The Dreaded C Word
The dreaded 'C' word. You know that one that everyone absolutely hates, dreads and never wants to hear? The thing that everyone should get at the age of 50 or if you're like me with a bowel disease, every few years. The thing that forces you to drink nasty liquids and spend hours in the bathroom. The thing that people put off for years because it just sounds so terrible. How dare we even mention it?! If that word causes a reaction, I will warn you that this article is not for the faint of heart.
So, I heard the 'C' word recently. At the beginning of the year my doctor said it's time for your next COLONOSCOPY. Instantly my heart and stomach (no pun intended) dropped. Despite having three colonoscopies in my lifetime already, my first being at the age of 12, you'd think I'd be used to it. But no, sadly, I still dread it like nothing else. Trust me when I say, the procedure itself is nothing; the prep is the enemy. Covid helped me delay the inevitable a little, but last month I got the callback and it was my turn to show up. I could put it off no longer.
I did a pretty good job of forgetting about it after it was initially scheduled with a priority status. I proactively got all of my supplies including Dulcolax, 2 big bottles of Gatorade, Miralax, a fleet enema and many clear liquids. I was ready to go when the time came. After gathering the goods, I forgot about the procedure until this week started. Since my colonoscopy was scheduled for today, each day of the week that went by brought me closer to prep and procedure day.
I knew that with the new protocols in this Covid world, I had to get tested 48-72 hours before my colonoscopy. The panic I had about this temporarily relieved any panic I had about the prep. So on Tuesday, I went to one of the drive-thru testing sites. I made the mistake of googling videos and how painful it was prior to arriving. I was having a panic attack the whole 17-minute drive there. When I finally got there, I placed my ID up against my window and waited while a patient in the car ahead got swabbed. He actually screamed, I hoped to be funny, but I drove up terrified. I'm sure it showed on my face, but I told myself that millions of people have done this. I showed my ID again and the nurse asked me to roll down my window. She had me tip my head back and asked if I was ready. "I guess." She counted to five as she stuck the long Q tip up my nose and twisted. Counts 1 and 2 were fine but on 3, 4, 5, it was the strangest and most unnatural feeling ever. It didn't hurt, but felt like someone was legitimately tickling my brain. Afterward, there was a bit of discomfort, but ultimately just felt like I would have a major nosebleed. Thank you nurses for the tissue! All in all, positive experience. Nothing to be scared of honestly, so if you need one, just get it!
With one hard part out of the way, the next thing up was prep day. The night prior to prep day, I mixed the Miralax and Gatorade to chill, later to find out it's better done in real-time. Oops, my bad. I woke up yesterday morning with a pit in my stomach, anxiously awaiting my prep start later in the afternoon. Going to work was a pleasant distraction from only being able to have clear liquids all day. I got myself a nice Dunkin tea and chugged a water bottle. Mango Italian ice was for lunch when I got home. Delectable!
I decided to start the prep an hour early since I am historically terrible at getting the drink down. I asked for nausea medicine, but that was denied by my doctor, who knows why. At 1pm, I took two tablets of Dulcolax, an OTC laxative. I'm not sure if it was supposed to work as quickly as it did or if I just reacted strongly to it, but geesh, I was running to the bathroom before I even started drinking (TMI, sorry). I did take it with a few glasses of water so maybe that helped. With a few trips to the toilet already in the books, I figured I would be golden, but I stood corrected.
Around 4, I took the Gatorade/Miralax mix out of the fridge. I had taken a sip in the morning to test it. My past preps have been so disgusting and chalky. This was my first time trying this method and honestly it started out great. I got 3/4 of the first bottle down no problem. But then, the nausea came on strong. I tried to continue to take sips but knew I would be pushing myself too far. Keep in mind, you're supposed to drink two full bottles of this stuff. I took about a 30-minute break and decided to take a few more sips. BAD IDEA KALI. I started to get that gagging feeling and then everything came upstream. After expelling most of what I drank, I just stared at myself in the mirror, cheeks flushed and face streaked with tears. I was so mad at myself for not keeping it down and for failing.
