I’m in my early 30s, but with a history of colon cancer on both sides of my family and a series of digestive issues my doc recommended a colonoscopy. I took to the internet and got scared by horror stories. Mine wasn’t something I’m hurrying to repeat, but it wasn’t the nightmare I imagined. Here’s my play-by-play:
1 Week Prior: no popcorn
3 Days Prior: cut back on other seeded items (hearty bread, tomatoes, raspberries, etc.) – I ate a kiwi 48 hours before my procedure and I saw a kiwi seed in the toilet right before my procedure, so best to stop all that sooner rather than later.
The Day Before: Only clear liquids. I debated miso soup (I’m a vegetarian so chicken broth or jello weren’t appealing), but didn’t want to have to redo it all so decided to not push it. The entire day I consumed: coffee, tea, ginger ale, root beer, apple juice, lots of bubbly water, lime popsicles and lifesavers. The rule is nothing red/purple and nothing that isn’t a “clear” liquid, meaning it’s got to be very thin.
My appointment was Friday morning, and I took all day Thursday and Friday off. I didn’t start my purging meds until around 4pm, so I technically could’ve gone to work. I’m not sure if I would do a half day in the future. I was really bored at home – normally if I am spending that many hours at home I’m baking or cooking or at least snacking. I think I became extra hungry because I couldn’t indulge in my normal habits. Going to work might’ve distracted me, but I also was having trouble focusing since I was pretty hungry, so maybe staying home was the right choice. I did just cue up the Netflix and read some simple books as I couldn’t really do anything more complicated.
The Prep: my kind was a giant jug of powder I mixed 4 liters of water in to and shook up. I put it in the fridge a few hours before I started drinking it. I set a timer to go off every 15 minutes to keep me accountable to the task of finishing 8 oz that often. I experimented with straws, glassware, mixers and chasers, and nothing really helped. I’m a girl who can drink a lot quickly, but the combination of texture and mental blocks prevented me from downing it as fast as I wanted.
The Evacuation: about half way through the intake process my bowels started with the outtake. I’d read about people spending all day on the toilet, and my experience was frequent but brief. Almost every three minutes I’d get a strong sense of urgency, run to the bathroom and feel like a squirt gun spray out my ass. It would shoot out and I’d feel empty. I’d pat dry, return to my drink only to run back in another few minutes. I’d read about chafing so I went easy on the wiping, and did follow the suggestion of adult baby wipes for soothing/cleaning. I didn’t wet wipe every time, but it was nice to treat my anus while I was ravaging it. (Also, if you use those baby wipes, I don’t care if it says “flushable” – it ain’t. Please don’t flush wet wipes or tampons or anything but bodily waste and tp! #environmentalrant). I’d also read about people shitting out everything they’d ever consumed – mine was almost exclusively a highlighter colored clearish liquid – but I have bowel issues so that’s why I was doing this at 31.
The aftermath: that shit (not actually shit) shot out of me extremely quickly. So much so that there was some blow back. Remember to wipe under the seat and maybe take a nice shower.
Sleeping: I was really nervous I was going to shit the bed. I was so uncomfortable I woke up about every 45 minutes (thanks fitbit!) to run to the toilet. I then had my phone alarm wake me at 4:45am to take the final round. I was pretty empty at this point and had less violent evacuations. I read an engaging book while slurping the end of my slurry. I actually ended up going back to sleep for about an hour before getting up and readying for the procedure.
Day of: what to wear is the biggest question for any new venture in my life. I went with comfy loose layers. I actually packed an extra pair of undies and sweat pants as I was terrified I’d shit myself in the car on the way to the hospital, but I miraculously came away without a stain in my drawers. Also important for this day is the fact that you can’t consume anything at all. I felt so icky I didn’t want to eat anymore, but the no water was pretty awful.
At the hospital: I did a potty dance in the waiting room, but they wanted me to use a specific toilet and led me down endless halls. They said not to flush and not to throw my tp in the toilet. When I came out they inspected the glowing clear liquid and pronounced me ready for action. I got gowned up and given a needle in my arm for the happy meds. The doc came in and asked if I had questions, and then I waited for the room to be ready. I again had to pee out my asshole and so snuck to the toilet and had to wipe left handed due to the IV in my right. Awkward.
Procedure: I got the double feature of colonoscopy and endoscopy. They didn’t put me under but gave me enough loopy meds that I basically blacked out. There was music playing. And a video screen with a throbbing grey orb that must’ve been my colon. I have a vague memory of giving a French pronunciation lecture. Then of a nurse shaking me in a different room and telling me to get dressed. I did not want to get dressed. I laid there. The nurse returned and said for real to get up, and did I want to telephone my ride or should she? In Minnesota it’s a law that you can’t leave a colonoscopy alone. The bf was going to pick me up and I wanted to call him, so I said clearly “muuuhgluuuhfle caaaalll.” The nurse said “ok, you want me to call?” which is not what I meant, but I thought laying still would actually be cooler than using technology or even my mouth again, so I said “mmnyeah.” As she left to call she encouraged me again to dress myself. I thought I could maybe do it so I got up and took off my gown. Hung out naked for a bit and then tried to get dressed without falling over. It was stressful. Once I had clothes on they felt super hot so I sat on chair with my head between my legs for a while. That felt ok, but when I straightened up I decided it’d probably be good to throw up. I stumbled to the garbage and heaved for what felt like 15 minutes. With no solid food and very little liquids, I still managed to heave up a fair amount of bile. The nurse came back and sat me down and told me not to drink or eat for a while. I felt extra super gross. Like I hadn’t eaten in 36 hours or drank in 12 and had just had a camera down my throat and up my butt and gotten drugged. Which is what had happened. The doc came back and asked if I remembered everything we talked about after the procedure. I had absolutely no memory of talking to him at all. He gave me a print out of everything and told me to rest up.
Afterwards: got to my ride and while we had originally planned to go feed me, I just wanted to lay in bed. We went home and napped for about an hour with frequent Gatorade sipping to reinvigorate me. I finally rallied to be taken to the nearby Nepalese buffet where the smells and options encouraged me to fill my colon back up.
I wouldn’t recommend this as a fun use of your PTO. Overall it was unpleasant, but I am glad to have done it. If/when a doctor recommends I get a colonoscopy in the future, I certainly will do it again, and go in knowing I didn’t shit myself the first time.
Best of luck with your procedure (I can’t imagine you read this much unless you’re about to undergo one) and let me know if you have any questions!