Uh huh, you guessed it: This post is about getting my colonoscopy.
I turned 50 last November. My gift to myself was to get a colonoscopy. I say that somewhat tongue in cheek, but I'm not kidding. I'm writing this article for all of you who are getting to that age, or have passed that age but haven't gone in yet, so you'll know what to expect and why you should have this done.
Why you should get a colonoscopy
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, accounting for 9 percent of all cancer cases. According to the American Cancer Society, there were an estimated 141,210 cases of colorectal cancer in 2011 in the United States.
Coloractal cancer can almost always be detected by a colonoscopy in its earliest and most curable stages. It just doesn't make sense to not get screened. The procedure can literally save your life.
This is my experience, and why I think everyone should give themselves (and their families) this gift.
Here's the "bottom" line: It's not that bad.
The day before
This is when the fun begins. You'll need to either buy some stuff called Suprep (other brands are Moviprep, Golytely and Nulytely), or a combination of Miralax and Dulcolax to cleanse your colon. I haven't done definitive price comparisons, but the latter combo is less expensive. Unfortunately for me, I didn't know that until after I purchased the Suprep, and of course, pharmacies won't let you return anything so I was stuck. The Suprep cost me $73 after insurance.
- Stage 1: Drinking the cleanser
My surgery was scheduled for a Friday morning, so my prep began Thursday. I ate a light breakfast, then at 8 a.m. I drank my first power-mojo-cleanser. I mixed a bottle of the stuff (about 12 ounces) with 16 ounces of water.
I drained it in one motion — none of this "toe in the water" stuff. I opened my mouth, tilted back my head and guzzled it. It's the only way to go.
It actually wasn't that bad; kind of like sour gatorade. I was expecting a terrible after-taste, but there really was none. So, that was Stage 1: Easy.
- Stage 2: Drinking water
You have to drink 32 ounces of water within one hour of drinking the colon-cleanser. I drink a lot of liquids anyway, so this part wasn't that big of a deal. When my wife goes through this, she'll have a tough time with this stage. She can get to the end of a meal without taking a single sip of water. Me? I've gone through two or three Diet Cokes with my chips and salsa — and that's before the my enchiladas are even served, so drinking 32 ounces wasn't a big deal. Stage 2: Easy.
- Stage 3: The void begins
This is where the real fun begins. Keep in mind that you are fasting at this point — at least from food, and any liquid that has pulp-type stuff. Sodas, water and some non-pulp juices are OK.
About 30 minutes or so after guzzling the Suprep my stomach starting making serious noises. It sounded like a thunderstorm was going on down there. I will spare you the details; suffice it to say that the cleanser started to do its job.
Doctors warn you that you might need to basically camp out in the bathroom. That wasn't my experience. I have an office in my home, and could safely get my work done without risking a disaster. I did spend a fair amount of time going back and forth to the throne, but honestly, it wasn't that bad. Stage 3: Could've been worse.
- Stages 4, 5 and 6: Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.
These steps are a repeat. At about 7 p.m. I drank the next batch of cleanser. Same deal: mix with water, guzzle it down and then drink 32 ounces of water within an hour.
By this time, I thought I was quite cleaned out, and wondered if I even needed to go through the second round. Boy, did I!
I spent the evening and into the wee hours of the morning essentially doing the same thing as I had done all afternoon. I didn't sleep too well, since the storms continued rumbling through my stomach. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't exactly Shangri-La either. Stages 4-6: Not too bad.
The day of
- Stage 7: Surgery prep
We got to the hospital — Ogden Regional — at about 7:45 a.m. I checked in at the front desk and got admitted. Easy peezy. We went down to the endoscopy center and waited for a few minutes. A guy (I think he was a CNA), came out and asked me some questions, I had to fill out a form, and we went to a little room where I changed into the lovely hospital gown and I got to put on those cool socks that have sticky stuff on the bottom.
I have to say that the people at the hospital were super nice, and very professional. I was extremely impressed.
- Stage 8: The moment of truth
They wheeled me into the surgery room and had some awesome music playing. The first song was "America Girl" by Tom Petty — talk about a good way to start a surgery. This really nice nurse was talking to me like we were best friends. She was a ray of sunshine and made me feel totally comfortable with what was about to happen. She set me up with the IV and told me to relax for a few minutes. I actually fell asleep.
That's when the doctor came in. I'd never seen him before in my life. Seemed like a nice guy, but it was kind of weird that I spoke to him for less than a minute before letting him perform such a delicate procedure.
After he asked me a few questions, they turned on the good stuff. I felt the effects of the anesthesiology like sweet nectar. The talkative nurse asked me if I felt the effects, and all I could say was, "Sure do. Feels good."
I was out.
- Stage 9: Recovery
Before I knew it, I was waking up. Two things were very obvious: I was thirsty, and I had serious gas. The problem is that they pump a bunch of air into you during the procedure so they can see better. Nice for them, bad for me.
The nurse came in and said to "let 'er rip!" so I did. She said she hears it all day at work, then she goes home and hears it from her husband all night. So I asked them to bring me a Diet Coke and tried to clear out the gas, which is a lot harder than you would think.
I had crampy, bloaty, stomach problems for about four hours or more. That was by far the worst part of the entire ordeal. Stage 9: Not so fun.
All in all, the entire procedure was not really that bad — certainly not bad enough to put it off. That would be just plain stupid. Yes, it was inconvenient, uncomfortable and all that, but good grief, anyone who doesn't have this procedure done because they're afraid or don't want to go through it is stupid and selfish. Yes, I said selfish.
I was lucky; I got a clean report, and I'm good for another 10 years. I already know what I'm getting for my 60th birthday.
The guy next to me wasn't so lucky. I could hear the conversation the doctor had with him. They found a few polyps and he has to go back in a year. But hey, hearing that news is better than not knowing the polyps were there and waiting until it's too late.
So, if you're over 50, get a colonoscopy. Just get it done. You'll feel better in the "end." And it makes a great gift to your family: The gift of a clean bill of health.
Steve Schmutz is a devoted husband, father of five daughters, grandfather of nine, and a software entrepreneur, writer and blogger. He's also one of the original "Guys That Know." Visit www.guysthatknow.com and www.steveschmutz.com.