March 15, 2012

All things considered my colonoscopy experience was surprisingly good. While some parts of the process were uncomfortable none of it was horrible. Best of all I have a clean bill of health.

The preparation starts 24 hours before the procedure when you switch to a clear liquids only diet. Clear liquids include some juices, broth, hard candy, and Jello. You just have to stay away from anything with red coloring. I started yesterday with an enormous breakfast – a Belgium waffle, two fried eggs and two sausage patties. My normal breakfast routine is a bowl of cold cereal with milk and a glass of orange juice. Being pleasantly over full helped to curb my hunger pains most of the day. The richness of the food also contributed in a mild bout of diarrhea which made the evening preparation activity easier I think.

At three o’clock I took four tablets of a laxative. Starting at six o’clock I drank 8 ounces of laxative laced Gatorade every 15 minutes until I’d consumed an entire gallon. From reading online I knew that in the past this was the hardest part of the whole process. The mixture used to taste like dirty salt water and caused a powerful urge to vomit. My mixture, in orange Gatorade, only had a mild chalky after taste. The only issue with downing each glassful was still feeling full from the previous glass. Once the mixture started doing its thing the fullness issue went away.

By 8:15 I was done with the gallon but not done in the bathroom. It was closer to 10:30 or 11 before I felt like I could go to bed without needing to get up in a hurry. Out of curiosity I weighed myself just prior to starting the gallon and then again at the conclusion of taking it. I had only gained a pound in the two intervening hours, a neat trick when you consider a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. By the time my bowels had subsided for the night I was down 1 pound rom my starting weight. This morning I was 2.5 pounds lighter than yesterday’s weight.

This morning I had the mildly uncomfortable sensation of needing to go but being unable to produce any thing. When I ask about that at the surgical center I was told this was normal. At the surgery center they started an IV, hooked me up to an automatic blood pressure cuff, and hooked up leads to monitor my blood oxygen saturation and pulse. After a brief pre-procedure visit with the doctor the sedation nurse used the IV to give me a couple drugs, one for pain and a sedative. The next thing I was aware of was being given some juice to drink in the recovery room.

After eating a banana on the ride home I crawled into bed and slept for a couple hours. Lunch after my nap was delicious. Since air is pumped into the colon during the procedure there is some post-procedure gas and mild cramps. Otherwise I feel great.

Since no polyps were found and no other issues discovered I don’t have to repeat this test for another ten years. If you are over the age of 50 and haven’t had a screening for colon cancer don’t let street “knowledge” about how awful colonoscopies are keep you form completing one. It’s one day out of 10 years and may save your life.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.