Passing the test

I feel a responsibility to post this.  I can only hope that someone that is as scared to have a colonoscopy as I was will read it and that it will give them the encouragement they need to get the test.  It really, really, really was as much of a non-event as people told me it would be. 

First, the facts as the doctor shared them.  Colon cancer is one of the only cancers that can be medically prevented today (not considering lifestyle choices to avoid risk).  There is no -oscopy for any of the other internal organs that can predict and remove potentially cancerous growth, other than the colonoscopy.  Every colon polyp will result in a cancerous growth, malignant or benign, unless it is removed. 

You guys also shared important testimonials.  Lillian shared that her husband's life was saved by his colonoscopy.  I owe it to Sydney to do everything I can to save my life.  Lucy really hit me hard when she said that without any chemo or radiation treatment, she avoided cancer by having a polyp removed during a colonoscopy.  Saving a life and avoiding the horrible life saving treatments available today are really powerful things to motivate me to take the test.  I hope that repeating them here is as powerful for that person that is afraid. 

The other powerful words came from my Sister.  We don't communicate very often.  Not that there is a problem between us, we just don't reach out much; my Mom keeps us up to date on one another's news and we visit when I am in town.  So, when she called me and told me she had her colonoscopy and they found a polyp and because of hereditary possibilities, I needed to have one, too, that was powerful.  She could have sent an email.  She could have sent the news through my Mom.  But, she didn't.  She cared enough about me to reach out to me and tell me about what was going on.  Powerful communication!

I was freaking scared poopless at the possibility.  That's not just to be funny.  I was scared of that very invasive test because I'd heard too many stories about it and because there was too much conflicting information.  So, the rest of this post is about my experience, or my "non-experience" with the test.

The cleanse - Everybody says that the cleanse is the hardest part.  There is supposed to be considerable discomfort in emptying the digestive tract.  The cramping is supposed to be very bad.  I didn't experience any of that.  A doctor (not the surgeon that did the test) suggested that I eat lightly for a couple days before the cleanse.  Even though no one else suggested that, when I told the nurses and doctor that I didn't have any trouble and suggested this was the reason, they all agreed that it made perfect sense.  I ate small, mostly meatless meals and starches that digested quickly (baked potatoes) on Sunday and Monday.  By Tuesday, when I did the cleanse, I was already pretty cleaned out and while there was a bit of very mild cramping, it wasn't any worse than any other unpleasant movement.  I had a small piece of hand work and I just took it with me to the bathroom.  I had stuff to keep me busy while my body was doing it's unpleasant work and that kept my mind off the actual unpleasantness of the work.  One nurse shared that lots of people try to bulk up on food because they won't be able to eat the day of the cleanse.  Those people have full colons when they start the cleanse and that makes it even more unpleasant.  So, try my doctor's advice because it sure worked for me. 

The test - okay, so some people say they sleep through the test and some people don't.  Nobody could give me a conclusive answer on whether you're really asleep or not.  The doctor called it twilight and said I likely wouldn't remember.  I remember the nurse giving me two injections and telling me to enjoy my nap.  I told her I'd like to wake up in a better mood and everybody thought that was funny because I was already laughing and joking with the doctor.  The day of the cleanse, you're not supposed to eat real food and you are supposed to avoid anything red, so I told him I ate beets and raspberry jello the day before.  It took a while to register and then he realized I'd played him.  But for just a few seconds, I could tell he was about to let me have it for wasting his time.  I do not remember most of the test.  But, I do remember the end and let me tell you this for sure...even if you aren't quite asleep, you're high as a kite and don't really care what's going on!  I remember asking a question about what I was seeing and my speech must have been slurred.  I remember the nurse asking me to repeat it and I did.  All three people in the room, doctor, nurse, and technician all answered simultaneously and then laughed (the answer was "poop" and I guess that's really funny during a colonoscopy).  I could see the live video on the monitor in the room and I can remember being fascinated that I was seeing inside my body.  I was very stoned and I thought how much it looked like one of those documentary videos and I kept waiting for the narrater to break in and tell me what I was seeing.  When he didn't, I asked.  And, then it was over and they were cleaning me up and the doctor rolled me to the recovery room.  Being awake during the test was the thing I was most scared of.  But I wasn't scared during the test because I was very, very high at the time and really didn't care.  It was all an adventure (and proof that the really good drugs are out there and that medical personnel don't share enough.) 

Post-test - I was home by 10am.  I didn't feel sleepy when I got home.  I had a little to eat, no need to rush.  I ate a piece of toast and drank an Ensure nutrition supplement.  I decided I was going to crochet.  I made about a dozen stitches and then told Rob I needed to lie down.  It was very like Camille (I vant to lie down).  And, I did and I slept about an hour and then I was up and going about my normal day, beginning with a huge lunch.  I told Rob the same stories for about the fourth time and he indulged me by listening like it was all new info. Then, he must have gotten bored because he started to finish the stories when I'd start them. That went on until supper time last night.  Ah, the great drug induced confusion.  Fortunately, that wore off.

Today, I'm back at the office. 

The results?  No polyps.  No need for another test for 5 years.  And, you can bet I'll have that next one because this one was a big nothing.  A real non-event.  So much so that I almost didn't write this post because I'm kind of ashamed of being so afraid in the first place. 

If you aren't saving your own life because you're afraid of the test, then please, please listen to my powerful words.  This test is nothing. 

