“You sure are calm about this,” Jacqueline said to me as I started prepping for my every-10-year colonoscopy, which took place yesterday. It’s the all-important screening of the large intestine to spot cancerous colorectal polyps – that people love to put off, including Louie and me.
When we got wind over the summer that Covid cases will be worse come fall and winter that will greatly impact the medical system, Louie and I immediately decided to schedule our procedures during the summer. Well, the season came and went – and no colonoscopies. So, I started looking for my multi-page hard copy of the colonoscopy registration paperwork that I had received by snail mail a while back. Coincidentally, I got a call from the digestive health center. Oh no, I’m in trouble, I said silently as I answered.
“Would you and Louie like to schedule your appointments?” Oh, thank goodness you called, I told her. I can’t find my paperwork. She obliged to send me the forms via email – that I could fill-out online. Well, that made things a whole lot easier. I happily filled it out in less than 10 minutes. In a few days I received a call to schedule my procedure.
Here goes nothing.
Then I received the Endoscopic Procedure Details, confirming my appointment time as well as the step-by-step prep instructions to follow right “down to the minute” on the morning of the procedure. Geez, too much information. Well, I placed that aside for a while.
The point of no return came when I had to start the week-long preparatory stuff for the, shall I say, “cleansing,” or more bluntly, to empty my bowels. I could tell by looking at Louie and Jacqueline that they felt for me.
My supplies: Gatorade, Dulcolax tablets, and a small bottle of Miralax powder.
In the kitchen near the back door, I started mixing the powder with 64 oz. of Gatorade when Louie walked in talking to a friend on the phone. Louie said, Athena, say hello! After my greeting, I said, “Guess what I’m doing?” Louie’s friend replied, “It sounds like you’re making guacamole!” Louie couldn’t help chiming in: “It’s going to look like guacamole soon!”
When I told him about my procedure, he said, “Oh, Athena, I feel for you…” He had had two colonoscopies several years ago due to a health condition. “When I saw my doctor the second time, he said, ‘Hey, I remember you. Where are my flowers?’”
Thanks to the multi-day play-by-play details laid out by the digestive health center, I was less intimidated, and I made sure not to skip a beat. The last day before the procedure called for a strict liquid diet. From 5:00 p.m. until just after 7:00 p.m., I hung out in my office, which was next to the bathroom. Every 15-20 minutes, I drank an eight-ounce glass of the drink mix. Drinking the mix wasn’t so bad. But Louie kept calling me to come see something on television, and I kept yelling back that I can’t be interrupted.
The prep paperwork had drawings of six glasses that I checked off to help track my “cocktails.” The best of the fireworks, shall I say, started at 7:00 p.m., like clockwork, followed soon afterwards by just a few more less notable ones – the end of the show, let’s say. The last two glasses were saved to drink at 4:00 a.m., four hours before my arrival time -- said to aid in a smoother procedure.
At the clinic, I stripped down and put on a long gown. “Opening at the back…” I jumped into my bed and the nice nurse put a warm blanket on me. Ah, I’ll just go back to sleep. When I met my doctor in the room where the procedure would take place, he offered his warm greeting: “I haven’t seen you for 10 years!”
Before I could ask when the procedure would start, I felt a squeeze on my arm. My eyes opened and the nurse asked how I was feeling. “Uh, are we done?” I asked, feeling as though I just woke from a power nap. We are, the nurse said, as she offered me something to drink and a snack.
Then, my doctor appeared at the foot of the bed, and gave a two thumbs-up. “Everything is great,” he happily reported. No polyps. “I’ll see you again in 10 years!”
My first colonoscopy was different. I was so groggy I had to be rolled out to the car in a wheelchair. It was so much easier this time around and I felt great right away. No nausea, no aches, no pain, and no wheelchair. Is the prep procedure different? But something I have been doing for the last month could have helped, too: Diet modification, that is, avoiding foods that cause bloating or discomfort and eating smaller portions.
“You can now eat anything you would like,” the nurse told me.
Good timing on my part. Now I can watch the World Series tonight. Without distraction.
Washing Hands + Wearing a Mask + Social Distancing = Saving Lives