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Space: The final frontier.
Oh how I wish those words and the title of this post referred to extraplanetary exploration like what was originally intended.
But alas, that was not the case.
No, the space I am referring to is very personal.
I guess I could make a quite juvenile attempt to tie everything together with a reference about Uranus, or more appropriately Myanus.
By now I’m pretty sure my readers can guess what I might be referring to, especially if they read the following posts about me reaching my 50th birthday milestone:
You guessed it.
I took the plunge and underwent a colonoscopy (which now allows you to interpret the above Spock illustration in an entirely different light).
I thought I would share my experience with you all so that you can get a sense of what you have to look forward to.
As mentioned in previous posts, doctors typically make the worst patients.
We tend to either self-diagnose or delay seeking medical treatment as much as possible.
When I turned 50 I knew I could not fend off the inevitable and decided it was time to put myself back into the medical system as a patient and not as a physician.
I have previously mentioned that my father, an internist, passed away at the age of 50 from pancreatic cancer.
I figured now that I am the same age he was, I better make sure I myself did not have some insidious pathology brewing that could be cured before it was too late.
So within a month after my birthday I soon found myself in a hospital gown waiting for my work colleague, an Internist, to do the once over on me.
We went over the lab results from the blood work that had been drawn a few days prior.
I was pleased to find out that everything, including my cholesterol, was considered in a good range.
Of course we could not just end it there.
At the end of the physical I found myself bent over, gown in the back wide open, drawers down and receiving my first official rectal exam.
That exam was just a teaser of what I still had in store weeks later.
My thought process.
I originally had anticipated doing the colonoscopy outside of my workplace (I work in a large multi-specialty clinic).
Even if it was an out of pocket, out of network, extra expense I thought it would be worth it having it done by personnel that did not know me.
I envisioned myself in a vulnerable position, my elevated undercarriage exposed to all, and thought I would never be able to look at my co-workers in the eye again.
My internist assured me that there was no issue doing the procedure where I worked as he had the same thing done several years ago without issue.
With those irrational thoughts put to rest I agreed to have it done by one of my GI doc partners.
I knew that the best time for me to have a colonoscopy would be one of the Mondays I typically have off (I alternate between having a Monday or Wednesday off each week).
I chose Monday because that allowed me to undergo the famous colon prep the Sunday before and therefore would not require me to take an additional day off.
I soon found myself on the schedule within 2 weeks of my initial medical visit and less than 6 weeks after I turned 50 (trust me, I really did not anticipate, or even want, this to be streamlined so quickly).
Prepare for the worst.
I think most horror stories about getting a colonoscopy are not about the actual procedure itself but the “colon prep” you have to take starting the day before the procedure.
“Success is 90% Preparation, 10% Perspiration.”-Thomas Edison.
I was actually a bit disappointed that I was not instructed to take the famous “GoLytely” bowel prep solution that the majority of people have used in the past.
As an aside, I have to give props to the person who came up with the moniker of this infamous elixir who demonstrated his or her comedic chops with this tongue in cheek label as the victims typically do NOT Go Lightly once they make it to the porcelain throne.
Instead I was prescribed SUTAB.
I truly felt that the pharmaceutical company missed an incredible opportunity by assigning this drug this nondescript name.
The manufacturer of SUTAB should have taken a page out of the GoLytely playbook and come up with a more appropriate/descriptive title.
As the recipient/victim of said medicine, I can come up with a few more suitable names off the top of my head:
- The Liquidator
- Stool B Gone
- Colon Blaster 2000
- Oh God Please Make It Stop Now
I was also told to get a 10 oz bottle of Mag Citrate as the opening act for my bowel prep.
Opening The Floodgates. T-Minus 24 hours.
The day before my colonoscopy arrived way too fast.
It really was a toss-up between what was worse, taking the colon prep itself or being forced to be on a clear liquid diet for 15 hours.
The last solid food I was instructed to have was a “light breakfast.”
After that my food choices became severely restricted down to Jello and broth.
As someone who is quite the aficionado of food, this was quite painful.
To make it even worse, I was also told that any purple or red Jello was also a no-no.
This relegated me to the less desirable yellow (“lemon”) and green (“lime”) Jello varieties.
I also made the mistake of getting chicken bone broth as my other clear liquid diet option.
This broth was definitely not something I cared for.
What made the broth even less appetizing was that the color of the liquid going in pretty much matched what was coming out of me at the other end during this ordeal.
This brings me to the next level of torture in the colon prep, massive hydration.
I was to drink at least 8 oz of water every waking hour (plus there were additional periodic water boluses on top of this that I will detail below.)
At 1pm the actual colon prep process began, when I downed the 10 oz bottle of Mag Citrate I had gotten.
The flavor (lemon) was actually quite pleasant.
Magnesium Citrate is a saline type laxative, drawing in water into your bowels to help pass the contents along.
The hydration regimen I was on also aided in this process.
I really did not feel much effect from the Mag Citrate with only a slight unusual rumbling in my stomach that started about 90 minutes after ingestion.
I had to wait until 5pm before the fireworks began.
That was when I added the SUTAB into the mix.
I have no idea why 12 individual pills were needed, but I dutifully took each one.
I was instructed to then drink 16 oz of water over 15-20 min immediately, wait an hour after the last pill was taken, drink 16 oz more over the same time frame, and then 30 min later drink another 16 oz of water.
All my fears that the bowel prep was not working from the Mag Citrate portion of the colonoscopy prep were allayed rapidly.
I did not even make it to the 2nd 16 oz of water part before I had to rush to my bathroom and hold on tight.
Colonoscopy Pro tips:
- You should have an operating toilet within a brisk 5-10 second jaunt from wherever you choose to take the SUTAB because that is probably all the warning you will have before the floodgates let loose.
