Colonoscopy 2018 is behind me now (sorry) and I wanted to share the adventure with you.
Due to my family history, I’m in the “every five years” category. As you may know, colorectal cancer — cancer of the colon or rectum — is the second-leading killer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Removing precancerous growths spotted during a colonoscopy can cut the risk of dying from colon cancer in half. More than 95% of tumors are detected during a colonoscopy. Quite honestly, I am thankful my doctor made the first appointment for me fifteen years ago, because I would have never gone to the trouble. Sure, I’d seen all the stories on TV, and I’d read the ominous headlines, but you know what I was thinking: “That happens to other people, not me.”
As I’ve shared a few Facebook comments, Tweets and face-to-face chats with folks about my colonoscopy, I’ve been surprised by the number of my friends who are squeamish about it. Although it is strongly recommended for adults 50 and over (and younger folks with a family history of colon cancer), people hear the horror stories about an all-night “cleaning-out process” on the john, the nasty liquid you have to guzzle, and then being probed from behind by total strangers. So they just say no. Or they say, “I’ll get around to it, someday.”
Allow me to list some observations that may be helpful should you decide to take the plunge (there I go again).
1) If your procedure is scheduled for say, early Thursday morning, start tapering off on your meals around Monday. Lighten up on your portions a little bit. Let’s just say by Wednesday night, more is not merrier. You’ll thank me later. For about 24 hours prior to the procedure, your menu is clear liquids only. If your home was a restaurant, it would be called, “In and Out.”
2) The “nasty liquid mixture” is nothing to write home about, but if you swig it quickly, and then pop a breath mint or LifeSaver in your mouth, you will survive it. Many docs also prescribe a clean-out potion that isn’t all that bad. You can either mix it with clear Gatorade, or take tablets (with LOTS of clear liquid), with no taste at all. The end result is the same (I never stop, do I?) but getting there isn’t as bad as you’ve heard. Just don’t stray too far from the bathroom for a few hours. Even if you go out to get the mail, you might soon be running in with an express delivery.
(Side note: for my first colonoscopy, the prep mixture was called “Go Lytely.” I remember being in the bathroom, staring at a bottle of tub and tile cleaner called “KaBoom.” Honestly, they should have switched names.)
3) Schedule your appointment for early in the day. The dirty work actually begins the previous evening at 5:00 p.m. About an hour after your first dose of magic juice, the movement begins. For the next six hours or so, you’ll spend a lot of quality time with Mr. John. In my case, I’m able to get about three hours of sleep before the Potty Party starts again. There are rides at Six Flags that don’t have this much action.
Finally, before the break of dawn, it’s off the doctor’s office for the actual procedure. The anesthesiologist sends you to dreamland, you take the Best Nap Ever, and the interior exploration begins. Incredibly, you never feel a thing. Next thing you know you’re gulping down a Coke, and they send you on your way.
Full disclosure: in the immediate aftermath, there’s a little gas involved, if you get my drift, and I’m afraid several people did.
You’re home by 9:00 that morning. You sleep it off, and it is chow time. What can you eat? Anything you wish. However, the experts say you should ease back into normal eating habits, since your digestive tract is a little out of practice. Dare to ignore the experts, and you’re back at Six Flags.
By the way, I’m happy to report a successful outcome (that’s enough). When the doc inserted that thin, flexible colonoscope into its intended target area, the tiny camera sent images back to Earth that showed no tumors, no polyps, not even that piece of gum I swallowed in 2nd grade. I got to hear those magic words: “We’ll see you back here in five years.”
So if you’re among those who’ve been putting it off, I hope I have talked you into it. I like having you around to read my columns and watch my newscasts. The people who perform these colonoscopies are saving lives every day, and yours could be one of them!
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” a collection of his best stories. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.