Speaking of Colonoscopies, It’s All Behind Me Now

A few weeks ago I received a letter from Sandpoint Surgery Center. I knew what it was going to say, so I sent a quick email to my primary care provider to ask if she really thought I needed to have another colonoscopy since I’d had one just a few years ago.

“I think colonoscopies are great screening tools and if they recommended a repeat in five years you should probably do that,” Michelle Anderson, DNP, FNP wrote back just about immediately. I was afraid of that.

You see, when I had my last one, they found a very small polyp. Just one. So, I thought I might get by with waiting at least another five years, but no. So, in order to write this article, I called to make an appointment. Yeah sure, all for journalism, none for easing my fear of colon cancer.

“One in 22 men and one in 24 women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime,” the American Cancer Society’s website says. It’s the third most commonly diagnosed cancer. There are some risk factors you can change with diet and exercise, and some, like getting older, you can’t.

The prep regimen begins with picking up a packet of information from the surgeon’s office, getting a medical evaluation, blood test and EKG at the hospital and then after stopping at the store to purchase the needed supplies, going home to think about spending roughly two days preparing for and having the procedure.

I must say this, from beginning to end (pun intended) everyone, from the receptionist at the surgical office to the nurses and physicians, was extremely cheerful, probably because it was me and not them going through this, and there’s something inherently funny about self-induced diarrhea.

My test was scheduled for Friday, so Thursday is prep day. A clear liquid diet is ordered: coffee, tea, broth, soft drinks, Jello, popsicles but nothing red or purple and no milk. Honestly, the only thing good about yellow Jello is that it rhymes, but I ate it. Then, I drank broth because I thought I might get shaky if I drank too much tea.

Note to self: next time (boy, I hope there isn’t one) make my own chicken or beef broth. Anything would have tasted better than what comes from a can or a cube.

The instructions say to mix 8.3 ounces of Miralax into 64 ounces of a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade, and, if you like, chill it. At 2 p.m. you’re to start drinking eight ounces every 15 minutes until it’s gone. About 2:05 I wondered what happens if it doesn’t work. At 2:07 I didn’t have to worry about that.

I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you that it just comes out. Not like having a tummy virus where you have cramping and feel bad. For me, it was a bad idea to chill the mixture as drinking that much cold liquid reduced my core temperature and I was freezing. I was really happy that I remembered Ralph Merrick, a registered nurse at Bonner Gen, telling me last time not to chug the stuff, but to drink it steadily. That way it doesn’t try to come back up.

On Friday, somewhat sleep deprived, and with the cleanest colon in the county I went in for the procedure. More medical info is taken and the anesthesiologist and surgeon both came to talk to me about what was going to happen and asked if I had questions.

The test, for the patient, is really simple. You’re given an IV with a cocktail of Propofol and other than commenting that the operating room bore no resemblance to those in television shows I remember nothing else until I was awakened by the nurse.

Diagnosis? No polyps, no more colonoscopies. After a day or two all is back (if you know what I mean) to normal. Bottom line (another pun intended) is that if you’re over 50 you should be talking to your PCP about whether or not you should have one. It’s behind me now!

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.