I hope that this subject won’t cause my dear readers to completely lose it on me and not stop by to read today, but I thought the subject was important enough to talk about. The older I get, the more that aging and health issues become even more of a priority to me and my friends, so I figured it might be something you’d all be interested in as well. My real life friends and I talk about these things, so you all get to hear it too!
This topic is not something I would normally talk about on here, because yuck, who wants to even think about those things. But, I recently scheduled my first colonoscopy (at age 59, yes, I put it off a long time, because again, YUCK) and decided it was time to do it. I don’t necessarily have a family history of colon cancer, but our dear sweet Aunt Mary (Aunt by marriage) passed away from this horrible cancer in April of this year and it still hurts to think she is gone. I’m not sure if she ever had a screening done or not. I’ll have to ask that question.
You will notice I’m adding pretty pictures in here, since it’s all words about a not so pleasant subject and I wanted you all to at least have some pretty pics to see today.
So, I figured I would write about my experience and if it helps one person to get their screening done and prevent a curable cancer, then I’ve done my job. As dirty as it is! None of us like to talk about things like this, but it’s something that is prevalent and it happens to all ages. I think the recommendation is to start colonoscopy screening at age 50, so you can see I put mine off as long as possible. I just didn’t want to think about it, so I blocked it out and refused to do anything about it. But, as I’m getting older, I realize there are things we can do for prevention and to be proactive in health situations and I think colonoscopies are one of those things. Everyone has opinions on what we should all do for our health, but this one seems to be a no brainer for early detection and prevention.
I got a recommendation for a doctor here in my area who is in my health plan and went to visit him to set up my screening. He explained the procedure and what I would need to do for prep the day before. For those of you who have done this, you know the prep is WAY worse than the actual screening. You can’t eat for a whole day before the screening. I scheduled mine early at 7:30 in the morning and had to be there at 6:30 to get started. I’m glad I went ahead and did it early, gave me less time to think about it and the rest of the day to get back to normal.
No eating at all the day before. So, no breakfast, I didn’t even have coffee, because that had to be black and what fun is black coffee? I won’t even bother with that. No food, but we could do popsicles, chicken broth, and clear liquids like white grape juice. I didn’t do any of that except a popsicle. After no food all morning, the real fun began in the afternoon. At 2 pm, I had to take 4 laxative tablets, Dulcolax. I had already mixed up 68 oz. of Gatorade and big Miralax bottle and let it chill. You wouldn’t think it would be hard to drink that much, but I thought I’d never get it down. I began the Gatorade concoction at 4 pm, drinking 8 oz. every 15 minutes until it was gone.
That’s when the real discomfort began. About an hour later, it started kicking in and I could feel my stomach start to rumble. I will not go into those details, because I want you to come back and read this blog, but drinking all that made me nauseous to the point of throwing up, so you can imagine how much fun that was for an hour or so.
After that, things were better and I settled in for the night, preparing to get up at 5 am to meet my sister at mom and dad’s (that’s always our meeting place) and she took me to the hospital for the colonoscopy. You can’t drive and someone has to drive you, wait for you, and bring you home.
I will mention here that I have never had a hospital stay or any surgeries whatsoever, so being in a hospital bed is completely foreign to me.
Once I arrived, they took me to a prep room with a glass door and curtain and I took it all off and put on one of their wonderful hospital gowns. You know the ones. They started an IV and got me all monitored, preparing for the procedure and the anesthesia. Thank goodness, they knock you out! That’s the best part. You go in a room with all these smiling faces looking at you and then you’re out in about 1 minute, so you don’t have to deal with the indignity of being prodded and poked in places you’d rather not think about. Best thing ever!
The nurses who got me prepped were so kind and funny. They had me laughing and I enjoyed the interaction with them. Even though I didn’t need my sister with me, they went and got her so she was in the room before and after I finished. They were so hilarious and really put me at ease! One of them asked me what I do and when I told her I am a blogger, her eyes got big and she said, are you going to blog about this?
