“We’re going to need to do a colonoscopy.” The doctor obviously had some sort of vendetta against me.
After a slew of mysterious symptoms and several doctor’s appointments ending in question marks, it was decided that a colonoscopy was needed in order to rule out some possible -- and serious -- diagnoses.
First of foremost, I was confused. Don’t only 85-year-old geriatric patients get colonoscopies? When I was in the doctor’s waiting room that day, I was the only person there without a cane, dentures or orthopedic shoes. I was 29 years old, exercised regularly, ate clean and was generally a very health-conscious person, so I was baffled and bummed that I was having a procedure I thought I’d be safe from for a long time.
Technically, a colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine. Not-so-technically, that means he or she takes a long, flexible tube with a video camera attached to the end of it and inserts it where the sun doesn’t shine. A colonoscopy is used to help find ulcers, polyps, tumors and other areas of inflammation or bleeding. They can also be used as a screening test to check for cancer or precancerous growths, making them potentially lifesaving. Despite knowing this, I still had my reservations -- starting with the less-than-fun groundwork that needed to be laid before the test, or what the doctors call “colon prep.”
Let me just preface this by telling you the prep is much worse than the actual test itself, although I’m not sure if knowing that makes you feel better or worse. Depending on what type of prep your doctor recommends, it usually entails one to two days dedicated to cleaning out your colon. Which is a pretty tall order to fill, considering your large intestine is about five feet long. What this means is adopting a liquid-only diet and downing more bottles of laxatives than you ever thought humanly possible. Sounds exhilarating, right? Just wait, the fun is just getting started.
Let’s forget the formalities and cut to the chase. Yes, you will be spending the majority of your day in the bathroom, so it’s best to put yourself on house arrest for a while. Got a book you’ve been meaning to start but haven’t had the time? Well hunker down and dive in, girlfriend; you’re not going anywhere any time soon.
But take heart! In between your binge-drinking sessions of the laxatives, you’re allowed to have clear liquids: sports drinks, apple juice, tea, coffee (no creamer or milk), cranberry juice, etc. You can also have chicken broth and Jell-O, but I regarded that hearty combo as the Holy Grail: by summoning self control I never even knew I had, I saved both of those indulgences for my big “feast” at dinnertime. It’s truly amazing how much I looked forward to ingesting a watered down broth and green Jell-O by the end of the night; I was practically having hallucinations.
Trendy juice cleanses were for lightweights; I’d just completed the mother of all cleanses and lost four pounds, leaving me feeling light as a feather…which lasted all the way until I ate my next meal immediately after the procedure.
The morning of the test you’re instructed to -- yep, you guessed it -- continue drinking more laxatives. When they finally call you into the exam room, you’re told to change into a gown and a nurse inserts a port in your arm using a needle (like an IV except it’s not hooked up to anything). The port is for administering the drugs into your veins, which are used to partially sedate you for the procedure.
Next, I was wheeled back into the procedure room and briefed on what would be happening. I honestly didn’t want to know the ins and outs of this test -- literally. So I kind of blacked out for that part. The next thing I knew, the nurse was administering the drugs through the port on my arm. The drugs were supposed to relax me and then put me in a semi-conscious state, but instead I was convinced they weren’t going to work and that I’d be fully aware of everything.
As I started to explain to the nurse how I was pretty sure the drugs weren’t working on me, everything just sort of went black. And then I woke up in the recovery room.
Just like that it was over before I honestly even knew it was beginning.
In the end, the good news is that the colonoscopy wasn’t nearly as torturous as I had expected it to be. I didn't feel a thing during the procedure, and aside from some mild cramping afterwards, there was virtually no discomfort. It was a totally painless and non-traumatic experience, and looking back I realize I got myself completely worked up over nothing.