Colonoscopies aren’t the sexiest subjects in the world. But with more young Kiwis getting bowel cancer and, indeed, the troubling rise in colon cancer world-wide, it really pays to get yourself screened.
In my case, my Oma died from colon cancer before I turned 13. It robbed me of having more time with her, to cultivate my relationship with her in my adult years. Incidentally, colon cancer killed her father at 65 too. The family history was strong.
So, months after I turned 40, I had my first colonoscopy. It wasn’t a horrible experience, and I documented it so I’d not freak out so much as the next one swung around.
My second colonoscopy was scheduled a little later in the year than my first one was. This time around, my colonoscopy was on November 22, a Friday. I had to take a day off work for it, sure, but luckily it fit into our busy work schedule.
For this colonoscopy, the prep was easier although no one had told me that the prep solution, Picosalex, in combination with 3 little pills called Bisacodyl in the first dose, were easier on the system, and therefore I shouldn’t expect the strong reaction I had to prep before my first colonoscopy. No, I actually was up until about 1 AM with the feeling like a large softball was stuck in my gut. It was not horrible sensation but not the best one either.
Getting only about 4 1/2 hours of sleep, I got up early and, after nothing was moving still, took the second dose of Picosalex an hour early. Things eventually started moving, but when they did, it was in short, sharp bursts about an hour apart.
And, before I knew it, I was ready.
I took a shower, put on some sweat pants and a comfortable t-shirt, and we went on our way to the surgical rooms near the hospital.
My appointment this time was at 2 PM (last time it was at 1), so the waiting room was full of people. An older man came out with a nurse, and she steered him over to his wife. He shook her hand and said “Nice to meet you”. The nurse had a bit of a mission trying to get him to complete the paperwork he needed to complete. I leaned over to Noel and said, “If I’m like that when I come out, I’m sorry.”
(Last time, the specialist allowed me to have very basic sedation, so I didn’t get the “forgetful” drug. I was praying that I’d get the same this time.)
Check-in and the initial check-up with a nurse were quick. The nurse did a blood sugar test and asked if I was sure I was diabetic as my blood was flowing well and my blood sugar was on the high end of normal. (I am a borderline type 2 diabetic.) She said we had to hurry through the documentation as my appointment was soon.
In the room, there were 2 lovely nurses: Hayley and Janice. Janice was born and raised in California, but moved to Oklahoma as her father was in the military, so we talked a bit about that as they prepared me. She had been to Chicago once, for Thanksgiving, as her brother was going to University of Chicago. She said it had been bitterly cold and an experience she wouldn’t want to repeat.
The specialist came in — and he remember me from last time — and we chatted a little. He was more than happy to allow me to have light sedation, and I think he was a little excited because he was helping the nurses get the monitor so I could see it too. They were all showing me there was a new monitoring part where it showed where in the body the colonscope was. I had to admit, that was pretty cool.
The IV shunt was put in, and I barely felt it. He told me that I’d feel relaxed after the sedation was administered, but, to be honest, I didn’t feel very much different at all.
The monitor seemed a bit larger this time too, and I watched as they performed the procedure. I am pretty squeamish when it comes to medical stuff, but watching the colonoscopy in real time is pretty cool. It is amazing to see how one of the most amazing biological machines in existence, the human body, works, especially in real time.
At the end of the large intestine, the specialist said, “Well, that’s the end of the road.” And, me being me, I had to quip back: “What? I don’t have any small intestine?”
The specialist laughed, as did one of the nurses. The second nurse tried to give me an anatomy lesson before the first nurse told her I was joking.
It was over in less than 20 minutes. The specialist leaned over and told me there was absolutely nothing wrong, and that I was in pretty good shape. Phew.
Before they wheeled me out, the nurses and specialist were having a disagreement over which internal photo of me should be included in my report. I was trying so hard not to laugh too hard as, well, you know, I just had a large device in… well, you get the point.
Recovery took the longest. Not because there was anything wrong with me, but I think they wanted to make sure that everything was okay and procedure was followed to the letter of the law.
The recovery area was quite full. After about 40 minutes or so of me lying in the bed, they asked me if I felt okay enough to sit up and have something to eat. I was itching to get off the bed by that point (patience isn’t my strong suit in times like these), so I took it easy and got dressed, then moved to a small unused station in the corner of the room.
(Prior to this, I had a chance to talk to Janice before she finished her shift. She and her husband were going to Florida for Christmas; it was their first time back since moving to New Zealand. They were only going for 2 weeks, and both of their families had decided that Florida was the best choice as it was warmer than where either family lived. I told her that the time would go fast, but to enjoy the time with family as it is precious. She seemed to appreciate me talking to her about that.)
After a while of sitting at the desk in the corner — the “naughty corner” as a nurse named Andrew, me, and the other lady relegated to it called it — they moved me through to another recovery room with comfortable seats. It again was full. This appeared to be the place where most of the patients were shifted to once they were off the beds.
This took a while too. The specialist met with me in a small meeting room just off the sitting recovery room, told me that everything was fine and he’d see me in 5 years, and I felt super relieved. Back to the sitting recovery room I went and waited.
Finally a younger nurse came to me, and we took another blood test (just a prick), and the reading was higher. To be fair, I’d just drank a lemonade, so of course there’d be a ton of sugar in my system. She read through a bunch of information with me, then removed my IV shunt, which took a bit of doing. Then, I was free to go.
I had said to Noel before the whole ordeal that I wanted roast chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner, and after the procedure, boy-oh-boy, I wanted those. It was a simple meal that wouldn’t cause too much upset but it would make me feel full. And it did!
I did have a few complications after the procedure.
One, I caused myself. I went right into eating bran cereal for breakfast and also some spicier / harder-to-digest foods within a day or so of the colonoscopy. And I was really sore after doing that. Like, by the Thursday after the procedure — I had the procedure on a Friday — I was turning myself nearly inside out. Reverting to simpler foods on the Wednesday kicked in by the Friday, and I felt better. (The aching inside did not make Thanksgiving a pleasant day, sadly, but it didn’t stop me eating turkey!)
The other was due to the IV shunt being so hard to remove. I had a bruise and it became spectacular. It was very sore, and, of course, I managed to bump it and scrape it against everything because it was so bruised. The swelling went down within a few days, but I had to leave work early the Wednesday two weeks after as my hand felt like there was a golf-ball inside it and my thumb and two big fingers were going tingly. (This rectified itself mostly when I had a day away from a computer.)
Overall, I got a bit too anxious again about the whole procedure, but everything was in the clear. I’m glad that I had it done again for peace of mind, and I highly suggest anyone who has a family history of colon cancer (like mine) or suspects something isn’t quite right to talk to their doctor about undergoing this procedure to make sure everything checks out okay.