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Getting a Colonoscopy, or How to Survive a Booty Call

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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Getting a Colonoscopy, or How to Survive a Booty Call

Many of us spend a lot of time worrying about our butt:
Is it too big? Too flat? Too wide? Does my ass look too big in these jeans? (don't answer that too quickly, mister).

I daresay, though, that most of us do not spend much time thinking about ye olde colon.

This is a shame since colorectal cancer strikes an equal amount of women as it does men. The kicker? This cancer is one of the most easily prevented cancers.

In September '07, I thought a heck of a lot about my colon because I had a colonoscopy. Although the general recommendation is that people start getting colonoscopies at the age of 50, I was told to start ten years earlier due to a family history of this disease. Some people should start getting screened as young as 30 depending on their risk factors.

The idea of getting a colonoscopy scares a lot of people. I've talked to many whose reaction is, "There is no way anyone is sticking a tube up my butt!" So, when I had to get one myself, I decided to write about it so that some people could learn what a real procedure was like.

And, in honor of March being National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (
NCRCAM for 'short'), I will republish my thoughts from that September for those of you who are still thinking, "There is no way. . .".

Day One: The Prep

I've had a few disgusting things happen to me in my life but nothing could quite prepare me for tonight.

I'm preparing for my first-ever colonoscopy, and thought that the worst part of it would be the procedure in the morning.

But, after fasting all day long and then drinking 80 ounces of somewhat thick, salty-sweet liquid, I've changed my mind.

I am dreaming of food and, inexplicably, unable to watch anything on TV but Top Chef and The Food Network. I almost licked the television screen when they made a muffaletta, despite the fact that I rarely eat any meat.

I'm dreaming of food even during the "cleansing", which is pretty remarkable.

Oh, the cleansing. If you've ever been told you are full of shit, well, you are. You are full of more shit than you think is possible.

I am astounded by this, and hungry. And probably 10 pounds lighter. Wait, let me go check that one. . .

Nope, dammit, exactly the same weight. How is that possible???

The good news is that despite all the rumbling in my belly and the running to the bathroom, there is no pain, no stomach cramps. This isn't like have a stomach bug that keeps you tied to the toilet, sweating and praying for relief. It's relatively easy, but a little messy. Next time I'm wearing ear plugs so I don't have to listen.

OK, all appears to be quiet in the belly region. I'm off to bed to dream about muffaletta and bagels and goat cheese and french fries and ice cream.

Day Two: The Procedure

After complaining about last night, I feel kind of silly posting tonight.

I think I get it now. . .prepping for a colonoscopy: kind of yucky; having the actual colonoscopy: as easy as taking a nap.

Seriously, once the sedatives were put into my body, I disappeared into la-la land, waking only to think, "Oh, this must be the beginning", but hearing the doctor say, "All done!"

I had planned to chat throughout the entire procedure, a la Katie Couric. Instead, I probably snored.

Once I had regained consciousness, I was relieved to hear that all looked good---one polyp was removed and will be biopsied, but this is apparently pretty common. I was on my feet and scarfing down an egg-and-cheese bagel sandwich before Fairly Odd Father's car drove us out of the parking lot.

One benefit of the fasting? It allowed me to see what a flat stomach looks like. Either that, or I hallucinated due to lack of food.

I am a bit worried that the first half of the post may have convinced some people never to have a colonoscopy, so I will attempt to convince those of you who feel this way.

First, fasting isn't THAT bad. You can eat popsicles, jello and drink soda! You can feel virtuous, like "my body is my temple and I will not eat for a whole day!" Plus, after I got through the night, I was no longer hungry in the morning (that is, until the bagel sandwich appeared in front of me).

Second, here is a tip for drinking down glass after glass of HalfLytely (the stuff that will 'cleanse' your system): pretend you are in college, at a bar. Grab your glass like a shot and drink it all---yes, all 8 ounces at once (you know you could do this at one time). As soon as the glass is empty, grab a piece of lime and suck it. The lime wipes away all the nasty taste from your mouth, plus you can almost pretend you just drank a tequila shot. If the fasting is going well, you'll be a bit dizzy anyway, so the illusion of drinking is there. If you repeat this every ten minutes, you will be finished with the solution in less than an hour and a half.

Third, make sure you have NO responsibilities after 6pm. Lock yourself in your bedroom and keep the path to the bathroom open. Watch tv, read, play on the computer, whatever. Light lots of candles in the bathroom for odor control. When you feel the rumbling, run for the bathroom. Repeat this until the rumbling quiets down. I was still able to get a decent night's sleep, with minimal interruption.

Finally, schedule your appointment for first-thing in the morning. My appointment was at 8am, and I was out of the hospital by 9:30. Just get it over with before you have too much time to wake up and worry about it.

