All last week I was suffering from PCSD. That’s Pre Colonoscopy Stress Disorder.
It’s recommended that at age 50 all of us get a colonoscopy, to screen for colon cancer. In the abstract, it seems like a no brainer. Get checked out and either get a clean bill of health or catch disease early so it can be treated. End of story.
But when that fifth decade arrives, the abstract becomes concrete. That initial screening exam seems less like a great idea and more like a trip to Procrasti-Nation is needed. I thought about it when I turned 50, considered it a bit more seriously at age 51, blew it off at age 52, felt a little guilty at 53, and finally, at age 54, scheduled the damn thing.
Essentially, there were two parts of this procedure I wasn’t looking forward to. And no. One of them was not the tube shoved miles up my nether zones. Oddly enough, that didn’t bother me too much. Especially knowing I wouldn’t be awake for the event.
What bothered me was the prep and the anesthesia. First, I worried about the prep. To prepare for the flexible tube-snake to see and photograph your colon, you are required to drink a gallon of thick, salty sludge with the ridiculously inappropriate name of GoLytely. Because you don’t. Go Lytely. No, you go as hard as it is possible to go without actually turning your large intestine inside out and dragging it over your body like a chrysalis. I kid you not.
You drink the first half gallon starting at 4:00 pm the day prior to the exam – downing 8 ounces every 10 minutes. Then you pull up stakes and live in the bathroom for the next five hours.
Exhausted, you crawl to bed praying that Mom Nature won’t call you any more that night. You have no more left to give.
At 6:00 am, after flinging your abusive alarm across the room, you start the second half gallon, 8 oz every 10 minutes, and again take up residence in the bathroom.
The prep was as bad as I hoped it wouldn’t be. However, I was grateful that I didn’t have to be at the hospital until 11:00 am for obvious reasons.
Once in the special procedures room, a nurse started my IV, dressed me in a fetching open back frock, and hooked me up to monitors. No problem. Now all I had to do was wait. And fret. About the anesthesia.
Now the anesthesia for a colonoscopy is really called conscious sedation. Which means while you have no awareness or memory of the procedure (many mahalos for that), you are actually responsive and in what is called a twilight sleep. It’s short acting and you wake and leave shortly after the procedure.
Unfortunately, I am a bit of a control freak, so even a nice “twilight sleep” sounds like a nightmare to me. However, the alternative of being awake and aware of the tube-snake seemed much worse, so I was down for the full meal deal.
As they rolled me into the procedure room, I noticed my heart rate and blood pressure climbing. It’ll do that when you fret. A needle went into my IV and the next thing I knew was I was getting dressed, joking with the doctor and nurses, and in a very mellow mood. Especially after getting the clean bill of health. Didn’t remember a thing. Went home and let Dewitt wait on me.
So was it worth it? You bet! Wasted a lot of time worrying and fretting, though.
If you have yet to have your first colonoscopy, I have just two other bits of info that might help. First, make sure you have a warm robe and/or a space heater in the bathroom when you drink the prep. My girlfriend, Gena, told me that I’d feel chilled when I drank the GoLytely (because it’s refrigerated and diet is only clear liquids from breakfast on, etc.) Keeping warm definitely ups the comfort factor. (I was cold and I live in the tropics!)
Also, eat yogurt for a few days after the procedure. I was at my chiropractor’s office a couple days after my procedure and mentioned to him that it was really easy, but that I was feeling kind of crappy (no pun intended) in my lower intestinal area. “Are you eating yogurt?” he asked. Dumbstruck, I looked at him. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I had just cleaned out every single cell of normal bacteria out of my colon. Of course I needed some help getting back to normal. Duh!
Sure enough, a couple servings of yogurt and I was feeling perky again. So don’t wait, goddesses. Put on those big girl panties and schedule your colonoscopy. It’s one of those things that is so much easier in hindsight (pun intended) that you wonder why you waited so long to do it.
(For the best ever colonoscopy story, read Dave Barry’s essay: A journey into my colon — and yours.)