Right about now I should be on my way to a friend’s holiday open house, an event that I greatly enjoy and haven’t been to since Covid messed everything up. Instead I am at home sitting in the chair nearest the bathroom. Yesterday I started preparing for a colonoscopy tomorrow morning. It’s my sixth or seventh colonoscopy. I’ve been getting them since my early 40s because I have a family history of colon cancer. Thanks, Mom.
The procedure involves threading a camera through your colon and looking for anomalous tissues. If any are found the doctor will remove them. In order to see what’s going on, the colon must be completely empty. To this end (so to speak), the prep used to involved drinking a gallon or two of powerful laxative solution that tasted horrid. Now it involves taking six laxative pills and drinking a gallon of powerful laxative solution that tastes horrid. Medical science marches on.
Yesterday morning I ate breakfast. Eggs and waffles and a banana with four big cups of coffee. That’s the last solid food I can have until after the procedure. Yesterday afternoon I took three tiny orange/red pills. Nothing happened. Then boom the laxative kicked in. I spent the next several hours literally running back and forth to the bathroom. By bedtime all was calm and there appeared to be not one atom of solids left in my gut. All I can say is that Dulcolax packs a mighty punch.
I started today with a scrumptious breakfast of ginger ale, hot tea, and chicken broth. There are pretzels and cereals and Christmas cookies all over the kitchen tempting me. Eat me! Eat me! I can hear them whispering. Nope. Not gonna.
At 2 p.m. I will take three more pills. Then at 4 p.m. I drink a quart of laxative solution. At 9 p.m. I drink another quart. I am guessing things will settle down and I will be able to get to sleep around 2 a.m.
Tomorrow morning I go to the endoscopy center at 7. There, I will be given a gown and sedated. Then I’ll wake up and Bob’s your uncle.
When I first started getting colonoscopies, the results were negative. I was placed on a five-year cycle. During my third or fourth colonoscopy the doctor found and removed polyps, the precursors to cancerous tumors. These were removed and I was placed on a three- year cycle.
As unpleasant as this process is, it’s infinitely preferable to cancer treatments. If you are 50 or older and haven’t had a colonoscopy, get one. All you need is a good doctor, some laxatives and someone to drive you to and from the doctor’s office. People with a family history of colorectal cancer should start getting colonoscopies at 40.
Even a colonoscopy is not 100 percent effective at detecting tumors. An old roommate of mine died from colon cancer even after having one. Nevertheless, colonoscopies are far more likely to detect polyps and tumors than other methods. (One drug is on the market that claims to find 92% of colon cancers. That’s an excellent success rate for free throw shooting in basketball. Alas, cancer ain’t roundball. Go for the scope.)
My friend Tim blogged about his first colonoscopy. He has a gift for cutting through the technical jargon and getting right to the scatological humor.