The man after me came to recovery before I left.  He had three polyps and diverticulitis, all found in the test.  All corrected during the test.  Truly, ten minutes to a better life.

Have a great Thursday.  And, call your Doctor.  The most important life you save today might be your own. 

Now, let's all say the words together so we can take away their power.  POOP!  and BUTTHOLE!  It ain't nothing to be ashamed of.  Everybody has one and uses it the same way I do and we need to stop being ashamed to talk about it.  I apologized to the technician about anything she might see during the test and she laughed and called me "another face in the crowd."  She dared me to show her something she hadn't seen before.  I did not take her up on that.  And, if I did, I don't remember it, so it's like it never happened.



Anonymous said...

Lane, so proud of you for being brave and telling the rest of us your experience...and to 'get over it, do it" :)

have a great week!


http://thankfullga447 said...

Thank you for letting us know how important this procedure is. My husband has polyps removed each time.

Anonymous said...

So glad its all over! Even gladder there was nothing there!
We have never had a Dr. to tell us to eat lightly for several days before test. Really makes sense tho. Be happy and be well! lum

Anonymous said...

Thank you! It's more funny than anything else. Good info about the pre-eating since husband does this rather routinely. Why didn't we think of that?

Megan said...

Thanks for sharing this Lane. My husband had the test some years ago and thought it common sense to cut back on his eating for several days prior - and, like you, his cleansing experience wasn't all that bad.

I put off having my first mammogram for three years after I turned 50 (which is when it is recommended that you start having them ever two years) just 'because'. Obviously, a mammogram isn't nearly as invasive or as 'embarrassing' as a colonoscopy; I'm not even sure now why I was so intimidated. The worst part of the experience was that I was told not to wear underarm deodorant on the day and by the time I had the mammogram (3pm) I was concerned that I smelled a bit. LOL And, of course, the staff are all very very used to helping patients and they've seen it all before.

Again, thanks for sharing.

Sydney, Australia

Anonymous said...

I have to have them every 3 years since I did have CC. Believe me the Colonoscopy is a lot easier than the operation. Have had some polyps removed since so it has definitively saved my life. And they get easier every time.

Anonymous said...

Such a good post, if it allays ones persons fears enough for them to go have 'the test' it will be the best post of the year.

Think the semi-fast before the prep is really good advice and I will take it on board prior to my next 'test' because if find the prep is definitely the worst part for me.

Cheers from Western Australia.

Piece by Piece said...

A great reminder for everyone to have what ever test their doctor has suggested be done. A few hours of discomfort is worth it's weight in gold, if it saves a life.
I have the "boob squish" done every year, last year a "suspicious" mass was discovered! Scared out of my skin is to say the least. After additional scans and tests, the resulting diagnosis.....it was a cyst. Follow up done after six months, it's still there, but same size. Next month I go for another follow up with Dr. if the result is the same as before, I good to go.
Thanks for the post, so pleased the results for negative for you.
Enjoy life.

Elizabeth said...

I'm so glad it was a non-event for you. And I'm also glad you shared. For me, it was more the embarrassment of the whole ordeal than the fear.

It must depend on the doctor/location because I was completely out for mine. The doctor said "most people don't remember," and I assumed he meant it was because they were asleep. My prep was not unduly uncomfortable, just inconvenient. The prep solution was vile. It had a very nasty "purple" (not grape) flavor that couldn't have been covered up by any amount of Crystal Lite whatsoever. I had to will myself not to throw up the second dose. My desire not to repeat the process any time soon was a motivating factor. I was awake nearly from the time they wheeled me back into the recovery room, and not sleepy at all during the rest of the day. As soon as they would let me, I was out the door. I was home by 9 and so glad to have the day off work :) .

The actual procedure was a snap. As I mentioned, I had lot of anxiety around the whole process because it is embarrassing. One does not share these particular normal bodily functions with the world. What I thought was particularly amusing is the doctor telling me that I would feel gassy afterward and to not try and hold it in, but to "let 'er rip." His exact words. I made some sort of embarrassed reply and he said, "you're among friends here," which did a great deal to ease my embarrassment when it was time to put his advice into practice.

Also, what is up with the insurance passing more of the cost along to you when there is a family history? Can they really do that? My grandma died of colon cancer at the age of 64 (my parents turn 63 this year; that's a scary thought. They've both had their colonoscopies, thank goodness). When the hosptial called with pre-check-in stuff, they told me the total amount of the procedure and my part was half that amount. I was a little surprised, and then double-checked what our benefits are and it is supposed to be 80/20, so I guess that one little note of my grandma's cancer in the patient history section seriously jacked up the price.

Again, thanks for sharing. You are a "good read."

xo -E

Barb H said...

Congratulations, Cane, on having the colonoscopy in spite of your fears. I find the worst part is having to drink the foul tasting cleansing stuff. Just brought my husband home from having his and he had good results. It's worth a little discomfort to save yourself a huge headache (or pain in the ass).

Anonymous said...

Having had a colonscopy recently (for "cause" so to speak....I had unexplained bleeding, which as you can imagine, scared the crap out of me!) I can tell you that you have done lots of people a service by this excellently written post. You are exactly right...a colonscopy is a NOTHING procedure! The worst part is drinking the vile prep liquid. My tip for that part is to get a liter of your favorite flavor of Gatorade and alternate gulps between the prep liquid and Gatorade. Nothing can mask the flavor of the vile drink but alternating with Gatorade made me less nauseous.