All joking aside, do me one favor: ask your parents when they had their last colonoscopy, and if you are 50 or older (or 40 with family history), ask yourself. The procedure is so easy, mostly painless and quick. Colorectal cancer, on the other hand is a horrible, terribly painful disease, and yet preventable with regular screenings.

I lost my dad to colorectal cancer when he was only 62 years old and that was partly because he let too much time pass between his appointments. Don't let too much time pass for you.


Much of this post was published in September 2007 and then republished on New England Mamas in March 2008. For those of you who read the original posts and should've gotten a colonoscopy that year, this is your reminder.

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Blogger Robin said...

Thank you for republishing this important reminder.

We lost a dear family friend to colon cancer, just a few short months after we lost her husband, who had ignored appendicitis symptoms until his appendix ruptured and killed him. Their only daughter had no family left to watch her become a mother herself.

We should never take our health for granted, nor should we depend on anyone else to worry about it for us.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Atlanta Mommy said...

My husband had his first colonoscopy two weeks ago. He's 32. I wish he could have read this post before the prep and the procedure. I think he would have felt a lot more relaxed. In the end, the consensus was the same as yours. The prep is worse than the procedure, and none of it is all that bad.

Luckily everything they biopsied was inflammation. Just inflammation. Our best case scenario. We have a very good friend of ours, also 32, who will most likely lose her battle with colon cancer. She was diagnosed a year ago.

Thanks for spreading the word about how important this kind of screening is. It's not just for your grandparents.

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you and your poop shoot are in fine form!

10:13 AM  
Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

I am almost eager to get one, now!

Well, maybe not, but it can't be worse than childbirth, right?

10:58 AM  
Blogger Little Miss Sunshine State said...

I got the doctor's order 2 years ago, but I guess it will have to wait until "someday" when I have health insurance.

When I was a pharmacy tech, the drink was called GOLytely. Didn't they realize that was TOTALLY the opposite of how it worked?

7:39 PM  
Blogger Patois said...

I hate to say I enjoyed reading this because that sounds all wrong. But good job on reposting this.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Margie S. said...

My dad died of colon cancer as well, at age 59. I had my first colonoscopy at age 23 (had some scary blood in my stool - turns out it was stress, but I knew that blood in poop = go to the doctor!), and the colonoscopy wasn't bad at all, just like you have described. In fact, I really love the drugs that made me all loopy afterward : ) They did find a polyp, which was benign, so I went back at age 26 and had a completely clear result (WOO-HOO!) and now don't have to do it again until I'm 31 (two years from now). I love that you wrote about this, I love talking about it, and it's incredibly important. Thank you!

9:58 AM  
Blogger Susie said...

Thank you. I have my first next Wed. at 52, but have had some problems, and finally doing it. Found your post tonight, and it was wonderful. Susan

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story did make me feel more relaxed! I am still very scared and nervous. I'm having my first Colonoscopy Friday. My mom had Colon Cancer when I was 15 and I am now 26. She is a survivor! I'm so greatful she's still with me. Unfortunatly now I'm the one who is super worried, having Scarly bloody stools,very tired. Wish I would have gottne this test sooner. I will let you know how everything went. Thanks again for your story.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Dear Jenn,

I hope your procedure yesterday went well and that the findings are ok.

Thinking of you,

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great subject, especially as I'm about to have my first screening tomorrow morning.
What I wanted to tell everyone is that there is a pill form, instead of the liquid! Just request it, as I did. My insurance isn't great and wouldn't cover the pill form although Rite Aid said most do. I called the Doctor back and they have samples available for free! It would have cost me $107 otherwise.
So if you can swallow 32 pills, a few at a time over a 4.5 hour period you can avoid the yucky prep drink.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Anonymous, I love you. Thank you for letting me know about the pills. I will be going back for another fun colonoscopy experience in another year or so, so this new information is very much appreciated!

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very nice blog!

3:25 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

I am 21 and will be starting my prep tomorrow. I am very scared, because I have an exam and I'm worried I won't do well because I will be cranky and hungry all day. Anyway-these posts helped me a lot.

My motivation for the prep will be knowing what it feels like to starve for a day like some people in other parts of the world who aren't as fortunate as I am to have 3 or more meals a day.
Thanks fairy odd mother!

9:54 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Good luck Danielle! Hopefully your exam is early in the day and then you can just relax and dream about food for the rest of the afternoon. ; )

I'm about to do it all again in a month or so, so I think I'll have to reread my own advice!

Thanks for stopping by!

6:36 AM  
Anonymous mugwumps59 said...

I am waiting to go for a Colonoscopy its at 2.20 pm today and this article is helping me not to be so scared. The worse thing for me so far was the mixture which made me sick but never mind all in a good cause. I am dreaming of my sandwich when i come out.

4:47 AM  

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