We couldn’t fit it in before we left Nashville, so this morning I had my very first colonoscopy.
Feel free to skip this post, but I’m writing it because it’s important. I won’t be getting too graphic, but I do want to offer reassurance to those who might be worried about the procedure and my prep has gone really well and I want to remember what I did so I can replicate it next time.
The instructions from the surgery center said to begin my prep two days before the procedure, but thanks to internet research, I actually began three days before with a stripped down diet. This was the most helpful list of suggestions I read online. I have no family history of this sort of cancer and have never had gastro issues of this sort, so other folks may find a longer prep helps for comfort.
I had been to the store last week and purchased all the requirements, but I am not a fan of Gatorade and those sports drinks so I found a different electrolyte replacement and that worked out beautifully.
Wednesday was a rice day for me. I had it mixed with some mango chutney or avocado and soy sauce, and I had a banana for breakfast but since the instructions had a whole list of things not to eat, it worked better with my brain and personality to have a set group of things to eat.
Here’s my assortment of necessary items for Thursday’s dreaded “cleanse” day.
The instructions had me taking the first laxatives at noon and not drinking the miralax until 6, but since that seemed like it was going to make for a very long, very late night, I called the office and spoke with a delightful nurse who reassured me that I could start everything a couple hours earlier so I could actually get a decent night of sleep.
I had laxative doses at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. They took about an hour each time to have an effect. I felt a very small amount of tension in my lower back that felt like it was considering progressing to cramping, but it never did.
Up to this point it was a regular day for me. Walking the dog, exercise, school, paperwork, typical day. From 11 a.m. till 4 p.m., I had used the restroom 5 times. (Yes, I tracked this data to be able to share it with you all. 😁)
Then at 4 p.m. I began drinking the miralax mixture. The suggestions I had read were to have it be very cold and to drink it with a straw because the taste is such a problem for many people. The nurse had also told me I didn’t need to stick to the 8 ounces every 15 minutes schedule the instructions indicated. She assured me there was no need to get nauseated or have stomach cramps or bloating. That made me feel better, too.
I had my beautiful pitcher of mixture sitting outside in the Rochester freezer since I had mixed it up earlier in the morning, so it was plenty cold. To my surprise, it was delightful. I don’t know what Gatorade tastes like, but the lemonade flavored electrolyte mix I had made this a delicious process.
My magic glass I had chosen for the day must have held more than 8 ounces because I finished the pitcher in 5 glasses over 2 1/2 hours. This mixture began to work on my system around 5 p.m.
Throughout the day I was also drinking watered down white grape juice, orange jello, and had veggie broth available to prepare for hydration and nausea from hunger. The veggie broth was especially soothing.
FYI, anything red is definitely out, but some of my reading turned up suggestions to avoid orange and purple dyes as well. I asked the nurse about orange jello and she said it was fine, but your mileage may vary.
The phrasing on the surgical instructions were about looking for your “returns to be clear.” Such delicate phrasing for an indelicate process. And I didn’t really believe it would work, but by 8:45 o.m., that phrase made total sense and I was so grateful I had started the process early.
Various members of the family watched movies with me to pass the time, and they were very understanding of my frequent departures.
The oddest thought for me by the end was that the signals from your body are a little confusing. Typically if you need to go, you know. But during this process if you even have a fleeting thought about your stomach, you should take that as a sign to head to the bathroom. 😏
I was able to sleep fine with only two late night bathroom excursions, but around 3 a.m. I woke up for the day. I had scored the first appointment of the day which meant we had to be at the surgical center at 6:15 a.m., procedure beginning at 7.
I was slightly dismayed to arrive and learn I had a different physician than expected. I had chosen a woman, even though I had never met her, because that is my personal preference, but it turned out she had gotten covid. The new person was a man, so I reserved judgment.
They took me back for prep at 6:40 and Buds headed home since they wanted as few people there as possible and it’s only 10 minutes from our house.
The staff was great, the nurse hit a vein on the first try for the IV, and when I met the doctor, I knew I had hit the jackpot. A fantastic human and the person they call in when they’ve got a tough case, AND, he travels to other countries to teach them techniques. He is an absolute gem.
They had me in the procedure room at 7 straight up.
I had been very anxious about the anesthesia part, and Niece Teresa did a fantastic job talking me through that on our Tuesday coffee chat thanks to her various surgical experiences, and then talking to Dr. Okolo reassured me even further.
We had an interesting discussion about the preferences and privileges around how “comfort” meds are used around the world, and he helped me understand I would feel a “twilight sleep” feeling.
They gave me oxygen via nose cannula, under my mask, and then the drugs via IV. As soon as the two drugs were put in the IV, within literally 30 (possibly 10) seconds, I could see my vision slipping sideways. I was awake and watched the monitor at first since I was on my back, but then they had me turn on my side and my view was blocked by the nurse.
There was absolutely no pain, discomfort, or anxiety. And at the end the good doctor learned over to tell me, “Ginnie, I don’t want to say you are boring, but there’s nothing going on in there of interest.” 🤣🤣🤣
I was back in recovery by 8:15, or at least that’s when I noticed the clock. The nurse offered me crackers and juice and they were delicious. She called Buds to let him know I was ready to be picked up and by 8:45 I was on my way home.
I still walked with a little bit of a lean to my step, so I made some oatmeal, sat myself down on the couch, and had a nice little nap.
I have glamour shots of my clean-as-a-whistle large intestine if anyone would like to see them.
I don’t have to go back for a decade so best possible outcome and I’m grateful.
If you haven’t had your baseline colonoscopy yet, I hope this is helpful and reassuring. New guidelines recommend the first one at 45 y.o., though I know several of us are still in the 50 y.o. mindset.
It was a hassle, but totally worth it.