills didn't get the message that my colon is empty; they're still working. Since there's nothing left in my entire digestive system, my internal organs liquify and come running out instead. I've only consumed about half a gallon of water, but somehow, once in my body, that 64 ounces turned into 87 gallons.

8:30PM – You know how babies get diaper rash after having poop on their butts for a period of time? Yeah, well six and a half hours into my preparations, my butt actually burst into flames. It’s okay though, the veritable Niagara Falls that continued to flood from my body doused the fire. For the moment anyway.

9:00PM – I nearly vomit as I try to choke down the next 4 pills. Then I wonder what on earth these pills are going to do to me. I'm empty. I’m afraid if I take the final 8 pills, what’s left of my body will drain out my butt and nothing will remain of me except my earrings.

12:00PM – The hollow shell of skin that used to be me gives up, crawls to bed, and passes out, knowing I won’t need the bathroom for the next 5 weeks because there’s absolutely nothing left in me.

10:30AM – I arrive at the doctor’s office and take a seat in the waiting room.

11:00AM – I consider slapping the person sitting next to me, popping her gum, and talking loudly on her cell phone.

11:30AM – They finally call me back to a room and ask me a litany of questions.
“Is there any chance you’re pregnant?” I laugh so hard, I snort.
“Do you wear glasses or contacts?” No.
“Do you have dentures?” No.
“Do you have a hearing aid?” What?
“Do you have a hearing aid?” What?
“Do you have a hearing aid?” I decide this nurse doesn’t have a sense of humor and give up.
She has me change into a hospital gown so they can have easier access to violate me, and starts an IV.


12:00PM – I’m wheeled into the room where the magic happens. I look around for the buttcam and see some ominous-looking tubes. The anesthesiologist comes in and takes my blood pressure. It’s 612/438. “Are you nervous?” he asks. “No”, I reply, “I do this every couple weeks for fun.” The nurse tells me to turn onto my side (you know, for easy access), and the anesthesiologist injects his drugs into my IV. The last thing I remember is hearing Secrets by One Republic playing in the room, and thinking it’s a good thing they aren’t playing Baby Got Back.

12:30PM – A mean nurse is trying to get me to wake up. Apparently, she’s been trying for a while because she seems impatient and frustrated that I won’t open my eyes. I want to tell her to go away and let me sleep. I’m a single mom to six kids, for crying out loud. I need this rest! But I can’t wake up enough to form the words. I feel the need to pass gas and think to heck with being a lady. I'm afraid if I hold back I'll likely explode. At some point, the doctor came in and told me that although I have diverticulosis, it isn’t too bad and there are no polyps or any other scary things in there. Then he tells me I don't need to come back until I'm 50. I've got 8 years and 1 month to prepare for my next preparation.





So folks, the moral of this story is - just do it! Make the appointment and do it! Yeah, the preparation sucks, but look on the bright side, you'll lose a few pounds, have something to blog about, and will be able to put your mind at ease about colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is one of those things that's curable if it's caught in time. Suffering through stage 4 colorectal cancer is much, much worse than a colonoscopy. Oh yeah, and buy some diaper wipes and maybe even some Desitin for your prep. A butt on fire is not a happy butt.

32 comments:

Tracy S said...

I keep Balmex in the house for anytime, anyone (and that includes the adults!) has diarrhea for long periods of time. My youngest is 9 so even though there are no diaper wearers in this house, the Balmex stays!

It works right away. Now I know why the kids stopped crying when I put that stuff on!

Susan said...

Oh.My.God.Dawn. What an awesome post! You nailed it down to the "fire in the hole." Glad to hear you have a happy butt.

Beth Hatch said...

I love that after all that, you still have the sense of humor to try a deaf joke. That totally cracked me up. I would have done the same thing!

the queen said...

Lord, I was there, years ago. I opted for the GoLytely, and I was still in the bathroom in the room where you wait to go under the scope.

Dayna said...

Never had a colonoscopy, but I did have to do the same "preparations" for a laparoscopy surgery several years back. Easily one of the worst evenings of my life. I chose to drink the vile stuff, but stopped once I started throwing it up around the same time the "effects" started.

I so feel your pain.

Lynn said...

I didn't have the option of pills...I was told to pour the icky stuff into something I liked. So...I took the bottle out of the fridge that was labeled "Coke" and put the icky stuff in it...took my first big swig....and almost spit it out! One of my sweet, loving children had put DR. PEPPER in the bottle. I HATE Dr. Pepper! Ah the memories!!!!!!!!
Thankful that you received good news!

mandyb said...

you are killing me!!!
i love it
hope your butt has recovered!!!

Melissa said...

