Autumn has Arrived with a spiced latte furvor.
I love seasonal changes and embrace each one for different reasons. As the days grow shorter and temperatures cool, I’m excited to welcome oversized sweaters and open-fire weenie roasts. I find many people live for the release of the Pumpkin Spice Latte from their local barista, and although I do enjoy pumpkin muffins and pie, I’ll defer my coffee to the good ole’ caramel macchiato. If I’m feeling bold, I may go for the ice blend rather than hot, but cooler temps dictate the warmer libations for me. No bashing from the PSL crowd; our differences make life enjoyable even though it may be polarizing, be kind. Have you ever thought of trying to make it yourself? Here’s a recipe for you diehards out there.
The Dreaded Colonoscopy
Self-care. Most of the time, it’s easy peasy for your medical needs. If you’re female, yearly Paps and exams are a normal unpleasant part of being a woman. Men aren’t as diligent when they’re younger; work requires it, insurance makes them or their spouse forces them to go when they must, or a bone is broken and sticking through the skin. Even the ophthalmologist is a yearly quest that is painless outside of your wallet, that is. Dental care is a bit harder, especially for those with a slight phobia, but it’s a standard of self-care that you endure. My doctor has strongly encouraged the colonoscopy to set a baseline, especially after the death of the incredible Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman who died at forty-three years old. The number of younger humans contracting colon cancer is increasing. Check out this healthy diet for prevention and due diligence with screening.
I believe there are a few factors for the hesitation for the procedure. A colonoscopy is for an “old person”. However, as the tragedy of Mr. Boseman’s death made headlines, colon cancer testing is increasingly encouraged for all adults, especially anyone with a family history of this killer cancer. A long-time friend’s mother passed away from colon cancer when we were in high school, and in the recesses of my mind, I’ve always thought to honor her by getting tested. I’ll admit, however, life got in the way and hearing the horror stories of the prep allowed me to make an excuse after excuse not to have it. I finally bit the bullet or swallowed the prep, this past week, and I’m going to share the crappy truth with you.
It’s not that bad.
I’m not going to paint you a pretty picture or tell you it’s a breeze. But, I’m not going to lie. However, twenty-four hours of discomfort to ease the mind and find nothing to set a baseline or detect an anomaly/catch cancer early provides treatment options. It’s far better than dying from this horrendous disease. Okay, so, here we go.
Twenty-Four Hours Before
All your paperwork is complete, and the gastroenterology physician and surgery centers have answered all questions at this point. The pharmacy calls you and let’s you know that your prep is ready. I receive a phone call reminding me no solid food until the colonoscopy. I don’t mind that as I’m looking at it as a cleanse. Chicken broth: Check. No red or pink liquids: Check—lots of water. Check. Other than coffee, that’s all I drink anyway.
Small Town Pharmacy
I run to the grocery where my local pharmacy is housed. I pick up a few things to throw off any curiosity seekers where the tech (whom I know) asked me for my DOB. She glances at me, eyes wide. “Okay, we have one ready.” She retreats out of sight, and her and the pharmacist approach. I leaned forward, voice lowered. “first one”. Ebony smiled and said, “I’m so glad you’re doing this, I care about you.” The pharmacist says, “just follow the directions, deviate anything to your doctor’s orders.” Tones beeped as my friend, the tech, rang up my order. I asked her to double bag it to keep away prying eyes. She nodded, then triple bagged it. I didn’t want anyone to see it. I was embarrassed about doing what needed to be done. I turned, and the woman behind me guessed and smiled. She reached for my hand and said, “it saved my Harvey’s life.” I felt good, embarrassed still, but good that I was doing it and left the store feeling optimistic but nervous of what’s to come, and come fast from what I heard.
I do a little of my own prepping in the bathroom. I make sure the fan is working, there is air freshener and the toilet is in good working order. I have a surplus of accessible toilet tissue (worth it’s weight in gold during the pandemic and colonoscopy prep) with plenty of reading material. I know, old school, but I have a pile of magazines waiting for me, Psychology Today and The Smithsonian. I’m ready.
My appointment is at 9:45 the following day on a Wednesday. My spouse has requested the day off because you are put under heavy anesthesia for the twenty-minute procedure. You are groggy and can’t drive, can’t even remember instructions. I don’t have to ask off a day, I’m an author, a Realtor and am flexible in my hours of work, but made arrangements just in case a house comes up for a client in this very tight market. Anyway, I reviewed the instructions from my physician and the surgical office where the procedure will be performed—nothing to eat or drink after midnight other than the prep and water requirements. I pull out the box, the cardboard container of the nasty bowel prep. Here is the box:
I have a two-step prep and I’m nervous. I’ve heard horror stories as to the taste, the thickness, the results and the anticipation is the worst part of the whole process. So, here we go.
I had my first prep dose at 6:00 p.m. while spouse went to get fast food so it wouldn’t bother me. There’s only so much chicken broth one can tolerate before getting hangry.
The taste reminds me a bit of cherry cough syrup with a strong bitter aftertaste. You know what it sounds like when someone is trying to cough up a loogie? It made me want to do that, that throat rumbling trying to expel something, but the action felt better. It wasn’t that it was thick, or I didn’t notice it being nearly as bad as a dose of Nyquil. However, after drinking as much as I could, I took a breath, every time I would drink the solution, I would have the urge to do loogie throat exercise and chase it with lots of water. After you’ve downed the sixteen ounces, you must drink two twenty-four ounce waters to complete the directions.
