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Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Rite of Passage

Last year I turned 50. There are certain things that come with this 'tender' age, one being a colonoscopy screening.

I put this off for a while. After all, who wants to voluntarily subject themselves to such a personally invasive procedure? Because my issues stem from a lazy bowel, the aging process and perimenopause have only intensified my symptoms. Most insurance now covers colonoscopies as preventive care and my insurance covers it 100%. I had no excuse.

So, after being sick with the flu back in December, my body determined for me that it was time for this. After finding a great gastroenterology doctor back in January, the procedure was scheduled for today, February 28.

So, I'm here to tell you that I SURVIVED, and the process wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I want to share my experience in hope that this post will help anyone who has also put this off out of fear or embarrassment.

MY SUGGESTIONS:

1) Start preparing yourself the week of the procedure, not just the day before. The day of the prep you will be on a clear liquid diet. AT LEAST one day before then, limit yourself to light foods high in protein such as yogurt and eggs. This will help sustain you and keep you from having as much to expel, which will make the experience much easier.

2) Shop for prep day items ahead of time. I bought mango and peach jello, apple juice, Gatorade, ginger ale, popsicles, hard candy, and Lipton dry chicken soup mix. Of course, I didn't need all of this - but since I was so limited in what I could have, I wanted a variety. I bought the chicken soup mix instead of just chicken bouillon because the flavor is much better, and then just strained the noodles out. I sipped this in the morning along with eating jello, and then again at lunch. And in the middle of the afternoon, I ate hard candy to keep my blood sugar up. By the evening I was drinking the prep mix and didn't want to eat much of anything during that.

Yes, you will be hungry but not painfully so. I'm the kind of person who usually grazes most of the day so I didn't think I would do well. But I just kept my mind focused on the goal - a clean scan - and prayed for strength.

3) The hardest part for me was the liquid prep mix. My doctor prescribed MoviPrep. Some doctors prescribe a large bottle of Miralax mixed with a gallon of Gatorade. The MoviPrep is a prescription and is a low volume prep, meaning you only have to drink two liters over several hours. And no, it doesn't taste good. It reminded me of lemon scented kitchen cleaner. I tried mixing in dry orange drink mix, but it seemed to intensify the flavor instead of mask it, so with the second batch I left it plain. What helped me was to drink the mixture with a straw as far back in my throat as I could put it and then take a large drink and not breathe in, which kept me from tasting it so much. Then I would "chase" that drink with some flavored sparkling water. It was directed that I drink 8 oz. every 30 minutes until the first liter was gone, then wait an hour or so to start the next liter, and again 8 oz. every 30 minutes. In between the 30-minute intervals, I ate hard candy (Lifesavers and Werthers hard caramels). I was instructed to start the prep at 5 p.m., and I was really afraid that starting so late that I was going to be up all night. Instead, I was finished by 11 p.m. and was able to sleep uninterrupted for the most part.

Do try to schedule your procedure for early in the morning. I was lucky enough to be the first one of the day and arrived at the hospital at 7 a.m. By 7:45, they had me prepped in the outpatient area with an IV in my hand. By 8:10, they were starting the procedure and I was OUT, snoozing and pleasantly dreaming. The next thing I knew, I was waking up to my husband's smiling face about 30 minutes later. And I've never been more relieved in my life than when the doctor told me that all was well. After drinking some Sprite and recovering for about 30 minutes, I was up and dressed and out the door.

And the happiness I felt when it was all over - priceless! We stopped at McDonald's for a southern chicken biscuit and then later for lunch, my sweet hub went to one of our favorite restaurants and got me a caprese sandwich and homemade potato chips. And as you can imagine, the food never tasted better.

So here I sit on the same day, a little tired but so relieved and happy that I don't have to repeat the process for five years. And next time, I won't be afraid because I'll know exactly what to expect. Having the peace of mind of knowing the issues I've had are not because of disease has freed me to plan ahead for my future, which includes my first grandbaby this fall!