Posted in Health

The Requirements of Aging–an Honest Retelling

As a woman, there are things (like annual pap smears and mammograms) that I’m required to do. I do them because I’m supposed to.

As a human, there are things (like going to the dentist every six months) that I’m required to do. I (mostly) do them because I’m supposed to.

As a 50 year old human, a new thing entered the list of required duties. For various reasons (see previous posts!) it got put off for a year. But I am still a good human, so I yesterday I did what a good human does. I got my first colonoscopy.

Whenever you bring it up, anyone who has had one says the EXACT same thing: The prep is the worst part. Yup. It absolutely is. I thought I would take this post and be honest about it, since I know I have readers who are the right age but haven’t done it yet because they are nervous.

Thursday I spent the day drinking tea and ginger ale and “eating” orange jello and chicken broth. I was honestly mostly not hungry. My stomach thinks sugar is an acceptable alternative, apparently!

At 6pm I drank the first of the two “Suprep” bottles mixed with water to make 16 ounces. IT WAS HORRIBLE. Seriously awful. The manufacturer was going for a cherry flavor, but ended up with an uber cough medicine taste that once I finished I kept spitting. I honestly held my nose closed so I could drink it. It was that awful. I followed it up immediately with 16 ounces of orange Gatorade. 30 minutes later I had 16 ounces of apple juice. (There is another prep that involves Miralax and drinking more liquid. I may ask for that next time to avoid the awful cough medicine taste)

At that point I felt pretty awful. I’m not a big drinker of liquids to begin with. I’m also not a big person (5′ 1.5″), so 48 ounces in 35 minutes was a LOT. The instructions said it could take anywhere from 1-4 hours to start working, so I just hung out in the bedroom near the ensuite. Around 9 I was really tired so I let myself sleep, figuring I’d be up a lot overnight.

10:05 I woke up, realizing that four hours had passed and nothing had happened. I called the oncall doctor, who encouraged me to go and buy Magnesium Citrate, change the time for my next dose of Suprep from 4:45 to 2:30 and then, if necessary, drink the MC at 4:30. I ran out and bought the 10 oz bottle and hoped I wouldn’t have to use it.

10:30/10:45 things finally started. Let’s be honest, people. It was gross. Just lots and lots of diarrhea. The only good thing was no accompanying gas pains. Sometimes I would have five minutes in between bouts. Sometimes even less. Sometimes I would be literally running from the bed to the bathroom–it was that urgent. I changed the wake up time to 4:20 because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be needing the Magnesium Citrate.

Around 12:30 or so I laid down, waiting for the next go around, and woke up with my alarm at 4:20. I took the 2nd dose of Suprep & water then and orange Gatorade (downstairs, which ended up being a mistake because I was too far from the bathroom!), ran upstairs cursing all the way (and waking up my startled teenagers who don’t hear Mom talk that way!).

The directions say you are supposed to drink the prep followed by two 16 ounce clear liquids in an hour. I literally couldn’t do the 2nd one because I knew I would throw it up. I finally finished it around 5:30 or so and did the back and forth with the bathroom for a bit.

Jim got Bennett to work at 6 and Ethan off to school at 7 (Bless him, he was great the whole day!). I went downstairs at 8:30 for him to get a shower and then go one after around 9:40. By that point the bathroom treks had slowed quite a bit.

(As a side note, hunger was just not a thing, so don’t worry about it. You are so full of liquid that it just doesn’t occur to your stomach to miss food.)

10:40 at the endoscopy office, fill out paperwork and wait for my name to be called. I was really thirsty and kept thinking about waking up to sip ginger ale. They got me in the back, took vital signs, chatted about the procedure, put in an IV and wheeled me back. Once they started the Propofol I felt maybe a second of dizzy and then was out.

The next thing I knew I was coming to in the recovery area. My brain woke up more quickly than my eyelids did. I wasn’t tired, per se, but just didn’t want to open my eyes. When I finally did open them, the nurse was smiling and offering something to drink. GINGER ALE IS THE BEST THING EVER. I got one small can in me and woke up more. Jim came back at that point and the doctor came to chat. They found a 4mm polyp and removed it and send it to pathology. I’ll get a call next week about it. If it’s fine, I’ll go back in 7-10 years. If it’s precancerous it will be 3-5 years.

I got dressed, wobbled my way through the medical building and into the car, went home, drank, ate for the first time in 45 hours and slept for a couple of hours. Even through propofol is “quick acting” and out of your system, the combination of that and the poor night’s sleep the night before kept pulling me back into sleep. I forced myself to get up around 4 and stay up so I would sleep ok at night. I wasn’t very hungry the rest of the day, just VERY thirsty. I had two more small cans of ginger ale and two large glasses of apple cider. I hung out on the couch pretty much the rest of the day, watching TV and reading. I went to bed around 10 and slept pretty well until 5am when the cat started being a jerk.

So there you have it. It wasn’t fun, but honestly…it’s fine. Between drinking the awful stuff and the diarrhea, it’s mostly just gross. The things I was worried about –hunger, low blood sugar at work–were really no problem. The thing I didn’t know to worry about–how sore my tushy would be from the diarrhea and endless wiping, well, I’ll be better prepared next time.

If you are putting getting a colonoscopy off because of the prep–don’t. It’s about 12 hours of yuck. That’s it. I’ve been home less than 24 hours and don’t dread it the next time. Just get some bathroom wipes, and something in the Desitin family.  Go! Make the appointment!

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