My husband had his first colonoscopy yesterday. As we drove home, he was trying to explain how easy it was compared to his anxiety and dread about the whole thing. He suggested that I write a post about it.
According to statistics, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined in the U.S.. Studies confirm that early screening reduces deaths from colorectal cancer. It’s worth getting checked and according to Mark, fear shouldn’t prevent you from doing so.
Aside from the kids treating him like a nuclear reactor the day before the test, the worst part about it, by far, was anticipating how terrible it would be to drink the cleansing solution and wondering how miserable you’ll feel afterward.
The day before the procedure, Mark’s diet was restricted to clear liquids. He’s a pretty thin guy, eats 3 pretty standard meals per day and snacks for energy on the tennis court (he’s a teaching pro). Not being able to eat could be slightly torturous for me but he handled it like a champ.
Mark had to drink four 8oz. cups of the prescribed liquid beginning at 5:30 pm the evening before the test (Happy Hour anyone?). The second round of four 8 oz. cups began at 9:30. The liquid is clear and comes with a lemony flavor packet. He mixed it ahead of time and refrigerated it to make it easier to drink. He got it down with a little effort but it was doable and not the worst thing he could have taken.
The enema cocktail kicked in about 30-45 minutes after the first cup and it didn’t give him cramps. Although he wanted to share the details with me, I passed that job off to my boys. Without getting too graphic, things were pretty clear after a few trips to the loo by about 7:30 or so.
Round 2 was really just to make sure he was clean and clear-which he was but still made multiple trips to the bathroom. He went to bed at about 1:00 a.m. and was able to sleep through until 6:00 when we had to get up to make it to the hospital by 7:45. Overall, the physical prep the night before wasn’t as bad as he anticipated.
The next hardest thing for Mark was not being able to eat high-fiber foods the entire week before the test. He snacks on raw vegetables to get him through his long day on the court. Sometimes he’ll have nuts or granola. He ended up taking bags of pretzels, which don’t give you much energy. He also loves salad with dinner and couldn’t eat that. This might not be much of an issue if you don’t eat a lot of fruits or vegetables normally. I don’t and probably wouldn’t miss them as much as he did.
The procedure, itself, was easy compared to his anxiety about it. He had to be there at 7:45 for pre-op and the procedure was underway by 9:05. He got an epidural which burned a little and a light anesthesia to keep him asleep during the procedure which was about 15 minutes from start to finish.
The surgeon reported that everything looked good. Based on the fact that Mark’s dad had some polyps removed and based on that history, the doc recommended a repeat in 5 years. Recovery was about an hour total and I was able to take him home. He definitely was unsteady after the anesthesia but was able to walk to the car.
Although Mark was exhausted and tried to sleep when we got home he wasn’t able to and still felt well enough to grill burgers for dinner. When I asked him how he felt at the end of the day, he claimed that his energy was great and he thought it might have something to do with the whole cleansing process. I can relate to that.
Although all of the medical personnel were kind and professional, Mark thought that they could be more reassuring about the procedure, itself. He guesses that they’re unaware of how nervous and anxious people are about it. He’s hoping that reading this reassures others to get it out of the way.
If you’re approaching or over 50 and have been avoiding this important diagnostic test, I hope Mark’s experience encourages you to get it done.