Oh I hate the mean nurse who wakes you up too!! I always think "go away and let me sleep" lol. I mean, I'm breathing, right? Just.Let.Me.Sleep!

Glad to hear that things went well for you :)

MaBunny said...

So far I haven't had to suffer through this particular procedure, but my mom has and her comment was 'there is nothing 'golightly ' about it, hehe

Pat said...

I did the go-lytely for many years (my Mom had colon cancer, so I take many colonoscopies) and didn't think I could ever drink the last glass. A nurse told me that "when you run clear" you can stop, so I surely did! On my most recent one, I was told I could drink a 12 oz bottle of magnesium citrate (a very pretty green in the bottle). I figured it was about the size of a bottle of Coke, so I would go that route. Talk about instantaneous reaction--I should have just drunk the stuff over the toilet!

Erin T. said...

I have a cousin who will tell you that it's never too early to check. At 30 yrs old she found out her colon was practically nothing BUT cancerous polyps. Long story short by the time she was 32 half her internal plumbing had been removed and the rest has been re-wired.

Thank god for her not listening to the doctors who told her she was "too young" and persisted in getting 2nd, 3rd & 4th opinions. The procedure may be a hassle and not much fun - but the alternative could be SO much worse.

Shonda W. said...

Oh. MY. GOSH. Dawn!!!! I immediately knew from the title of the Blog this is going to be off the wall hilarious. By the time I got to your 8:00 pm timeline I went through a half box of kleenex from the tears and snot(sorry) from laughing so hard.
I personally have never had to go through this but I am a nurse on a medical floor and have given this many times to patients, so I can appreciate what hell you went through. The worst part is that we usually start this "prep" with our patients at 8pm at NIGHT! Poor patients are up and down throughout the night!
I'm very glad things were okay! And thank you so much for the much appreciated laugh. Now I'm off to buy more kleenex ;)

Karen said...

That was a great post! I am laughing so hard!! I should print it out and save it for myself when I have to do this in a year. Yuck. But I'll try to remember to request the pills instead of the lovely GoLytely stuff. Glad you (and your butt) survived and all is clean. :-)

Sarah said...

I can barely wait until I'm 40 (2 more years) and I have to do this. You made me smile. Thanks. Glad you have a respite before you have to go through this horrible thing again!

bdonna426 said...

Dawn I had one many years ago and it did not hurt but like you said, the prep was worse.
Was almost afraid to read this as I am having some real problems and I need to shedule one as soon as possible. I drink the Magnesium Citrate and it is horrible but does work!
Thanks for the memories and laughs as now I will stay awake again and probably laugh my butt off and worry the doctor.

http://dianereiter.com said...

Oh my gosh...I KNOW it wasn't funny at the time but this was hilarious! You poor thing! I'm glad all is fine with the exception of the third degree burns on your bee-hind. I'm not sure if you saw this post but she also shared her glamorous colonoscopy experience!

http://www.divinesecretsofadomesticdiva.com/2011/10/08/10-things-i-learned-from-a-colonoscopy/

Thanks for the laugh!

kmstorck755 said...

Snort-worthy post!

Elizabeth said...

You described it exactly how I remember it!!!

Too funny!!!

Sharlyn said...

so glad all is well! I laughed about the procrastination, my mom got hers done right about 50. My Dad whined until he was 61 and then got it over with :) Thanks for the chuckle, and the preview of what awaits me

geelizzie said...

Oh, what fun a colonoscopy is! Actually, the colonoscopy part is easy peasy cause you're sleeping, it's the prep part that is truly truly awful! My husband is a pro at colonoscopies, he had colon cancer 6 years ago and has to go in every few years to make sure he is still cancer free.
I've had one and am not looking forward to the next one at all!

Kristin said...

I am 41 and had to have a colonoscopy a couple of months ago because of some really screwy G-I issues and weight loss. When I read the prep instructions, I almost died...because the stuff I had to take is called "Miralax." As in Miracle Laxative? That is a terrible name if you're using it for prep instead of regularity! It's a powder that you mix in Gatorade (at least that's what my G-I practice recommends to keep your electrolytes up). I don't like Gatorade, really, but it was no worse with the stuff than it is without the stuff in it.

My big complaint is that I had to start the Miralax at 6 p.m. so I was up most of the night. That was AWFUL. When they did the IV in the morning, the Verced (like valium) that they put in first immediately put me to sleep. They then woke me up a little later to say they were going to give me the other drug to knock me out...not sure I would have needed it because I was so tired! But glad they gave it to me.

As with you, I got good news from the procedure, which made it all worth it. But your account is absolutely accurate. It DOES feel like your butt is on fire!

