As the year comes to an end, everyone seems to be jumping onto various health bandwagons, perhaps due not so much to health concerns as much as getting what they can before their new insurance deductibles start over. Now that makes sense! And now that my “procedure” is over, I can look back on it with fondness… You know, tell my tale, share my misery, share a chuckle— No, I don’t believe me either.
One lovely morning I get a letter in the mail. I don’t get many letters these days, especially from Gastroenterology. A chill goes down my spine because the time has finally come. It’s time for me to join the many humans across the globe—it’s time for a colonoscopy!
I open my letter and skim through it. Let’s see… I’m doing the “Nulytely/Golytely split dose prep.” I smile. That sounds so charming, like some sort of cotillion at a preparatory school. “Dear Southern Lady, please allow me this opportunity to invite your darling daughter to the Annual Golitely (I prefer that spelling) Split Dose Prep Party. Please, do let me know by the end of the week. Ta ta.”
I dutifully read my instructions. You’ll need to take the rest of the day off from work after your procedure. Okay, I’m retired. I write, so I work from home. No problem. Could I be looking at an excuse not to make dinner? Smile! You’ll need someone to drive you home after the procedure. Cool, my hubby would do that anyway; he’s such a sweetie.
Skim through the other instructions—three days prior, no food with seeds, no corn, no nuts. Sheesh, what are they going to be looking for up there? The day before, DO NOT EAT ANY SOLID FOODS! Okay, now we’re getting to the point. The day before the *procedure*! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner—clear liquids. No red, orange, or purple anything. Why would that matter–ewww. Never mind. I have to mix that weirdly named stuff and refrigerate it… okay, whatever. I’m off to get my supplies.
I go to the store/pharmacy and, while awaiting what the nurse called in for me, collect what I’ll need for the *procedure*. I purchase anti-gas pills, wondering if they really work. I should put one in some 7-Up and see what happens. Guess I’ll find out. Next, A&D Ointment. What’s that? Baby butt cream? I have a bidet; I shouldn’t need it, but I grab a small tube. You never know!
I muse over my list of liquids I can have. Not many… Funny, it specifically says nothing red, orange, or purple. I don’t recall eating that many foods in those colors. Funny though, how few foods one can find that aren’t red, purple, or orange! I get three cans of chicken broth, a jug of white cherry (??) Gatorade (everything else is in the forbidden colors), and some Jello. Two kinds—pink lemonade and lemon. Everything else—yeah, you know. Apple and grape juice to finish, and by now, my prescription is ready.
Imagine my surprise when I get to the counter, and they hand me a big white jug that looks like a 5-gallon container of antifreeze or something. The other customers are looking at me; I know they’re wondering what the hell that could be? I slink up to the front, trying to hide this massive jug that I’m starting to get a bad feeling about, and make the rest of my purchases.
Once I get to the car, I check out the jug. 4000ml. I whip out my calculator… OMG, they want me to drink 1.0 gallons of this stuff? I open it and sniff. Nothing. I get it home, fill it up, and stick it into the refrigerator. Now I wait.
The day before the *procedure* I can’t eat human food—only clear liquids NOT of a certain color. Everything red, purple, or orange suddenly looks delish. My hubby and daughter sit in their chairs in the living room, holding their food like squirrels, nibbling so I can’t see it. Hey, I can still smell that hamburger! You’re supposed to eat eggplant and tofu tonight! You promised!
I pout and drink my consommé… which is fancy bouillon cubes. And I eat pink Jello. Or yellow Jello. Actually, it’s pretty tasty. I love Jello. I think I ate three boxes in all. And wash it down with grape juice and apple juice. The Gatorade was a no-go.
The day before, at 6 p.m., after a day of not eating real human food, the process begins! I have to drink the liquid, one glass every 15 minutes, until I’ve finished half of it. 2 liters. One-half gallon. 2000ml. I pour out a glassful and take my first, big drink. Holy. Sweet. Crap. All I can see are the words—don’t throw it up! The taste is indescribable! OMG, now I understand why they call it bowel solution. They mean it tastes like— never mind. It’s so thick and salty and just… horrible! It still makes me shudder, just to remember it!
