Today was my biennial (every other year) colonoscopy. For some people, this is a major event; for me it is as well, but not for the reasons you might think.
During my early adolescence, I started to become ill. I had stomach cramps, diarrhea, and weight loss. My parents took me to our family doctor (this was out of the league of my pediatrician) who sent me to the hospital. By December 1975, when I was 12, I had spent weeks in the hospital, missed school, given countless viles of blood, and nothing seemed to help. When I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at the end of the year I weighed less than 60 pounds. I started medications and slowly began to make progress, but my no means was the disease under control. I had a stint in the hospital again between my junior and senior years of high school, and over the years have had changes in medications as advances in pharmaceuticals made that possible. The condition finally began to recede about 20 years ago, and in the last five years I would say that my symptoms are no different than those of someone who does not have an inflammatory bowel disease.
And through it all, there have been the regular colonoscopies–sometimes as often as every year.
Never more than three years between tests (even in my 20s), this test has been a part of my life. Most people dread a colonoscopy…I LOVE IT!
Here is why:
- The prep is much better than it used to be. It used to be chugging over a gallon of goopy, salty stuff. Now, depending on your doctor’s preference, the taste may be barely noticeable. The “cleansing” process is not a walk on the beach (in fact, DO NOT go for a walk on the beach if you are doing prep), but expensive spas offer colon cleanses that cost a whole lot more. I find that lemonade is a great chaser; the tang gets rid of the taste.
- It is a great way to jump start your weight loss! The day of your prep you are on a liquid diet. It is not so bad as long as you keep hydrated. Flavored gelatin and ices are allowed and they help with the hunger too. There is something almost cathartic about cleaning things out.
- They give you really good drugs. I remember my first colonoscopy and being awake for the last part of the process. It was unbearably painful and I remember begging the doctors to put me out again–which they did not do since we were close to the end (pun intended). Today, much more attention is given to patient comfort. I love to watch the clock in procedure room as the sedative is introduced through the IV; one clock, two clock, three clock, four…next thing you know you’re out the door!
- The rest of the day you are not allowed to make any important decisions, drive or go to work. Awwww. Boo-hoo. Don’t we all need a staycation every now and again? Oh yes, Dr. Phil and Price Is Right…I am coming for you!
- THE BEST PART–as uncomfortable as a colonoscopy may seem, it is nothing compared to colon cancer. I know people who have gone through that and I will GLADLY have a colonoscopy if it means catching the disease early or having the peace of mind to know that I am healthy.
Tomorrow, it is back to work, driving, regular diet, etc., but it is good to know that I am doing the right things to take care of myself.
And in two years when it is time for my next colonoscopy, I will say: LET’S DO THIS!
Talk to your doctor (especially if you are over 50) and find out if and when you need your first/next colonoscopy.