Friday, February 3, 2017

REAL MOMS: Your first colonoscopy--what it's REALLY like

Mom2MomEd Blog: REAL MOMS~*~We tried it: Your first colonoscopy and what it's really like
Friends, fair warning here--just like your gastrointestinal tract, this post is a wee bit long...

A few years ago, I would have been mortified and refused to admit that I...gulp...had a colonoscopy! I mean, I'm only 42! Surely too young for this right?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the recommended age for a first colonoscopy is 50 years old.
I'm 42.



But a couple of months ago, I had the worst stomach pain of my life and ended up not only in the Emergency Department, but admitted to the hospital and meeting a surgeon! It turns out that my colon is not fixed in place as it should be and was folded over on itself. 

I felt like I was being ripped in half.

Ultimately, I didn't have surgery and instead was sent off to the GI doctor after being released from the hospital.

And, a few weeks later I was getting 'scoped--a colonoscopy and an upper endoscopy (or EGD). The EGD part was super easy and I'd had that done before 15 years ago.

The only major prep for the UPPER portion of the exam? Don't eat anything for several hours prior to the exam. I could do that! Nothing to be worried about or embarrassed by, right? Easy-peasy!

The lower end....the colonoscopy...however, was something entirely different!

Really, go and ask several older people in your life about their colonoscopy experiences. How many say, "Oh, it was so easy and pleasant! Not a big deal at all!"? Probably NOT ONE will tell you that!

My uncle, a neighbor, older friends, and so on told me how much they hated their colonoscopies. Several told me that it was so unpleasant and embarrassing that they would *never* have another colonoscopy again.


I had always assumed that when people talked about how horrible their colonoscopies had been, that they were embarrassed by the procedure itself. I mean, seriously, the test involves putting a camera UP YOUR BUM and taking a look around.

Plus, you are lying there (asleep usually, but still...) on a table with your bare backside on view to anyone in the room while your doctor is a little too close for comfort in order for him (or her) to perform the exam.

Your BUTT is on full display.
Your BUTT is being probed.
Your BUTT is basically being violated by someone who is almost a stranger.!

I was dreading this exam, but it was the only way to be sure I didn't have any other issues or problems that could have caused my guts to fold up on themselves (McKenzie has nicknamed my problem "twisty guts"). When the procedures were scheduled, the scheduler handed me a prescription for "prep" and information detailing special dietary restrictions and so on that I would need to carry out in the few days before the procedures.

I already knew that part of the prep would involve a lot of, forgive me for being a little crude (but you knew I would be based on my BUTT talk, right?), pooping. A LOT OF POOPING.

You guys! After all of that prep and pooping, the colonoscopy itself was NO BIG DEAL! I wasn't at all embarrassed or worried about my butt flapping in the wind (wow...I hope I don't have a butt that flaps!).

Frankly, by the time I was sitting on a gurney in the procedures center and wearing a flimsy gown under a thin sheet and an oh so (not) chic hair cover, I wasn't thinking about my backside being on display or what my doctor was about to do to it.

I was just glad to be DONE POOPING!

The procedures themselves were easy compared to the prep! After I was all ready--gown, hair covering, sheet, IV and monitor--I was wheeled on my gurney into the procedure room itself where my doctor sat in the corner as two nurses were getting me situated.

I almost didn't care what was happening at this point because I was DONE POOPING and just so relieved to not be running to the toilet every five seconds.

A minute or two later, the nurses were injecting heavy duty sedatives into my IV and I was OUT. The next thing I knew, I was shaken awake by one of the nurses. Just a bit after that the doctor came in and told me that he thought everything looked really good (YAY!).

Moms (and dads or anyone else reading this...), the actual procedure of a colonoscopy is NO BIG DEAL (assuming you are sedated and OUT...).

The awful part is the preparation. It was sooooo much grosser and more embarrassing than anyone prepared me for! The doctor didn't really say much about the prep when I initially met with him, and the scheduler totally downplayed what I was about to experience. The pharmacist said nothing as she went over the prescription for the bowel prep solution with me. My parents, neighbor, uncle, and older friends said nothing about the prep.

The prep...OH. MY. GOD!

The prep involves a LOW fiber diet, followed by drinking an oral laxative solution, a clear liquids diet, a bowel prep solution, more clear liquids, and more bowel prep, and finally NOTHING for several hours prior to the procedure.

I wish someone had told me more about the prep! I knew it would involve a lot of time in the bathroom, but not quite the reality of the situation! I didn't think about how this prep might impact my sleep habits or my ability to do chores and errands and to just live life.


In order to have a clear view, your doctor really needs you to be *cleaned out*. You have to poop out EVERYTHING except for your brain.

The prep results in a lot of abdominal discomfort...cramping, bloating, and a lot of gas followed by a sudden need to RUN to the bathroom. This will continue off and on for HOURS.

The need will get even stronger and you'll be cramping up and pooping and passing gas to such a degree that you'll be afraid to fall asleep lest you have an accident in your sleep.

Forget leaving the house or doing your normal chores. STAY HOME!
Forget meeting friends for some pre-procedure camaraderie. STAY CLOSE TO THE BATHROOM!
Forget going on a hike or even walking your dogs. CANCEL APPOINTMENTS!

Make sure you have PLENTY of toilet paper or consider investing in flushable wipes...but be careful that you don't clog your toilet! Poop some...wipe a little...flush. Repeat. Don't poop a ton, wipe a ton,'ll simply overload your toilet's ability to do its job efficiently. Thankfully, I realized the potential for a toilet pooptastrophy right away and took measures to avoid a toilet bowel overflow!

For the two days ahead of my procedures, I really couldn't focus on a whole lot except how far I was from the bathroom.

Now that the whole thing is a month behind me (haha!), it feels less traumatic, but I still never want to go through that prep again!

But....I will.

Colonoscopy is an incredibly powerful tool in screening for colon cancer, and colon cancer kills. While you likely won't need a screening before the age of 50, unless you fit into certain categories or have risk factors for colon cancer, it's something you should be ready for, no matter how awful the prep is or how embarrassing you might find the exam. 

It turned out that my insides are pretty gosh darn healthy other than that bizarre twisting I experienced (the twist has since resolved, but I'm still having a lot of pain and nausea).

Am I looking forward to a repeat experience? Nope. 
Will I go ahead and do it, despite the horrors of the preparation? Yep!

The year is 365 days long (except leap years...), and the prep only impacts two to three of those days and usually only every 10 years or so.

And you can do the prep in the privacy of your own home.
And you don't need a colonoscopy annually--every 5 to 10 years will do, depending on your risk factors and medical history.

I can deal with that.

And, I've been promised that pretty much every colonoscopy is just like your first.

I wish I'd known more about the realities of colonoscopy prep ahead of time, and I hope you found this post helpful if you are facing your first colonoscopy! Of course, we all have our own, unique experiences, and what I found objectionable about all of this might be different from your own experience. Regardless, if you are facing a colonoscopy, EGD, or any other procedures, I hope your final result is a clean bill of health!

What other embarrassing situations, issues, or concerns do you have questions about but are too afraid to ask? Let us know and we'll do our best to answer! We're real moms and want to help other real moms just like us!
Please note--nothing in this post is meant to be medical advice.
This post is merely an expression of my own personal experience.
If you think you need a colonoscopy or have health issues that need to be addressed,
please consult your doctor or healthcare professional!

Did you enjoy this post? Read more about the experiences of REAL MOMS:
And, please take a moment to check out these super fun items in our Etsy shop:

No comments:

Post a Comment