- If you are in a multi-story dwelling, please remain on the same floor as the bathroom you plan on destroying.
- Unless you have a sphincter of steel I just cannot imagine you going up the stairs and not have some “escaped convicts on the run.”
- Do not plan on doing any other activity besides drinking and pooping that day.
- Now is not the time to have friends and family visit.
- Housework, yard work, exercising, biking, hiking, etc will just have to wait.
It truly is something that you just have to experience to know what it is like to have all your insides finally see daylight by coming outside.
My daughter could hear the rumblings and noises emanating from my mid abdomen from a room away each time before I made the mad dash to my toilet.
The volume coming out of me was impressive.
There is an expression “dropping the kids off at the pool” when joking about having a bowel movement.
Well for my “kids” there was no casual dropping off.
Nope. My kids were essentially shot out of a cannon, achieving speeds far greater than even the tallest water park rides ever could.
I thought I saw a Lego piece from my childhood days achieve escape velocity and exit me resulting in a resounding thud against the porcelain wall.
It was as if my anus became a makeshift sprinkler.
And the cruelest part of it all was that just when you thought you were finished and had cleaned yourself up (as best you could), a 2nd wave would hit you as you started to stand up and move away from the lavatory.
Colonoscopy Pro tip:
- Be well stocked up on toilet paper before taking the colonoscopy prep.
- It would not shock me if you went through a full roll or two when all is said and done.
- Better yet, you can first treat yourself with this item which I fully utilized throughout this ordeal.
- Be well stocked up on toilet paper before taking the colonoscopy prep.
Fortunately as bedtime approached I no longer was under the wrath of SUTAB and was able to get a full night’s sleep with no “accidents.”
Sadly I still had more to endure the next morning.
At 9 am I had to take another round of SUTAB (all 12 pills followed by the water torture regimen).
By now there was hardly any material left in me and it felt like my body was just a tube/crazy straw for the water to go in one end and out the other.
My colonoscopy procedure was scheduled for 2pm and I was allowed to take clear liquids until noon.
The main event.
I arrived at my workplace and soon found myself in the holding room of our outpatient surgicenter.
I was given a hospital gown and told to strip down, which I unceremoniously did, to nothing but my socks (perhaps the reasoning was that they were out of the “splash zone”).
I was soon greeted by another colleague, the anesthesiologist, who helped lighten the mood considerably.
Soon after getting an IV placed I found myself whisked away into the surgical suite.
The gastroenterologist came in and I was then positioned on my left side.
The lights in the room darkened.
The nurse anesthetist then gave me Propofol, which truly was a Godsend.
I honestly do not remember anything that happened within a minute after it began coursing in my veins.
I remember waking up a bit groggy in the holding room.
I did not know how much time had passed because it truly felt like was only a few moments ago when I was getting the Propofol.
I also had no idea how I had gotten dressed (they instruct you to wear loose clothing so I went in with jogging pants, a very baggy T-shirt, and wore socks and Crocs (the same ones I got free courtesy of the promotion to honor health care workers during the pandemic.)
One of the requirements before being discharged after a colonoscopy is passing gas (the medical terminology for this is flatus).
During a colonoscopy there is quite a bit of air put in you (the purpose of which is to distend the colon for greater visibility).
All that air has to come out and I have heard that the sounds emanating from patients in the recovery room can create quite a cacophony.
Sadly I must have been completely out during this time because I do not recall being flatulent (I was really looking forward to having some impressive flatus and even joked about it with my fiancee that I wanted an audio recording of it so I could include it in this post).
But pass gas I must have because within moments of my awakening I found myself awkwardly trying to get into the wheelchair they brought for me.
Next thing I know I was out the surgicenter doors and transferred into my car.
I really was not hungry but I knew that, after going through this 2 day ordeal, I wanted to treat myself to some food before I went home (again using a page out of Mary Poppins’ playbook).
We first stopped at a local ice cream place and then we headed out to one of my favorite sushi restaurants.
Despite all this food, I was still ravenous later that night and resorted to snacking on some junk food before I finally went to sleep.
I think my body overcompensated for the lack of food from the day before.
I was curious to see how much weight I would lose from doing a colonoscopy prep.
I ended up losing 2.2 lbs in a day (so for those of you who think I am full of s*@t you are sadly mistaken).
That weight loss was quite short lived because after my post colonoscopy day of binging I not only put back on those 2.2 lbs, I added on an extra 1 lb for good measure.
As for the colonoscopy results, I was told that I had a diverticulum in my sigmoid colon and that there was also a solitary polyp which was removed and sent to pathology (this came back benign with “fragments of tubular adenoma and no evidence for high-grade dysplasia or malignancy”).
Whether or not that polyp would have ever turned into something more serious years from now is up for debate but I guess it is better to have it removed now and be done with it.
Getting a colonoscopy was probably the thing I dreaded most when my 50th birthday was approaching.
But to be honest, it was not that big a deal.
I thought it would be embarrassing to have it done at my workplace but honestly I think I had a better experience because of it (since everyone was familiar and I may have garnered extra attention because of it).
The worst part was the day before with the colonoscopy prep but the good from having the procedure done far outweighed the bad.
Colon cancer, which is the 3rd most common cause of cancer death in women and 2nd leading cause of death in men, is preventable.
The key is getting screened for this type of cancer and a colonoscopy remains the gold standard.
I hope this post recalling my colonoscopy experience serves as motivation for you to undergo one as well when it is your turn (part of this is selfish on my part because I really want my readers to live long lives and hang around 🙂 ).
Jim Gaffigan is one of my favorite comedians (I was fortunate to see his live show with my fiancee a few years back) and he does an incredible set on his colonoscopy experience which I have included below:
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Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
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