Do you dread the very thought of a colonoscopy? Is it the preparation part that you’ve heard so many nasty things about? Or could it be the idea of someone poking around back there? Perhaps you’re fearful of what the test will find? Well, you’re not alone. More than 22 million people have not had screening tests for colorectal cancer. The reasons vary from fear, to lack of medical insurance, to assumptions that they will not get colon cancer due to no family history of the disease. The fact is, that everyone should get a colonoscopy every ten years beginning at age 50, or sooner, if a close family member has had colorectal cancer.
It took me nine years to finally go through with mine. Prior to that brave day, I’d tried to weasel myself out of getting one by doing the annual fecal occult blood test, despite the fact that such a test doesn’t directly detect colon cancer although often used in clinical screening for that disease. Each year the test came out negative. I’d wait a while longer and let another year would go by.
It wasn’t until a new blood test became available through Quest Medical Labs called, ColoVantage, that I came to my senses. The blood test was advertised on a large sign in the waiting room as a colorectal screening tool that required no preparation or sedation. “That’s for me,” I thought happily, assuming that if the test came out negative I’d be free from getting a colonoscopy altogether.
The results were positive. This meant, according to my doctor, that my DNA shows that I am at a high risk for colorectal cancer. My paternal grandmother died of colon cancer, and a couple of family members had precancerous polyps removed. The blood test indicated that this disease was lurking in my genetics.
“But I’m a vegetarian,” I reasoned. My colon doesn’t get all clogged. Still, the worry nagged and I grew increasingly nervous about whether or not I had something brewing in my intestines.
So, off I went to my doctor who promptly gave me a prescription for a solution called, Suprep, to drink the day before the procedure, and an appointment with a Gastroenterologist.
I had over a week to stress over the procedure and findings. Each day that drew closer, the anxiety increased. I must have spoken with several or more friends who’d already had a colonoscopy. All of them told me it was no big deal. My nerves wouldn’t listen to reason. I continued to stress. I was tempted to cancel, but this would have made at four cancellations in the past year. I had to go through with it or I’d never have peace of mind.
I began to prepare for the dreaded day. I went to the supermarket and got my supplies. Lemon popsicles, white grape juice, and clear vegetable broth were so me of the choices I allowed on the list of foods I was given that one can ingest the day prior to the procedure. I passed on the jello, but I did get a package of hard candy. No red or purple, only yellow or green. Butterscotch seemed a good choice.
Finally, the day of the prep had arrived. At 3p.m. I drank one small bottle of the prep solution mixed with the indicated amount of water. It was cherry flavored and went down fairly easy. Then, as the directions indicated, I drank two more large cups of water within the next hour. At 10p.m. I did a repeat performance with bottle number two. The hardest part was getting and keeping all that water down. The butterscotch sucking candy and lemon ice pops helped. So did walking around the house affirming, “I will not throw-up, I will not throw up.”
Despite the nausea, the clean-out wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined. Quick and painless, is how I’d describe it. I spent most of the time sitting on the throne talking on the phone. I didn’t even lose any sleep, assuming I’d be up half the night still in the clean-out mode. But by 1a.m. the waterworks had stopped and I slept for six hours. My procedure was scheduled at 10:30a.m. That allowed ample time to get myself showered and ready to go.
Talk about anxiety! An hour before going, I must have peaked to an all time high to the point of a full panic attack. But, there was no turning back. My colon was cleansed and I was ready to go. I got in the car and my husband dropped me off to have the test I’d been putting off for nearly a decade.
The staff at the Center greeted me with smiles. Seemed that everyone there was in a fabulous mood, except for me. Their good vibes must have penetrated, because I began to feel a teeny bit calmer.
The nurses upstairs were equally friendly and reassuring as I was hooked up to the IV while lying in a small private curtained off section, wearing a gown and covered with a blanket. Good thing. I was shivering from nerves, so much so, that my blood pressure was on the rise, and I don’t even have high blood pressure.
When it was time to be wheeled into the procedure room, the anesthesiologist, asked me why I was so nervous. I told him I had a fear of being put out and that I preferred to be sedated just enough to relax and not feel pain. Maybe even write an article about it. He said, “I could work with you on that.” Wow! That was easy! My blood pressure was on the decline.
Once in the room, the doctor came in. His jovial personality did wonders for my gazillion fears. I guess such a job warrants patience for nervous Nellies like me.
The next thing I knew, I was watching the procedure being done on a large screen that I faced as I laid on my left side. I fell in and out of a light sleep. Then a nurse tapped me on the arm. I opened my eyes. I was back in the small curtained off section.
“It’s over?” I asked. The nurse gave me an affirmative nod.
The calming after-affect of the anesthesia had set in and I wanted the feeling to last a bit longer. Like maybe the rest of the week. Who knew?
Once dressed, I was led to the snack room, where cookies, crackers and coffee awaited. There, the doctor met with me and gave me the good news of a clean colonoscopy. Not even a polyp. The paper given to me had a return date of three to five years. I felt like kicking myself for the needless stress and worry I’d put myself through.
So, if you’ve been putting off that colonoscopy, call your doctor and make an appointment. It’ll be easier than you ever imagined. And you just might be saving your life.
If you do not have health insurance, many doctors will work out a payment plan in order to have the test done.