The following two hours resulted in me pitying myself, feeling weak, like an embarrassment, useless, questioning why God gave me Crohn's Disease in the first place. All I could think was that I can handle excruciating pain, needles, loss, heartbreak, but I can't drink some silly Gatorade mix. People are out there starving, suffering and dying, but I can't just do this one thing. I called a friend who thankfully helped ease my tears and feelings of worthlessness. She said that if I just refused, then I would be weak. The fact that I had tried, was the most anyone could ask for. That and the multiple texts with family and other friends gave me motivation to drink some more. Finally around 10, I went to bed, knowing I definitely did not drink as much as I should have, but that I did my very best. Ultimately, you should drink all the prep if you ever do this in the future.
I was up all night, partly due to bathroom trips and partly due to anxiety over my procedure potentially being canceled from bad prep. I was googling everything that could go wrong. Reminder, google is not your friend in these instances. Around 3:30, I did the fun task of giving myself a fleet enema. I'll spare you the details, but that helped me out a little more to the point where I thought I should be able to pass the test.
At 5:30 this morning, I woke up, showered, and regained the nausea and nervousness about not being clear enough. My roommate drove me to the endoscopy center at 6:30. I waited quite a while in the waiting room, but once back in the procedure area, it was all business. I have never seen such an efficient process. I changed into my gown. The nurse took my vitals and asked all of the necessary questions while another nurse seamlessly inserted my IV. I didn't even have to tell him to go for my hand, he just knew. Complete godsend! Within 10 minutes, I was being wheeled by another nurse down to the procedure room where I was met by the anesthesiologist and my gastroenterologist. The anesthesiologist asked me more questions, had me consent to receive the Propofol, put the oxygen tubes in my nose and covered it with my mask. My doctor asked how Covid downtime was treating me and if I was back to work. While that conversation was happening, I was told I would feel a burn and fall asleep. Oh, did I feel the burn.
And then, BOOM! It was done and I woke up in the recovery room. They said the test went well and the anesthesiologist checked on me and my vitals. When I said the procedure itself was easy, I wasn't kidding. I woke up feeling a bit drowsy but within 10 minutes, I was drinking cranberry juice, getting dressed and walking down to my ride. That experience in the endoscopy center was A+. The nurses were so friendly, great at their jobs, and even gave me some new Netflix recommendations. One even walked me into the parking lot to make sure I made it to the car. Thank you BWH Endo nurses!
Once I was on the way back home, I took a giant sigh of relief. It was over and it was successful! I immediately called my mom to share my relief and gratitude. Despite doing subpar at the prep, I had pushed myself and done enough for them to get a clear view. I have the images of my intestines that look quite beautiful if I must say. As I laid in bed to take a nap, I said a small prayer of thanks for letting me get through that.
Now its 6pm and I just indulged in Domino's pizza and cheesy bread for my first meal in two days. I am feeling much better about myself, although still drowsy. Last night I was down in the absolute dumps and now I feel much more like my myself. It truly is mind over matter and now I know more than ever what my body can handle. If I am feeling the nausea again, I will stop and try again when it subsides instead of trying to rush. Nothing in life is a race, including colon prep.
As dreaded as colonoscopies are, I know how vital they are for my health as a Crohn's patient and for everyone else with similar diseases. For those of you who get to wait until 50, you are so lucky, but I still understand why you would hesitate to get this done when that time comes. Regardless, a colonoscopy could save your life. Get it over with and you will feel so much better after. If I can tell you anything, it's to find a regimen that works for you and listen to your body. Just try. We are all stronger than we think we are and I truly believe we are only given what we can handle. You can handle this!
For those of you who have gotten a colonoscopy, I hope you can relate to this and maybe even laugh a little. I would love to hear any of your recommendations for the future! For those who haven't, just remember that nothing is impossible. You just have to try your best and know that that is enough.
When I have low days and hate that I have this awful disease, I remind myself that my circumstance is so much better than that of many others. I can live a full life and can enjoy most things, besides corn on the cob (oh how I miss you)! I know that I am so strong and can do anything I put my mind to, including enduring a colonoscopy. I will continue to be thankful and will embrace my disease. I think there is a reason I have this and hopefully it will allow me to educate others and provide inspiration to my fellow Crohnies.
I am me. Nothing more, nothing less and that is enough.