The title says it all, no? In this post, I talked about my daily stomach pain and digestive issues and mentioned that the next step for me is a colonoscopy. I’d like to talk a little more about that here.
When I first met with my current GI doctor, he told me that a colonoscopy was likely in the cards given my symptoms (daily diarrhea, frequent intense lower abdominal pain and cramping) but he wanted to explore other possibilities first. When he ruled out other causes such as parasites or food allergies, he suggested it was time to consider a colonoscopy.
I was terrified. I’m still pretty scared. At first, I had no idea what to expect, but we talked, and I did some research, and I’m feeling a little more informed. I wanted to write this because I know colonoscopies are common for people over 40, but they are still rare for those of us under 30. The procedure is the same, but it’s nice to be able to relate to someone your own age.
The procedure will be performed in my doctor’s office rather than in a hospital and will only last about an hour. For that hour, I will be under general anesthesia (unconscious) via an IV in my arm. Some doctors will only sedate you (you remain conscious) for the procedure, but my doctor prefers this option and so do I. I’ve been under anesthesia before when I had my wisdom teeth removed, and it’s not very bad at all. I was most nervous about them sticking the needle in my arm, but as they asked me to count backwards from 10, I got to 9 and was out. I woke up asking when they would start the procedure, and it was already done!
While unconscious, a tube that blows air and a camera will be inserted into my rectum, colon and lowest portion of my intestines. The tube will blow air to expand the cavity and allow the camera to see all the areas of my colon. The doctor will look for any abnormalities (the most common being polyps) and in my case he will be looking for inflammation (an indicator of Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and damage. If there are polyps, they will be removed and biopsied.
After the procedure, I’ll rest in the doctors office for a few minutes while the anesthesia wears off then I need Chris to drive me home as I’ll still be a little loopy. I’ve heard the procedure is so painless I could go to work that day if I needed to, but I’ll be getting it on a Saturday, so I’ll just rest.
That’s it! That’s the procedure. Not bad, right? I’ve read that the procedure is the easiest part. Rumor has it, it’s the prep that’s a pain in the butt (get it?).
Here’s how the prep works:
For three days prior to the procedure I have to stop eating all fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The reasoning behind this is that these foods are high in fiber and take a long time to digest (which is why they’re so good for weight loss). My colon and lower intestines will have to be free of solids for the doctor to get a good look at their linings, so this window gives enough time for even slow digesting foods to exit my digestive system.
The day before the test, I begin an all clear liquids diet. I can drink chicken broth, water, yellow Gatorade, light soda, black coffee, or light colored Jell-O, but I can’t eat anything. That will likely be the worst part for me because I’m always hungry.
On the day of my fast, I also have to take a laxative and a prescription liquid specific to the test. It’s all designed to flush out my colon, so I have to stay very close to a bathroom. Obviously, I will not be working that day.
On the day of the test, I can drink water up to four hours before, then it’s nothing at all until after the procedure. That’s pretty standard when you’re receiving anesthesia.
I think I’m most nervous that the prescription liquid will make me sick because I have a sensitive stomach that’s even worse when it’s empty, and you have to keep the liquid down. I’m secondly most nervous (not a phrase, I know) about the hours leading up to the procedure. It’s at 10:30, and in the city, and I just know I’ll be up at 7 pacing my apartment’s floors and panicking. I’m an anxious person to begin with and thoughts of going unconscious will probably make me a wreck. Also, my doctor is in the city, so I’m third most nervous about feeling sick and being stuck in Holland Tunnel traffic on the way in. I’m hoping the day and time will bode well, but I never know with New York.
I’ll spare you guys the gory details but will provide updates about the prep and procedure in case anyone has to go through anything similar. Hopefully, I get some answers out of all this.