At the time, I didn’t think so, but after talking to my Facebook group of ladies who are mostly 50 and older about it, they thought it would be a good thing to share and I agree with that. I know that screenings save lives and that’s the only reason I would share something so personal.
They wheeled me into the room and within a minute or so, I was out like a light. It lasted about 20 minutes or so and then they wheeled me back into the first room. I heard voices talking to me and I woke up pretty fast and didn’t really feel that groggy. Even though I could have walked to the car, they had my sis go out and get the car and meet me out front, where they wheeled me out in a wheelchair. I really felt fine and not all that groggy at all. When I got back to my parents house where my car was waiting, we visited with them for a few minutes and then I headed home. (yes, even though they said not to drive, I felt fine and normal, but drive at your own risk!).
The procedure itself wasn’t bad at all and they made it so easy and comfortable for me. Again, the prep day is the worst and if you can get through that, you’ll be fine. I am happy to say I got a clean bill of health on my colon and I don’t have to do this again for 10 more years. Now, that is something to cheer about!
I just thought this would something you might enjoy reading about and if you haven’t scheduled one for yourself, think about doing it soon! Now that mine is over, I can relax and know that I’m good to go and that’s a big relief. Our health is not something we can take for granted and I do try to keep on top of things for myself in all the health preventions there are available, like mammograms and pap smears.
I wish you all good health!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us Rhoda and bringing awareness to the subject. You are a kind, generous woman to do so. I’m so glad you got a clean bill of health!
Glad you had a clean bill of health. I’m going in Thursday for my 2nd in 7 yrs. Start my popsicles tomorrow morn…not looking forward to the “prep liquids!” Hoping for good results as you! (Your flower garden is beautiful!)
I had my first colonoscopy 2 weeks ago. I’m 53 years old. Our experiences sound identical! Popsicles were all I wanted as well. Clean bill of health and 10 years until next one.
Thank you for caring enough to share with us what we all need to do, even though we don’t want to! 🙂
After my last one, 4 years ago my husband started naming all my favorite restaurants, knowing that I was
starving. He finally said well, where do you want me to take you? I said drive me straight to weight watchers
so I can make weigh in! I figured if I had to go through all that, I was gonna have a great weight loss for that week! (only 3 pounds) hahaha
You encouraged me to go and have mine done. I have put it off long enough.
Your experience is pretty much like mine. It is a distasteful process but, all in all, considering the alternatives, pretty benign. A funny hospital crew is a bonus for sure. I hear there is a new test which does not involve, hmmm, extensive
quiet time in a small room, shall we say. I’m due for my next one so maybe I’ll investigate that.
When I looked at your blog this morning, I thought it was some kind of joke. I am having a colonoscopy on Friday and I went yesterday to get the very same ‘supplies’. I’m looking forward to being sedated Friday morning but sure dreading Thursday evening! Thanks for sharing your experience so others may finally schedule their test. So important to have these tests.
Like you I put off doing my colonoscopy. So last year at 60 I had my first one. I do know that there are different prescriptions for the drinking depending on the Doctor. Drinking a lot can be a problem, but I pushed myself. My result was no cancer and I go back in 5 years. I am glad I did it.
beth byrd says
Thank you for sharing your story — this is a really important screening!!!
I’ve had a couple colonoscopies due to family history. The discomfort (I’m lucky to say that it was minor in my case) is certainly worth the prevention and/or catching cancer in the early stages.
We need to convince the men in our lives to have this done as well!
Stacey Keeling says
See it’s not so bad and it’s so important! I love that you shared your experience because that encourages others to do what they need to do. My son had to take me for my colonoscopy and I remember asking the nurse to PLEASE not send him in there to help me get dressed after. 🙂
Gail Medeiros says
Thank you s much for sharing this! Two years ago I had my second routine colonoscopy, no symptoms, no family history and afterwards got the call no one wants to receive. I had colon cancer. Within a month I had 12″ of colon removed and 21 lymph nodes taken out. I was very blessed to learn that they had gotten all the cancer when they removed the original polyp. No chemo and no radiation necessary 🙂 I had the world’s best surgeon and wonderful care at the hospital and from my husband when I got home. My first follow up colonoscopy last year was clear. So ladies please do not put this off! Colon cancer is very curable when caught early and very bad when caught late.A day of discomfort is worth it for the rest of your life.