Kim said...

Oh Dawn, you're on fire! And I don't just mean your butt. I haven't laughed like this in forever!

Kim VanDerHoek said...

I feel guilty saying that I've been laughing out loud at your misery. Great post and I'm glad you will live to blog another day.

Shonda: said...

You are too funny! That is the most hilarious thing I have read in days!

Laura G said...

This is one of the best entries, Dawn! I laughed so much... I've had two of these lovely procedures-too bad we can't sleep thru the prep-, and have procrastinated on #3 for 8 months. The drink should be called ColonBlow. I'll opt for magnesium citrate when I get brave enough to volunteer for this 24 hrs of drama!

Kila said...

Thanks for sharing :) I'm so proud of you. If you survived it, so can I!

Andrea said...

I keep meaning to call the doctor back to schedule my early colonoscopy but I am avoiding it for as long as I can! Thanks for spelling it all out for me with such humor. I love the reference to Holly Golightly since there's so many rumors about her actual "profession" in Breakfast at Tiffany's - just like the rumors about the actualities of a colonoscopy!

StampingJoan said...

Hysterical Dawn! Had me laughing out loud so hard my dog came over and looked at me! I had a colonoscopy in 08' and was told I was on the 10 year plan. Then I had bought with diverticulitis that I had to be hospitalized for ! The pain was sooo bad that I could hardly stand up straight. And the infection was really bad. But the DR said that I could stay on the 10 year plan unless I had another attack.

I too cannot drink medicine except for cough syrup. I had a lower GI done years ago and would have barfed all over the technicians but I warned them to have a trashcan handy! And the damn thing they made me try that were like "Pop Rocks!" OMG! So I too went the pill route and hope I can do so on the next go round! They are horse pills and can have you gagging toward the final rounds, but I think they by far, much easier!

Now if I could only get a word like this in Draw!

Joan
aka Binkyman

Sage said...

That was priceless!!! I just wrapped up my prep this evening (although it's still going strong) and I can agree that stuff comes out of you that you haven't eaten in 20 years.

Diverticulitis is not fun, it got me a colostomy for my efforts a bit over a month ago. Mine perforated my colon. Yuck. So, after healing nicely from that my surgeon wanted to see me even more up close and personal - via the snake camera. Also a condition of my getting re-connected later this year.

I agree on making sure you get checked for colon cancer and have the colonoscopy. While in the hospital for 2 weeks, I met several folks who were in for colon cancer. It's not a good thing to find later. Easily curable early on with a colonoscopy.

Anonymous said...

I just found this particular post via Pinterest. Totally hilarious! Of course I probably wouldn't have been laughing as hard last week since I was in this predicament last Thurs and Fri.

My prep was a little different. I had to take 2 Dulcolax at 10am, then another 2 at 3pm. Then I had to mix a 14 dose bottle of Miralax in a 64 oz bottle of Gatorade. None of this tasted bad however I don't think I want Gatorade again for the next 10 yrs. Anyway beginning at 5pm drink four 8oz every 10- 15 minutes. By the bottom of the 3rd glass it hit. Prep truly is the worst!!! Who knew your behind would become a faucet that couldn't be shut off. Next morning I was to begin the Miralax/Gatorade drink again at 7am. I was up all night in and out of the bathroom I began the last 4 glasses at 5:42am instead. Didn't want to have to go to the bathroom on the drive there. Was at the surgical center by 11:15. I went in around 12:35 after all the questions, necessary paperwork, pregnancy test, iv. The scoping only lasted 9 minutes...that's it! A polyp was found and results today were great. Unfortunately the older we get the time passes much quicker. Ten years will be here before we know it.

For anyone else dreading it...Just do it, the prep is the worst and the most time consuming part. They put you to sleep (I don't even remember them putting me to sleep either) The actual scope doesn't take but a few minutes. That is it.

Anonymous said...

I'm having one next week, and dreading it. Your blog makes me feel better about it though. I'll be laughing for days, remembering what you wrote.

Anonymous said...

Greatest description of the 'effects' I have ever read or heard. Had the pills one time and then was told can't use those anymore and so the lovely liquid stuff. A dear friend of mine is going through the prep right now and sent your link. She ended up in ER last night after taking the 8:00 pills and was in such pain she couldn't stand it. (seems the laxative pills & her ulcer didn't like each other) Pills didn't take effect until 11 this morning. Then at noon she had to start the lovely liquid stuff. So she has been bitching all day about it and I don't blame her. Early colon cancer runs in her family so she has to have this and she is not yet 40. Glad you had good news. Lost my step mom to colon cancer which she ignored and it was a horrible way to go. Thanks for sharing.

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