For about thirty minutes, I felt fine and watched part of the Netflix show Manifest until the first rumbling of intestinal unease hit. My husband laughed. I had enough time to hit pause and make it to the porcelin bowl that would be my safe harbor for the next few hours. I got some long-overdue reading in; a fascinating fact about the origins of the bandana can be found in the Smithsonian Magazine, November 2020. Find the article, The Global History of the Bandana.
I read many articles on and off for about three and a half hours. I will admit here, my readers, that the cleanse worked, but I would advise buying the softest toilet paper and being gentle. All that rubbing, well, you get it. A bit raw. I also found it helpful to have cleansing wipes, but as a homeowner with a septic tank and knowledge of sewers from my time at the city, they are NOT flushable. Just saying. I finally found relief around 11:30 pm and caught a few minutes of sleep, although restless.
Five hours until Colonoscopy
At 3:45 am, I took the second dose of the prep. Again, I didn’t gag, but I was less apprehensive now that I knew the taste, thickness, and tolerable results. But, I’m tired, cranky, and feeling like I’ve had stomach flu for several hours was not my happy go lucky self. Cramping, intestinal noise comparable to pipes clearing in old buildings and knowing I cannot go far from our bathroom, I have banned my husband for the night. I’m trying to drink all the prep at once, but can’t do it. I find it more difficult going down this time for some reason. But, I am successful and follow up with another forty-eight ounces of water, and Yeti is my velcro baby. How much could possibly be left in my system? After all, only had two helpings of chicken broth and lots of water, but don’t let that fool you. It hits faster and with more urgency on the second go-round. I began Grace and Frankie no sooner than I hit pause and spent the next four hours cleaning out the pipes. Yes, buy the best toilet paper possible, you’ll be grateful. No one told me that, so let me give you this gift. Feel the paper, open the plastic and compare. You can thank me later.
One hour until Colonoscopy
Husband leaves me at the door of the surgical center as per COVID protocols; no family allowed. I send him off to eat a gourmet meal at McDonald’s. Yes, at this point, it’s chef’s prepared delicacy, and I want it. Well, I also don’t because it would send me to the bathroom in a doctor’s office with shitty toilet paper. I can’t take that anymore. It’s 8:45, I’m tired, I’m raw, hungry, and now I have to answer questions, give phone numbers and sign paperwork. Luck is on my side, the doctor is ahead of schedule. They show me to a room, ask me am I wearing contacts? Nope, have on my glasses. “Oh, you can’t take them in there, so, get undressed, everything goes in the bag. Then go down to room A, see it?” Um, no, you took my glasses. She smiles a practiced smile. “Oh, sorry. I’ll watch for you. Now, get in the gown, the open part on the back. Don’t worry; we’ve seen it all before.” Um, well, ah, no. Not this girl. Too much Catholic school and modesty beat into me, nope.
I walked the cold hallway past men, women, doctors, and nurses with my back to the wall, unable to see room A until a blurry paisley-dressed nurse waved at me. “She tells me to lay down on the gurney and open the back up, so I’m not laying on it.” I did as she said. The door is wide open, and she lifts the gown to make sure it’s open. I get a bit snappy, I admit. I told her to stop or shut the damn door. She looked at me with sympathy, or compassion, or as if I am a child having a temper tantrum, but I told her I need to remain covered no matter how many times they do this; it’s a first for me. Then, I asked how many they do in a day. She says “Today is a slow day, only twenty or thirty. On a busy day, it could be sixty or more.” Damn, I think it’s a production line and I’m on it fixen to have a camera shoved up my ass while a clock is ticking.
They place a nose cannula and an IV and that’s about all I remember until I am groggily being woken by a nurse. Propofol is a deep, deep sleep. It was the first time I had it and remained groggy all day.
My report was immediate, clear, no polyps, and no issues. See you in ten years. That’s it? Wam bam thank you mam – like a bad date. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Air Pollution Aftermath
The nurse explained that the doctor blasted all the remaining “material” out with water and air to make the visual clear. The results of that “blowing out” for lack of a better term, is that can be painful and embarrassing: flatulence, wind, gas, flatus, farting, borborygmus, pomposity, however, you want to say it, my boys said “bongo”. After the procedure completed, the farting continued, some loud, some continuous and offering relief, others were just poots here and there. I bent over, pooted, while the doctor was talking to me telling me all was great, I farted. I know he heard me. I saw that little upturn of his lips. He knew I knew and said nothing. When I dressed, I let one rip, each step from the hospital, I bongoed, pooted and out and out farted. I tried to stay away from everyone, I didn’t want my husband to bring the truck while I waited, – farting in public. Walking was good, movement of the air through the intestine would prevent cramping. But, OMG, every single step for hours, I farted. I couldn’t go to a public place and wanted to go home. I felt like I wanted to cry. I don’t know why, maybe because I was so tired and they woke me up; no coffee or food for almost two days, I was spent. To quote the Wizard of Oz, sometimes, there’s no place like home, especially after a colonoscopy.
My gratituious video for the Google Powers of internet transmission.
All of this detail is to make sure you know what is going to happen. Let me reiterate that the apprehension to this procedure was unwarranted. The prep is easier and they continue to make great strides, we can send people into space, surely this will continue to get better. It’s no big deal. Try to find the humor and just like my friend, the pharmacy tech said, “I’m so glad you’re doing this, I care about you.” and to Harvey’s wife, “it saved his life’, maybe it’ll save yours.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my account of the dreaded colonscopy.
See you in the bookstores!