Saturday, January 14, 2017

Tales from a Colonoscopy Rookie

The prep is the worst part.

That’s what smug colonoscopy veterans tell you. They say it with assurance, like a chef cooking something exotic tells diners “it tastes just like chicken.”

I’m no fan of frog legs and I’m thinking I’ll like a colonoscopy even less.  Still, I’m 51 with a family history of colon cancer. I’m technically past due. So I reluctantly schedule the procedure. It’s now the night before and I keep repeating, “the prep is the worst part.”

I was surprised I could buy everything I needed for the prep over the counter, including beef broth, Jell-O, Dulcolax, Miralax, Gatorade (other than purple or red) and baby wipes. As I check out, the clerk looks at me like I must be planning some party.

On prep day, I eat nothing more than beef broth and Jell-O. That’s just as delicious as it sounds. But, as we know by now, the worst is yet to come. As evening sets in, I take two Dulcolax tablets. Then I mix a whole bottle of Miralax into two giant bottles of Gatorade, which I spend the next several hours drinking. I cap it all off with a couple more Dulcolax tablets. For the rest of the night, I wear out a path in the carpet between the couch and the bathroom. My family knows to steer clear. My wife shares her sympathy … and some baby wipes.

It isn’t pleasant. It isn’t supposed to be. This is the alleged worst part.

Sometime after midnight my stomach finally starts to settle down.  I fall asleep and doze peacefully, except for a dream where I soil myself. I wake up and double check. Thankfully, it was only a dream brought on by the evening’s stressors.

The next morning I’m still nervous. I’m second guessing things. I’m starting to think that I’ve been sold a bill of goods about this colonoscopy thing. The prep isn’t the worst part. The camera up the backside has to be the worst part. The nurse at Medical Center East senses my anxiety. She reassures me. The prep is over. The IV is in. The rest is easy, she says.

Of course, she’d say this. She’s in on it like the rest of them.

But there’s no turning around now. I’ve already told the anesthesiologist about my allergies and I’m being rolled away to the room where the procedure will take place. I keep my doubts to myself and turn onto my side as directed like a good soldier. I’m eased off to sleep. Less than 30 minutes later, I wake up back where I started. The doctor has shared good news with my wife. Everything went well. No polyps. No cancer. I won’t have to do this again for 10 years.

I am relieved, of course. But more importantly, the experience gives me a strange sense of purpose. It endows me with an important message I must share with those who follow. I feel compelled to sit down at my keyboard as soon as possible and pass my wisdom along to the public. To wait even a day more, would be nothing short of dereliction of my duty to humanity. So here goes dear people: The prep is the worst part.