Notes on a Colonoscopy

close up photo of a stethoscope
Photo by Pixabay on

Back in February when I had my annual physical and was not yet 50 years old, my doctor said it was time for me to have a colonoscopy for screening purposes. I said, “I kind of figured that, what with me turning 50 next month.”

“The guidelines have changed,” my doctor said, “Now they recommend 45.”

He told me that I should try to get one scheduled by the end of the year. He gave me a sheet of paper with local gastroenterologists, and said, “You might want to call sooner rather than later. I’m hearing that a lot of these places are, um, backed-up.”

Fast-forward seven months. I turned 50, went on vacation in Ireland, and when I got back, I finally decided to schedule the appointment. The colonoscopy took place last week. The results were all good. Here are some notes and observations for anyone who might find them useful.

  • There really should be a service that you can subscribe to which handles all medical related appointments and forms. I, for one, would gladly pay for a service which would have access to my calendar, and could handle all of the back-and-forth involved in finding, screening, and scheduling an appointment, and filling out the necessary forms, and dealing with the insurance company.
  • Everyone I talked to who’d had a colonoscopy warned me that the “cleansing” was the worst part. Back in high school, I worked in a pharmacy and I remember people coming in for that 64-oz jug of Golytely with the powder on the bottom. I heard that stuff was terrible. My prep was as follows:
    • Liquid diet only beginning the day before the procedure. Since my procedure was on a Thursday morning, it meant a liquid diet beginning first thing Wednesday morning.
    • At 3pm on Wednesday afternoon, take 2 Dulcolax tablets.
    • At 5pm on Wednesday afternoon, drink 32oz of regular Gatorade laced with a bottle of Miralax.
    • At 5:30am on Thursday morning, drink another 32oz of regular Gatorade lacked with a bottle of Miralax.
  • It was impossible to find a 64oz bottle of Gatorade anywhere. It was impossible to find a 32oz bottle. Ultimately, I ordered 2-32oz bottles from Amazon. I quickly discovered a problem. The bottle of Miralax contains 238grams of very fine, flavor-free powder. The 32oz Gatorade bottles are filled to the brim with Gatorade. Adding the powder to the bottles would displace the Gatorade. What I did was this:
    • Drank down about 1/5th of the Gatorade to make room for the powder.
    • Added the powder and shook up the mixture.
    • Drank the rest of the Gatorade mixture. It tasted like… Gatorade.
    • Opened the other bottle of Gatorade and poured half of it into the first bottle.
    • Added half of the remaining powder to each bottle.
    • Returned them to the fridge for the following morning.
  • At some point during the evening, someone took my two bottles of Gatorade out of the fridge to get the milk. They left them on the counter all night. In the morning, I had drink 32oz of warm Gatorade.
  • I drank my first bottle of Gatorade at 5pm Wednesday afternoon. Given what everyone told me, I expected something on the order of volcanic eruption with significant magma displacement. What actually happened was not nearly that dramatic, or even particularly inconvenient. I was warned to stay near a bathroom after taking the medicine, but I could have gone out for my morning walk with no ill effect. Kelly says this is because I have an unusual digestive system to begin with. I was kind of let down by the whole thing.
  • The worst part of the process by far was not eating. On the Tuesday before, we had a remarkably busy schedule with 8 overlapping events that for some reason we had to attend. I had no time for dinner, and it wasn’t until 9:30pm that I finally wolfed something down quickly. That was the last solid food I had until about 11:45am on Thursday. All day on Wednesday, I was so hungry. I saw food everywhere. I thought about food constantly. It was miserable. Far worse, in my mind, than the cleansing phase.
  • My appointment was for 10:30am on Thursday, but for some reason, I had to be there an hour early. The reason: I had a bunch of forms to fill out. The the very first bullet above.
  • I had a fantastic anesthesiologist, Dr. B., who was funning, charming, and engaging. She explained everything and said that the hard part was over and that now I’d earned a good nap. They used Propofol to knock me out. I’d been under general anesthesia a few other times so I knew the drill. The wheeled me into the room where they perform the procedure. I talked with Dr. B about Ireland. I remember I explaining to her that the day we went to the Cliffs of Moher was the only foggy day we had. And then, I was in the recovery room.
  • I wolfed down the crackers and water they gave me, while the doctor came by and told me that I had one of the best colons he’d ever seen. “No one’s ever said that to me before,” I told him.
  • When I got home a little while later, I made myself a ham, turkey and cheese sandwich. It was one of the best sandwiches I’d ever had in my life.

It is a week later as I write this. There were really no ill-effects to the entire process, other than being hungry for 36 hours. And the fasting even knocked off a few extra pounds.

Written on September 21, 2022.

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