The Dreaded Colonoscopy

I go to my doctor regularly, he won’t refill my prescription otherwise, so it’s good to get a check-up and make sure that I’m doing well. He knows no one likes a colonoscopy, so he offers a screen test called “fecal occult blood test,” which looks to see if blood is in your stool and might indicate possible issues with the colon. I failed it. Twice. So he ordered the dreaded colonoscopy.

I’ve had a colonoscopy once before, but not because I turned 50 years old. That time my blood tests showed that I was anemic, so again, there was concern that I was bleeding in my intestinal tract somewhere. That revealed a few small, benign polyps, but no other issues.

So, even though I’m not that excited about having a camera/claw device inserted in my rectum, I will gladly do the tests for peace of mind. But ask anyone who has had a colonoscopy and they’ll all tell you the same thing – “THE PREP IS THE WORST PART!”

I know this first hand from the last time. The stuff you have to drink is strong and tastes awful, but that’s nothing compared to the violent diarrhea that you will deal with for hours. Fun times.

When I got the instructions for the prep I have to admit it made me nervous. I was glad that I didn’t have to do a self-administered enema this time. Others I have talked with all said that they didn’t have to do that. I don’t remember taking the laxatives last time, but they’re listed on the sheet, so I guess I will take them.

My biggest concern is not being able to eat! My coworker Julie had been bombarded with my questions about the procedure because I knew she had done it not too long ago. When I asked her what I should eat before the prep she said that she would go eat a big hamburger and fries at Five Guys. I didn’t see the point of that, as the prepping would just blow that right out of me anyway. On the day of the prep I decided to get one last 8-mile training run in at midday, and then pondered what I could eat. I settled on some baked potato soup and some yogurt, hoping that my body could absorb some carbs before the magnesium citrate blew it out my backside.

I chose some soup for my last meal in hopes of getting some quick calories in me before the prep began.

THE PREP

I made sure that my friends were kept abreast of the situation.

At 3 pm it was go time. I had stuck the bottle of “nasty juice” in the freezer because I had heard it tastes better when it’s really cold. I took the two laxative pills with some water and then started drinking the magnesium citrate. Although it was somewhat strong tasting, it really wasn’t that bad. It had some aftertaste, but I just drank some water and chewed some bubble gum to get rid of it.

My prep stuff – Mg Citrate, laxatives, and plenty of water.

I had missed a phone call while out on a run and checked the voicemail when I saw it. It was a call from the doctor’s office and I started to freak. Are they calling to reschedule this appointment?! Well, yes – but they just pushed it back by an hour or so. I would not have been happy if I had started the prep and they had to cancel my procedure!

I prepped the bathroom with extra toilet paper and magazines, and I made sure that my iPad and phone were fully charged. Then I waited until the fun stuff started.

And I waited. And waited some more. By 5 pm I was supposed to take the second bottle of Mg Citrate and I still hadn’t had the result that I had expected. I was starting to get worried. Did I skip a step? Was I omitting something? I reread the instructions and was pretty sure that I was following the prep plan precisely. I downed the second bottle and waited.

I had a couple of what I would describe as weak efforts, but I was starting to sense that things were building. The last bottle of was to be taken at 9 pm, however, I was not sure I could get it down. I was experiencing a feeling that my stomach wasn’t emptying what was already in it. With the previous two Mg Citrate bottles, I pretty much just got them down as quickly as possible, but bottle three wasn’t happening. I could take a swig and then follow that with some water, but it really wasn’t tasting good. With about 2 ounces left in the bottle, I declared that I had drunk enough. More sitting around and watching television, but never too far from the toilet.

I kept sipping water and making an occasional trip to the toilet. It seemed like things were beginning to happen. Midnight was the cutoff from all liquids, so I packed it in and went to bed. Sometime around 1:30 am I was awakened suddenly with my bowels telling me it was time to get to the toilet. I made several trips back and forth between the bed and the toilet between 1:30 am and 4 am. I did seem to sleep well in between urgent visits to the bathroom. I slept in until about 7:30 am and decided to check on the dog. I wasn’t excited about getting up – no food or water until after the procedure, which was scheduled for noon.

Murphy was a little concerned with all my moving around.

THE PROCEDURE

Since my wife Kari was in Florida, I enlisted Ashley to be my required assistant. They won’t do the procedure unless you have a driver. I was tired, hungry, and had a headache from those two issues. We hopped into Ashley’s car and got a mile or so down the road and I realized that I didn’t have my mask, which was required there even though the state mask mandate was stopped the day before. We turned around and still made it to the endoscopy center near the hospital in time. After going into the wrong office at first, we found the correct one (there were only two) and I got checked in.

A nice nurse brought me back and gave me instructions to get undressed and put on a gown. I was led to a room to be prepared for the procedure. A quick check of my BP and heart rate and she asked if I was a runner. A low resting heart rate seems to always trigger that question from nurses. Turns out she had run the Chicago Marathon in 2021 and was happy to talk running with me. When the doctor came in to meet me, I was surprised by such a warm welcome. His Yelp! reviews weren’t all that great! He looked at my clothes bag and noticed the Hoka running shoes in there and asked if I ran. I guess I’m not fooling anyone. Another doctor who was there to knock me out with IV drugs came in and was all business. Next thing I knew I was being wheeled into the procedure room and turning onto my left side. I could see the clock read 12:38, and that’s the last thing I remember until I was awakened and brought back to where I was before. Ashley was already there waiting, and the doctor came in and gave me the rundown. Everything looked good. He found and removed three polyps and advised that the blood in my stool was most likely from hemorrhoids. Great, now I got new problems.

I asked to walk to the bathroom and forgot to lock the door and someone burst in and found me sitting there. I think it was the doctor, but I found it humorous. I walked back to my holding area all by myself and got myself dressed. Ashley was told to go pull the car around and I got a ride to the curb in a wheelchair. And that was it.

I made Ashley drive us to Portillo’s and we picked up a post-procedure meal and ate it at home. I had been looking forward to that meal for 24-hours.

Making Ashley drive me to Portillo’s. She was very willing. My wife said I looked “hangry” in this photo.

MY REQUEST FOR MY FRIENDS AND ANYONE READING THIS

I am not one to share personal details about my health on this page. But I wanted to show that if a big baby like me can get through it, so can you. See your doctor regularly. Get checked out and be healthy. If you are over 45 years old, get a colonoscopy. Yeah, the prep sucks. However, think about this: Colon cancer is one of the top causes of cancer-related deaths, but it’s also one of the most easily preventable thanks to colonoscopies. They are essentially painless, quick, and can save your life. Do it for me. Do it for your family. Do it for you.

Thanks for reading!

Author: Ironman Chris

Family, running, triathlon and drumming are my things.

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