Countdown to Colonoscopy

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I believed myself to be cancer free, but I didn’t know if I would be able to say that again on the following day. In the morning, I was going in for my first colonoscopy. This is a procedure where a doctor examines the colon, at close range, looking for polyps or other out of the ordinary growths that don’t belong. There are three possible scenarios that I imagined I might awaken to, following the procedure: #1. I could wake up with the doctor telling me that everything went well, and there were not polyps. #2. I could wake up with the doctor telling me that there were only a few polyps, nothing suspicious, but they are being sent to the lab for review. #3. I could wake up with the doctor telling me that they found some very suspicious polyps and had to remove a section of my colon. He would go on to say that I need to meet with an oncologist to talk about a further course of action.

I was thrown, a bit, when I read the name of the colon cleanse solution that the doctor had prescribed for me to drink: MoviPrep. It sounded almost like it might have included a free movie rental in the box, something to pass the time away while sitting and waiting in the bathroom. I can clear up any confusion right here and now; there was no DVD in the box, but the colon cleanser was quite the blockbuster.

The process of the MoviPrep cleanse is a simply one. At 12 Noon you begin to drink the first quart of the concoction, one cup at a time, in fifteen minute intervals. I know the words “pleasant tasting” are bandied about quite a bit with liquid medicines, but this one really didn’t deserve that recommendation. I would say that it had a lemony flavor, but not like the lemon drinks that you might voluntarily consume. It tasted more like the lemon in Lemon Pledge - as if that were some sort of drink enhancer - instead of the very effective wood cleaning product that it is. Also, even though the reconstituted, two powder combination was clear, the consistency was thicker than water. I used a straw (strongly suggested) and powered down each eight ounces in record time. I chased the chilled beverage with spoonfuls of soft frozen lemonade, which was actually quite tasty. I didn’t gag or hesitate. I followed the instructions and did what I needed to do. I could go into detail; no, I really could - I kept a log, but it’s probably just best to say that there were soon some stomach noises followed by a growing desire to take a bathroom break.

The afternoon passed fairly quickly and before I knew it, it was 5:00PM - time for my second 32 ounce dose of Lemon Pledge.

On the day of the procedure, after filling out a few forms relinquishing all of my rights as a human, I was escorted into room number 11. It wasn’t really a room, but more of a wide stall. One of the nurses asked me to remove all of my clothes, except for my socks, and put on the gown. I’m sure I don’t need to describe a hospital gown to you. The bare butt joke has already been done in movies a few too many times. While changing, I kept looking out the window, trying to make sure that no one in their cars would be able to see me in my compromised state. I quickly slipped into the thing and got under the sheet of the hospital bed. The nurse then brought in a pre-heated blanket that rivaled the heated blankets at the Red Cross. They even offered me aromatherapy (citrus or lavender); I chose lavender. I could easily have mistaken being in a day spa, waiting for a deep tissue massage; but, of course, I wasn’t.

10:20AM The anesthesiologist told me that she was going to be giving me Propfol. I instantly recognized this drug, as anyone else who was alive when Michael Jackson died would have. Some things get tainted for life after public milestone events. (For me, it is still the Bruno Magli shoes that O.J. Simpson wore on the night of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman’s ‘mysterious’ homicide.) The Propofol was a white liquid in a syringe. I was told that I might feel a light burn when the drug entered my bloodstream. She asked me to count to ten in the one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two format.

I did feel a very slight burn, and after one-thousand-three, I told the doctor that I was beginning to feel the effect. I remember making it to nine before going blank. I can’t speak about anything else until I heard the nurse calling out my name.

I half-heartedly opened my eyes and asked what time it was. She said that it was 10:56. I couldn’t keep my eyes open for long, as the drug’s effect hadn’t left my system yet. I’ve felt like this before, at home, not being able to stay awake despite trying my hardest. It may have been another 5-10 minutes before I really began to regain my senses.

Just like a good episode of Barnaby Jones, all good things must come to an end. After eating a hospital provided day-old chocolate chip cookie for my first solid meal, the doctor came in to check on me. He said that everything went well, and I was completely normal - no polyps. This came as a big relief to me. He went on to say that I wouldn’t need another colonoscopy for another 10 years. I would hope that the MoviPrep people would take advantage of that time and come up with some kind of improved version of ‘pleasant tasting lemon flavor’.

I would encourage anyone who is either at risk of colon cancer or nearing the age where this preventative test is recommended, to put aside your fears and see a gastroenterologist. Peace of mind has a value in life. A colonoscopy is a small price to pay for that peace.


Anonymous June 5, 2013 at 1:30 PM  

Thank you for sharing a well-written, detailed account of the before/during/after phases of your colonoscopy. I'm about 14 months away from booking my first date & now I know what to expect!

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