Glad you have a clean bill of colon health, Rhoda. Being an RN for many years I heard many stories from those with colon cancer who said they had put off having a colonoscopy and wished they hadn’t, including my uncle who died from colon cancer. I had my first exam almost 9 years ago and was glad I did. Benign polyps were found and removed. I’m supposed to have a colonoscopy every ten years. Please don’t put off getting examined it could save your life.
Yes, I have had mine, and I’m younger than you! LOL I have actually had more than 1, having to have a couple years ago when I was having gallbladder issues, etc.
People, if you will read up on this before hand and know what to ask your doctor, it can really be so much easier on you! There is now a split prep drink where you drink much less liquid – the first half late afternoon the day before, then you do have to get up very early and drink the second half – the day of the procedure. I am more than willing to get up early if it makes the prep easier. And really, all liquids is not so very terrible and it makes the prep part easier on you. My last procedure (almost 2 years ago) I did the split prep and I had broth, popsicles, sprite, tea, etc. during the day. You can sweeten coffee, you just can’t add creamer. Actually, since my procedure was @ 1:00 I was allowed a very light breakfast my day of liquids (2 slices of toast). That helped. I really didn’t have a problem with the “clean-out” (LOL) part of the procedure. No cramping, etc. Not the most fun thing to do, but really, a small discomfort. As mentioned, polyps need to be removed as they most often can grow into cancer. You will feel so much better having this done and knowing/treating the problem if you have one. And find a doctor who will do the split prep – it’s all most of our area GI docs use now.
So glad that everything “worked out” so well (Sorry for the pun so close to the time of your experience!) for you! And thanks for taking a leadership/stance and role on this important subject!
One word of caution for all, however, is that while you may feel good enough to drive soon afterward (or make important legal decisions), you truly should follow the instructions provided and not do any of that for 24 hrs. There’s something most of us don’t realize: during pre-anesthesia prep, patients are usually given what’s called “conscious sedation”. It “takes the edge off” so to speak and its effects last up to about 24 hours. While you feel fine and in control, in reality, you’re not. You know how you do routine things and forget the process…it’s sorta like that, but magnified? Years ago, my dad wanted to drive home (70 mi.) soon post op. He got mad when I told him it was dangerous, so I asked his doc if he would give him the instructions personally. Boy, that really ticked Dad off; but he did wait EXACTLY 24 hours, and then was out the door, driving back to his home. It wasn’t until about 10 years later that Dad told me that on his way home, he “sorta took a curb”, an error which he never made otherwise. Could’ve been another car coming his way instead… These new meds really are effective, so much so that people aren’t aware of their impact or feel after effects.. So, please don’t drive for 24 hrs. after having been medicated for this type of surgery. Instead, have your family or friends pamper you…they’ll want to help you at a time like this and will feel like they’re contributing to your well being. (And, they will be!)
OHMIGOSH! I just saw where you said you drove???!!! I hope others will not do that! I believe instructions are to not drive for 24 hours? You may feel fine, but if you were to be involved in an accident, you could really face problems due to driving! The new drug they use knocks you out in a second and you wake up really quick too. I felt fine, but I think I went home and took a nap. Hospitals take you out in a wheelchair to reduce THEIR risk. If they let you walk out and you fell, etc. they could be liable. Same as you could if you were driving and in an accident. Funny, I have a woman GI doc. When my hubby decided to go for his colonoscopy, he didn’t have a GI doc but had met and liked mine – so he decided to use her.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t have driven home, but I don’t live far from my parents. And I really did feel fine. But, as I said, it’s best to listen to the Doctors and not drive, so y’all take that as a caution!
