Today I had my seventh colonoscopy. I’m afraid to report that colonoscopies don’t get easier with age. My mother contracted colon cancer when she was around 70 years old. She hated them. More specifically, she HATED drinking “the stuff”, the liquid you take to flush your digestive tract out. Back in those days (we’re talking about 1990 or so) you had to drink a gallon of rank tasting liquid. Then repeat the process 12 hours later. In between you shitted your brains out.
It’s much easier now. You only have to drink 48 ounces (you save 12 ounces! What a bargain) twelve hours apart. And the foul tasting stuff is only in the first 16 of the 48 ounces. A friend of mine told me about her colonoscopy prep. She took a pill. Even better she was awake for the procedure and watched it on TV.
When you get your colonoscopy, try to schedule it for early in the morning. The only slot my doctor had was 11:30 a.m. so I was pretty much up the Shits Creek without a paddle, so to speak.
For three days prior to the procedure you can’t eat anything that might get hung up in your inner tubes. Popcorn, peas, fruit with skin, nuts, etc. I had Indian food one night and Thanksgiving leftovers the another. The day before you can’t have any solid food, only clear liquids. I chowed down on tea, gatorade, and chicken broth. How do you handle a hungry maaaan?
At 4 p.m. I drank my first round of the stuff. I fought off the urge to throw up. Then, after an hour, I heard the telltale gurgle in my gut and ran to the bathroom where I made like a Saturn 5 rocket engine for about an hour. It’s unbelievable how effective the stuff is. It must have Drano in it to work it’s way through your intestines so fast. The entire time the stuff was doing, well, its stuff, I was thinking of one scatological joke after another. I was just making the best of a totally helpless situation.
After an hour, the storm receded and was followed by occasional shit squalls until midnight. I fell asleep with my alarm set for 4 a.m. when round two would commence.
Let me tell you, as a breakfast drink, The Stuff is rather rude. I downed the brew and waited. Then the voiding process repeated. This time, thankfully, I had no more solids in me. (The doctor’s instructions say that if the prep doesn’t work, you’ll have to do it for two days. I’d rather die.) We renovated the bathroom next to the man cave this year and I am happy to report that the toilet and piping passed the ultimate test with flying colors. Mrs. Rootchopper had put a new bottle of Febreeze in the bathroom and it kept the paint from peeling off the walls.
By about 7:30 I was empty. I could tell just by looking in the mirror. My belly was flatter than it has been since riding 4,300 miles to Portland in 2018. Mrs. Rootchopper drove me to the hospital and, after a 20 minute uneventful check-in process, I was taken back to the pre-op area.
I weighed in at 203 with my clothes and shoes one. I was down about 8 pounds from my last weigh in a month ago. (Have I got a diet for you! Actually, don’t even go there. I tried a water diet my freshman year in college. It messed me up for three days. And could have killed me.)
I got in my gown and laid down on a comfy portable bed. A nurse took my vital signs. My blood pressure was normal. My pulse was 44. (“I ride a bicycle. A lot.”) The nurse covered me with a warm blanket. Having had only about 4 hours of continuous sleep, I was ready to take a snooze. And so I did. Zzzzz.
The doctor was backed up. Wait, let me rephrase that. He was behind schedule. So I got a nice hour or two nap in. Then I was wheeled to an operating room. There the anesthesia nurse gave me a stimulant to increase my heart rate. A pulse of 44 leaves too little down side. Then she injected one of the tubes leading to my veins with an anesthetic and I woke up. In the recovery room.
I have no recollection of the procedure. For all I know they went out for lunch at Denny’s.
After a while my doctor came by with the preliminary results. (My brain: Please don’t be cancer. Please don’t be cancer.) He had pictures that look like a tunnel except for close ups of three polyps. One looked innocuous to him. The others looked worthy of a biopsy. Once that was done he removed them. Actually, he torched them. Seriously. Thankfully, the prep had eliminated the chance for a fatal blue dart.
My doctor, who has been doing colonoscopies on me for 24 years, thinks that the lab results will show that the polyps he biopsied are benign. He gave me the good news that if they are benign, I don’t need another colonoscopy for three years. (Most people who are free of polyps or tumors and have no family history are put on a five or ten year cycle. Thanks, Mom.)
I do hope that the prep is made easier by then. This was the hardest prep I’ve ever done. I attribute the difficulty to age. No wonder my mother hated it so. I can’t imagine being 70 years old and weighing all of 105 pounds and going through this over and over and over again. She was one tough customer. She also survived her colon cancer and lived another 20 years.
So there you have the whole story.
Many thanks to Mrs. Rootchopper for getting me to and from the hospital and waiting several hours longer than we had planned. And thanks to my doctor and the staff and nurses at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital for being so professional and good humored.