The Wonderful Years Between Two Yucky Events

It is with some trepidation, intimidation, indecision, embarrassment, and finally resolution, that I post this blog about my colonoscopies. But, after listening to Gayle King speak of her “event” last week, my feeling that we shouldn’t be embarrassed about such an important screening won the battle of “should I or shouldn’t I?”
It’s important, and we all need to get over the “yuck” factor. So, here I go . . . 

Sometime in 2001, after a close relative found he had colon cancer, I reluctantly made the decision to have a colonoscopy. (I was only 43 years old at the time.) Surprisingly, though I had no symptoms of any intestinal problems, the doctor found a couple of polyps. Fortunately, they were benign. However, it is within these polyps that colon cancer develops, so it is important to catch them in their early stages.
Because polyps were found, I had to have another colonoscopy in 2004. Nothing was found in that screening, and I didn’t have to have another one for five years.

I’ll admit, after my “clean bill of health,” I procrastinated going through “the event,” and did not schedule another colonoscopy until 2010 – last week, as a matter of fact. Once again, no polyps.

Okay, there’s no getting around the fact that a colonoscopy is UNPLEASANT, in other words, yucky. But, so is a mammogram or a pap smear. And though I have no experience with it, I suspect certain PSA screenings are no cup of tea either. But all are important screenings to detect cancer in the earliest stages possible.

The day before the screening is by far worse than the screening itself. First you flood your system with a variety of “preps,” as the medical community genteelly calls it. I would say the more graphic description is atomic laxatives. I took three different kinds – one harmless looking pop-sized bottle of a rather pleasant tasting lemon-lime carbonated liquid called Magnesium Citrate.

Hmmm . . . I thought. This isn’t so bad.

Next, I mixed powdered Miralax (238 grams) with 64 oz. of Crystal Light Lemonade, and had to drink an 8 oz. glass every 30 minutes. Initially, that didn’t seem so bad either. Until about the third glass. Between the frequent trips to the . . . well, you know . . . and the pewky sweet and sour taste of the concoction, I never want to taste another Crystal Light Lemonade again. And only five more glasses and umpteen trips to the . . . you know . . . to go.

Somewhere around the sixth glass, I was instructed to take four–yes, FOUR—Dulcolax laxative tablets. And there you have atomic.

This is all not to mention starving yourself the day before – not that you’d want to eat anything as you’re attempting to clean yourself out.

The next morning, feeling drained (literally,) we headed to the clinic at 6:45 a.m. for my procedure at 8:00. What a way to start the day. But, I was happy the whole thing would soon be over with.

The nurse explained to me that I would be given a sedative where I’d remain conscious, but that I wouldn’t remember anything. As I waited to meet the doctor, I scanned the room, wondering what all the pieces of equipment were for. To say the least, I was a little uncomfortable looking at the large flat screen TV in the corner of the room, knowing my innards would soon be flashed on the screen in all its HD glory. I hoped I wouldn’t be too conscious to experience that.

A rather handsome doctor came in, and the first thing I thought was, “How old are you, anyway?” He looked younger than my son.

I glanced back at the big screen TV and suddenly wanted out of there.

When the doctor left, the nurse came in to give me an IV. She told me to turn onto my left side. I remember staring at a poster on the wall, wondering when the words would start to get blurry. That was the last thing I remember before waking in the recovery room with my husband looking over me.

I felt a little queasy at first, certainly not hungry. I came home and slept for a couple of hours, then ate a few soda crackers, then some soup. For a couple of days, I felt a little “gurgly,” and didn’t have my normal appetite back, but after that, felt back to normal.

Not only was I thankful “the event” was over, I was thankful for the negative screening – one time when “negative” is a good thing. I couldn’t help reflecting back to my colonoscopy in 2001, and wondered what might have happened to that benign polyp had the doctor not snipped the darn thing.

Here’s a list of the wonderful things that happened in between the two yucky events:

*  My daughter and son both graduated from college.
*  I got married.
*  I have traveled to many places around the world, including China, Japan, India, Turkey, Italy, France, Peru, Greece.
*  I have become an artist.
*  I am about to finish my first novel.
*  I’ve met wonderful new friends.

Had I not had the colonoscopy in 2001, had the doctor not found the polyps, maybe they would have continued to be benign, maybe not. But if not, think of all the good things I might have missed.

I don’t have to have another yucky procedure for another five years. I smile when I think of all the events I’ll experience in that time.

Note: The American Cancer Society recommends the following for screening of colorectal cancer and polyps:

Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of these testing schedules:

Tests that find polyps and cancer:

• Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or
• Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
• Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*, or
• CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*

Tests that primarily find cancer:

• Yearly fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)**, or
• Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year**, or
• Stool DNA test (sDNA), interval uncertain**

* If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.

** The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done by the doctor in the office is not adequate for testing. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.

The tests that are designed to find both early cancer and polyps are preferred if these tests are available to you and you are willing to have one of these more invasive tests. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you.

The American Cancer Society recommends that some people be screened using a different schedule because of their personal history or family history. Talk with your doctor about your history and what colorectal cancer screening schedule is best for you. For more information on colorectal cancer screening, please call the American Cancer Society and ask for our document, Colorectal Cancer: Early Detection

Information taken from American Cancer Society website.

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8 Responses to The Wonderful Years Between Two Yucky Events

  1. vegakitty says:

    I'm glad that you had this done and it was benign. I've had one when I was anemic, and although it was no fun and I'm glad I don't need another for eight more years, I'm glad I had it done. Mammograms, too. I recently found out that my maternal grandma and a maternal aunt had breast cancer, but I've already had mammograms every year or so since I was 35 due to my family history of other types of cancer. Keep up the good work.

  2. vegakitty says:

    Oh, in case you're wondering who Vegakitty is, it's me, Cindy Cline Simpson.

  3. ed_quixote says:

    Thanks, Jan! You're a brave kiddo for posting such a personal account of a yucky procedure, and we're all in your debt for it. You might save the life of someone who'll read of your experience, conclude they can handle what you describe, and get a colonoscopy–in time!

  4. Jan,Thank you very much for the information. I've never had one of these procedures and was scared just thinking about it. While your description is not a pleasant thought, I know if so many others have this done, I can, too.Again, thank you!

  5. Jan Morrill says:

    "Vegakitty" Cindy, thanks for the reinforcement of the importance of screening – glad everything has turned out well with your screenings, too.ed_quixote and everydayclimb, thanks for the moral support. 🙂 I feel better now about this "rather awkward" posting. But, you confirmed my thinking — if I can encourage even one person to have this important screening, my embarrassment is a trivial thing.

  6. ka says:

    Great, vivid depiction, Jan! I would add that the pre-cleansing leaves you feeling…well, squeaky clean. And the after-effects of the Versed sedation has always been one of my favorite experiences! Fresh and rested, clear, optimistic. They tell you not to sign any contracts that day, probably because you feel so positive about life. Shopping may also be dangerous. I highly recommend a colo. for anyone who needs a short "spa day"!

  7. Jan Morrill says:

    Thanks for putting a positive light on it, ka! You're right – it was kind of like a spa day.:-)

  8. madisonwoods says:

    Jan, your account made me feel less fearful about the day when it's my turn. Thanks.

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