I really enjoy your blog and I applaud you for sharing your experience with this very vital procedure. Thank you for helping to spread the word about the importance of early screening. I have had three colonoscopies, starting at age 40, due to losing my dear dad to colon cancer. Sadly, he never had a colonoscopy until it was too late. So far, I’ve been fortunate with the results of my own colonoscopies and will continue to have them every 5 to 10 years, as will my siblings.
I am an RN who previously worked in the recovery room of a same day surgery setting, and I feel I must comment about a patient driving themselves home after receiving sedating medications. I know you have already commented on your decision to drive yourself home but I implore anyone reading this blog post NOT to do the same. DO NOT drive for 24 hours after the procedure. It is not safe for you or for other drivers on the road and thus the reason for discharge instructions telling patients they may not drive. That’s the whole point of requiring a driver to get the patient home safely. I have delivered discharge instructions to many patients, always with their friend or family member present, because patients do not remember much of what they are told ( myself included.) I can’t tell you the number of patients who sat there listening to the instructions only to ask questions about the instructions as if they never heard them. Please, fellow readers, for your safety and the safety of others, let someone else do the driving for 24 hours after your colonoscopy. Be safe and continue to get those colonoscopies!
Thank you for sharing this, Rhoda! I was always very curious and you took the fear out of it! Hope you have a great day.
[email protected] says
I have had three colonoscopies because I started in my late 40s. You are right, the prep is the WORST. I can still taste that concoction if I think about it! I had a sweet cousin who put off colonoscopies and died of colon cancer in her late 50s. So thank you for encouraging everyone to take this screening seriously. Colon cancer starts as polyps and can easily be treated if found early. ( says the old Georgia Baptist nurse that is still inside me!). My friends and I laugh if someone says they are having a procedure…usually they mean a colonoscopy! But doesn’t that food taste good when you are able to eat again. I went right to Wendys and had a big hamburger.
Good for you, Rhoda, for getting your colonoscopy and spreading this important message. The prep is so much better these days with the Miralax and Gatorade instead of the old gallon of GoLightly. I have one suggestion for those of you who have not had one, and I will put it as delicately as possible! Buy a tube of Desitin ointment and use it liberally on your skin before the action starts. It will help prevent your delicate skin from getting burned…like severe diaper rash.
Thanks for your very timely post about a subject I have become all too familiar with. At the beginning of June, my husband, 55, went in for his very first colonoscopy. Unfortunately, he did not receive the clean bill of health that you did. They found a malignant mass and two weeks later he had a colon resection and an ileostomy. More bad news, a few malignant cells were also found in three lymph nodes. Two weeks ago he began chemo and will receive treatment every two weeks for six months. While he is considered cancer free at this time, there is still a 25% chance of recurrence within five years. We are hopeful that after treatment is completed, he can have the ileostomy reversed and get back to the active life he had previously. But either way, our lives will never be completely normal again. Had there been an earlier screening, the mass would have most likely been removed before it had the chance to become malignant and he would have gone home healthy and happy and never known the pain and suffering he has gone through for the last six weeks. Early detection is the key! Keep sharing that message!
Thank you for your post Rhoda! At 57, I had my second one this past May. Just like an annual mammogram, preventive maintenance is the key. You are spot on concerning the 2 day process, but when the doctor says everything looks good and is clean as a whistle – well then you get my drift. HA HA.
HI, Lori, so sorry for what your hubby has gone through. The same thing happened with my aunt. Hoping for a long and healthy life for your guy!
Becky in 'Bama says
Bless you Rhoda… I have had several operative procedures, and honestly, the PREP for a colonoscopy is worse that any procedure – although, admittedly, the prep is only 24 hours and a surgical incision takes a few weeks to heal. Like another writer on here, I’ve lived through at least five of these buggers, and had my last one at age 60…. I say last because the doc says I’m good for ten years. At age 70 I don’t see myself going through that ordeal. So, unless I’m symptomatic – I’m done with that part of my health care. 🙂
(note… my dad ALWAYS drove himself home from his colonoscopy – stopping on the way home to eat! I don’t advise that practice.)