Ahh, the joys of getting older. I just turned 47 a few days ago. My doctor’s been telling me it’s time for a colon screening for two years. Yesterday was the big day.
People told me the prep would suck. They didn’t go into detail. They just said it was “the worst part.” I heard it repeatedly. But yesterday I didn’t believe them because the all-day fasting seemed like torture enough. Surely the prep couldn’t be worse than the hunger pains or the splitting headache, right? Wrong.
For all of you ladies 45+ who are contemplating a colonoscopy, this is my gift to you: a recreation of the experience so you know exactly what to expect.
The Night Before the Day Before the Procedure
6:00 p.m.: Finally getting around to reading the prep instructions. Discover I should’ve stopped eating nuts a week ago. (Just ate two handfuls of almonds an hour ago and a bag of peanuts for lunch. Whoops.) Realize the only thing I’m going to be able to eat tomorrow is a high-fiber breakfast that doesn’t include fruit or vegetables. I eat avocado toast for breakfast every day of my life and that’s clearly out, so I’m not optimistic about my only meal of the day. Perhaps I should've read these instructions earlier.
The Day Before the Procedure
7:30 AM – Eat a bowlful of dry cheerios. Forgoing the almond milk just in case it qualifies as nuts. Do the Honey-NUT cheerios count as nuts? (Oh, well.)
8:43 AM – I’m already hungry. Reread the instructions hoping to find some loophole that allows for food of some kind. Discover I wasn’t supposed to eat whole grain cereal. (Too late now.)
9:27 AM – I’m never going to make it through this day.
10:02 AM – I never realized how much I snack. I’m dying.
10:15 AM – Another cup of coffee maybe …
10:32 AM – Water. Maybe water will help.
11:07 AM – Water only helps for about :30 at a time, which means water’s not really helping.
12:00 PM – I can’t think of anything but food.
1:29 PM – I’m on my 7th piece of gum. It’s the only thing keeping me from losing my mind.
4:15 PM – Oh, good, Owen’s getting in the car. He’ll have snacks! But no, Liz, you can't have any …
5:00 PM – Just got home. The pantry is SCREAMING my name.
5:12 PM – I’m daydreaming about chips.
5:30 PM – Mix my first “Bowel Prep.” Says to refrigerate or drink it through a straw – makes it easier. Fridge it is.
5:45 PM – Oh. My. God. DisGUSTING. First 8 oz. down.
5:56 PM – Yup, bowel prep works.
6:05 PM – Next 8 oz. of bowel prep down, more foul than the first.
6:30 PM – Hubby to the rescue. My knight in shining armor arrives with vegetable broth. Yes! Food that’s a clear liquid!
6:38 PM – luxuriating in warm, salty veggie broth
6:44 PM – NOT luxuriating … on the toilet
6:50 – 9:20 PM – What goes in, must come out … and fast. I'm supposed to be drinking 32 oz of water and it's a straight shot from my mouth to, well ... I can’t sit down for more than 3 minutes without running (and I do mean RUNNING) to the bathroom. No lie, this probably happened at least 10 times.
9:25 PM – I’m rummaging the drawer for old diaper rash medicine. No shame. I lie – lots of shame.
9:30 – 10:00 PM – I’ve enjoyed 30 minutes of relative calm. I’m tired and hungry and, quite frankly, I’m sore. And now I have to force down another 16 oz. of bowel prep and “do-do” this all over again … until about 12:30 in the morning. Hubby is snoring away.
Day of Procedure
6:00 AM – Take a large sip of water because it will be the last thing I have for hours.
6:03 AM – Right back to the potty.
7:00 AM – A shower has never felt so good.
7:45 AM – Leaving with my “responsible partner” – not sure Andy qualifies but, responsible or not, he’s my driver today. But first … inhalers, nose-blowing, a pitstop of his own, and then a mad dash to get the trash and recycling to the corner while the collectors literally wait for him to bring it to the curb and I sit in the car. What the f@#$!? Why didn’t you do this while you were sending emails this morning?
7:55 AM – The ride is tense, mostly because I’m f@#$ing hangry!
8:15 AM – Arrive at the hospital. Fill out the paperwork. Is it pathetic that I’m looking forward to the “twilight sleep”?
9:15 AM – IV in. Same questions answered a thousand times: What meds are you taking? When was the last time you had something to eat or drink? Do you have a living will? (I said no, and I’m feeling judged.) Do you feel safe at home? (Usually? I mean my kids run around with laser guns and swords … )
9:25 AM – I see the doctor for the first time … in my life. I’m realizing in this moment, I’ve never met this man before and he’s about to know me inside-out.
9:30 – 10:15 AM – The nurse says, “Pick a good dream …” and the next thing I know Andy is standing over me, and I’m literally passing gas in front of him … and laughing about it! People, this is BEYOND a humbling moment.
I’d like to say I buried myself in French Fries or ice cream, but the truth is, I slept most of the day and binged on “Catastrophe” on Amazon Prime (if you haven’t seen it, watch it … now). My husband made me my favorite food (avocado toast with Gaby's Everything Bagel Seasoning) and brought me sparkling water as requested. Thank God he still loves me despite all that embarrassing gas.
In all seriousness, ladies, we have to take care of ourselves. Screenings are so important. They help us find suspicious stuff and hopefully prevent worse stuff - in colons, cholesterol and lady parts! Screenings gave my doctor and me the information we needed to make a proactive decision about getting a hysterectomy last year. Yet, it still took me two years to follow through on this colonoscopy order from my doctor, and that's just dumb. I also have an order for a mammogram that's been sitting on my desk since July. The greatest thing we could do for each other is hold each other accountable when it comes to our health. National Mammography Day is coming up in October. Check with your mom, your sisters, your friends to make sure they're getting "the girls" checked out.
In Closing ... What Have We Learned?
1. Read the prep instructions early and often.
2. Stock up on whatever form of broth you can stomach.
3. Invest in wet wipes and Aquafor. :)
4. Mentally prepare for being totally humbled. If you don't share bathroom humor with your significant other, you're probably about to.
5. Make that appointment!