So a part of having Crohn’s disease is getting looked at from the inside more often than the average bear. Most people are encouraged to have a colonoscopy every 5 years starting at age 50, or age 40 if there’s a history of colon cancer in your family.
Me, I get to be scoped every two years. Although this time we did it a bit early; I’ve been on a new medication for a year, and we wanted to see what kind of healing it’s been doing. So it’s actually been 1 year and 7 months since my last colonoscopy.
Probably a lot of you have never had this experience, but you most likely will in the future. So what should you expect? Here’s what goes on.
The day before the procedure, you aren’t allowed to eat solid food. You’ll get a list of the fluids you’re allowed — basically, anything liquid (or Jell-O) that isn’t red or purple. You definitely don’t want anything staining anything red … down below.
So I spent the day hungry. I opted to not drink any of the fruit juices (pineapple, apple, strained orange) on the list, because sugar just makes me hungrier.
That evening, you have to drink something gross. No matter what brand you get, it’s always gross. I’ve done a couple of other types, and it’s always involved mixing a powder with water and drinking anywhere from a liter to a gallon. And this stuff is ALWAYS salty. Because it’s the salts that make it work, pulling water into the bowel and causing everything to rush out. But usually you can flavor it yourself, so you can make it salty lemonade or salty Gatorade or whatever other flavor helps you swig it down. (Research afterward shows that there are pills that can be taken, but they’re dangerous to the kidneys. DAGNABBIT.)
This stuff I was given, Suprep, is already flavored. And sweetened. With Splenda. Now, I use Splenda in baking a lot, but I know that it’s too sweet, so I always reduce the amount. All commercial products made with Sucralose are always, always too sweet, and this was no exception. The flavor they chose was what I call “medicinal berry”, the kind of mixed-berry flavor you’d find in a cough syrup or cold elixir. So even diluted in water, it was a too-salty and too-sweet and too-gross berry sludge. I was unable to finish it.
Bottom line: DON’T USE SUPREP. It was the worst I’ve ever used.
Edit, 2019: If you can use the Dulcolax/Miralax method, DO IT. It’s a combination of over-the-counter pills and salty fluid, which you can flavor and sweeten to your own taste. Far better, and far cheaper, than any other prep I’ve ever had.
After drinking for a while, it’s into the bathroom. Now comes the cleaning out of everything that’s left inside. My little cat Trouble was sympathetic; she hung out in the bathroom with me for most of the evening. If you’ve tried to chill your prep liquids to make them more palatable, then you’ll be shivering all the while as well. The evening before the procedure is, by far, the worst part of the whole thing.
Next morning, really early, it’s off to the hospital/clinic/office where you’re having the procedure done. A little paperwork, maybe a payment, and then it’s time to take off your undershorts, throw on a classy hospital gown, have a pregnancy test if you’re a woman (they will never, EVER not do this, even if it’s a period day), get an IV inserted, and lie around for a while.
My doctor is always late. For office visits, I always expect to sit in the waiting room for an hour and a half after my appointment time. For this procedure, first thing in the morning, I was wheeled into the actual action room 50 minutes late. Ugh.
The complete hookup includes electrodes on the chest, the IV in your arm, a blood pressure cuff, a pulse monitor on your finger, and one of those oxygen tubes in your nose. The plastic of which always smells like a new shower curtain. (As you can see, I was shooting for another low blood pressure world record.) Everyone gets set, and then it’s lights out. They inject anesthetic into your IV line (my anesthetic looked like milk), you feel incredibly happy and fuzzy for five seconds, then you’re waking up afterward. It’s nice that modern knockout juice wears off pretty fast — 15 years ago, I woke up from my first colonoscopy groggy and freaking out, and spent the rest of the day in a haze. Nowadays, I’m coherent right away, and while I wasn’t allowed to drive the rest of that day, I was able to do anything I wanted to without fuzzy-headedness.
The doctor came by afterward, chastised me for my sub-par prep (I’d warned him in advance that I wasn’t able to finish the Suprep, what with the gagging and crying), and reported that everything looked generally OK. He took some biopsies, and I go in to visit him in two weeks (where I’ll wait 90+ minutes in the outer chamber first) to get a full rundown.
I was up and dressed and walking out within 20 minutes of waking up. Scott pulled the car around, and homeward we went. Now, there are two big tasks after this procedure. Number one is to get the air out, and number two is to eat. As for number one: throughout the procedure, they pump you full of air so that they can see everything clearly. So afterward, you have to fart like your life depends on it. Last time, I had a hard time with this, and was in some serious pain until I got home and rolled around a lot. This time, I was apparently possessed by a frat boy, and was able to get the job done quickly while still at the surgery center.
Secondly, EATING! After four skipped meals, it was time for a big, soothing, greasy goo-burger. Diet be damned. So off to Five Guys it was! And then home for a big nap. I’m glad I took the day after off work, so we could tackle some of the usual weekend chores and errands.
Overall, it’s not too traumatic an experience. Especially if you don’t have a strong gag reflex, because the drinking of the salty water is the worst part of the whole thing. I’m definitely requesting a different prep next time. Or, hopefully in two years, they’ll have come up with a better pill-based prep system.
Oh, and — the babysmasher at Five Guys had the oddest logo on it. Couldn’t not take a picture.
Update, January 2021: I don’t usually have comments on posts these days, but this old post has remained popular and helpful for over 10 years. So I’ve re-opened moderated comments on it. If you have something you’d like to share, go ham!