Remember when I was reading about the charmingly named gallon jug of powdered death and was told to fill it with water and refrigerate it. Somewhere in those instructions, some guy with a perverse sense of humor stated it “might taste better” if it was first refrigerated. What a joke!! It might turn into liquid gold if refrigerated. Or it might turn into a fully loaded brand new Jaguar—okay, okay. But really, refrigerating it can’t possibly help with how terrible this stuff tastes. You have to not only drink half a gallon, an 8-ounce glass at a time, every 15 minutes, but you have to keep it down! I tried to drink by holding my nose, not very effective, then hit upon using a straw, which I can hold past my taste buds. That works if I drink fast enough. And I think it being cold keeps me from gagging on it.
At 8 p.m., I take the anti-gas pills, then two more at 10 p.m. I’m tired, but did I actually think I was going to get to sleep? Ha, ha, I laugh at my naiveté. As the evening passes, the waiting game begins. First, my stomach starts gurgling and making a fuss. The same lively awakening then happens a bit lower down. And it was more than a fuss! Thank goodness for my bidet. As the evening… and the night… progress, the ointment and I get to know each other quite well. It’s a nice little ointment, just what an adult sore bottom needs.
On the day of the *procedure* from hell—” I must cut in at this point for those who’ve done this before. I had no idea the fun was just beginning. Okay, back to the report. I had to drink the rest of the delightful concoction six hours before the event. Oh, and still keep it down. I can keep drinking liquids up to four hours before, but by now, I’ve figured out whatever I put in my mouth goes to my stomach, and it doesn’t stay there very long before putting in an explosive appearance at the other end. Like—just passing through on my way out your newly installed back-end cannon, ma’am. See you shortly!
I’m so tired of sitting on the toilet. Of leaning against the wall, sooo sleepy, but knowing there isn’t any point in going to bed. I’m not taking any chances, believe me. I don’t trust my legs to get me to the bathroom fast enough if I’m half-asleep.
As I write this, I recall reading the following droll statements from the instructions:
- You will have diarrhea from the bowel preparation medications. Gasp! No! No fair; I was expecting a bit of diarrhea, not Armageddon of the Ass.
- Because of the diarrhea, you will need access to a toilet. Plan your day with this in mind. Really? So that bit about my neighbor’s flower bed shouldn’t have happened—that was just an accident, you know. No, the instructions should have said, “plan your existence with this in mind,” because you can’t get more than a few feet from a toilet. We have two fairly close together in our house, and I made sure I was always somewhere between the two.
- Most people have bloating and abdominal discomfort. This is normal, don’t feel alarmed. I’m not alarmed. I’m exhausted, cranky as hell, my butt hurts, and only later do I realize—this was just the beginning!
- And again, with the, “we know you might throw the bowel solution up. Slow down but drink it!” I didn’t throw up, but I feel deprived, as though I might have been happier and somehow vindicated by doing so.
Later, you also learn that they might reschedule you if you aren’t “cleaned out” completely. OMG, what could possibly still be up– Maybe an octopus? Because it would have to be something with suckers the size of dinner plates to hang on after what my intestines just went through!
We get to the hospital. The whole time, I still feel like I’m going to explode, but I know there couldn’t be anything inside me. I haven’t even had water. I’m also having an endoscopy, which is another camera down the throat to look at the stomach. All I need are a couple of tubes up my nose and in my ears, and I won’t have a free orifice open anywhere. I am really grumpy! A lady in the waiting room keeps whining on her phone about how thirsty she is. She wants the person on the other end to sneak in something for her to drink. Really? I want to yell at her— After all you just went through, you’re going to screw it up? I only threw that in as proof of how crabby I am. Normally I ignore other people in waiting rooms. They don’t want to be there any more than I want to.
Despite my previous comments, there isn’t much to say about the procedures themselves because of that wonderful thing called twilight sleep. Such a beautiful name, so lovely, so calming… I hear harps play every time I hear the words. My anesthesiologist was a saint. Ray, I believe, was his name. We held hands and got to know one another through the power of my grip, which is surprisingly strong. Ask Ray. I can’t be put into twilight sleep (*harps*) because of a breathing problem, so it was a bit uncomfortable at times. For me, too. My friends and hubby who have gotten the complete treatment—all they can say is bring it on!
In closing, everything was fine with me. I have to do this more often than most people do. Getting this important but dreadful (to me) procedure is my legacy, left to me by my father, the first one in the family to have, and ultimately pass from, colon cancer. And I’ll stay on top of it, no matter how brutal I think the prep is.
Thanks to all the Gastroenterology people out there—you’re the best!