The Colonoscopy Two-Step

I had a colonoscopy yesterday, and came through it just fine. This is one of those not-much-fun but important procedures necessary to maintain good health. But honestly, it’s not that bad. If you have never had a colonoscopy, read on. If you have already had the pleasure, feel free to stop.

For me, the hardest part of the whole thing is having to drink all that lovely “prep” to prepare for the procedure. If you have never had a colonoscopy before, let me tell you this: be prepared for the effects of the prep. About an hour or so after you drink the first few glasses, your lower forty will start rumbling. Trust me: stay close to the bathroom. 

You will pass a lot of liquid; this is part of the process and completely normal. This means that the prep is doing its job, which is to clean out the bowels. For me personally, the only pain I felt was minor irritation of the anus (this is when you really need extra soft toilet paper!). Bear in mind that this highly effective sphincter is not used to this kind of assault on its sensibilities, so it will feel a bit sore after a while. This too shall pass—along with the prep.

NOTE: Please remember to drink lots of water during this time. The prep will not hydrate you, but water will; you will need to stay hydrated. Be sure that you check with your doctor and/or nurse so that you are clear on your instructions. 

Since I had not had this done for four years, I had forgotten the protocols. Personally (and I am only speaking for myself here), I found the actual instructions convoluted. Here’s why:

Having been a technical writer for 30+ years, I am used to the “educational” style of writing instructions; simple steps 1 through the end. The instructions I was given were all over the place and confusing. To clear this up, I had spoken with two different *nurses on two different days, and got conflicting information.

The first nurse told me to only take two of my six medications on the day of the procedure and said nothing about splitting the prep. The second one told me to go ahead and take all six medications on the day of the surgery. She also confirmed that I was to split the prep; 3/4 of it the night before, and the last quarter the next morning, three hours prior to the procedure.

Be sure to check with your doctor’s office regarding what to eat/what not to eat three days before the procedure. 

Once that was all straightened out, it was a breeze. When the Crankee Yankee and I got to the hospital, everyone was kind, considerate and helpful. They went through all the paperwork, with me and assured me that this was going to be a simple and easy procedure.

The Crankee Yankee was the keeper of my jacket and my purse. He told me that, while I was under, he was going to go get a sandwich in the cafeteria. I said, “what, you’re going to go in there with my purse over your shoulder?”

He shrugged and said that he was comfortable with his feminine side. The nurses and I cracked up.

I met the operating nurse, the doctor, the anesthesiologist and another nurse who prepped me for the procedure. Everyone made me feel comfortable and safe, and it wasn’t long before they wheeled me into surgery and I drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up in Recovery, a nurse kindly brought me ginger ale and cookies (a real treat after a day of drinking clear liquids!). She told me that I had had two tiny polyps that had to be removed, but these are quite common. When this happens, the polyps are sent to pathology to see if they are cancerous or not. This is just standard procedure, and, from what I’ve read, they are usually benign.

But the whole point of this post is to let you know what to expect if you have never had a colonoscopy before. It’s just one more necessary thing to do, just like having a mammogram or a yearly physical. As with many other things in life, be prepared, NOT scared!


*Dear hardworking and under-appreciated nurses, please know that I do not put you all in one basket. I deeply respect you and your hard work and all you do to make your patients safe and comfortable. I couldn’t do what you do if you gave me a check for a million dollars.

Especially these days when hospitals often deal with paper files and online files, things can get complicated. As such, I feel that it is the patient’s responsibility to ask questions and confirm the answers. Although you good people in the medical profession know all these things by heart, we regular people do not. Please try to be patient with us patients!

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