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I did it and survived

What to expect when having a colonoscopy.

Article Author: Beth Stambaugh

Article Date:

Bathroom door

A Popsicle® for breakfast. That's how my day started. Thoughts of the evening and the next day ahead were making me feel anxious, to say the least.

I had dreaded it, postponed it and plain-out feared it. Let's face it – the entire thing sounds gross. A colonoscopy, that is.

The first time I made the appointment, I chickened out. Working for a health system, I know how important health screenings are. Heck, I write about them all the time. Colonoscopies are the most effective way to detect colon cancer early – when it's most curable. During the procedure, suspicious polyps can easily be removed. It's recommended to have a colonoscopy at age 45 and then every 10 years after that (earlier if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps).

So, big girl pants on, I finally rebooked my appointment.

Colonoscopy Prep 101

The day before my procedure, I could have clear liquids only. Hence, the Popsicle for breakfast. Jell-O® and 7Up® were lunch and dinner was the same.

Let's talk about the prep. It's the worst part, as they say, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. At 3 pm, I had to take two laxatives. I was a bit concerned about being at work during this time. So I went home early. (Pretty good excuse, I figured.)

I made it successfully home and hunkered down for the storm – the "s—" storm, that is. Over the course of the evening, I had to drink 64 ounces of clear liquid mixed with a powder laxative. (Tip: I used Citrus Cooler Gatorade®, which made it taste sort of good.)

Fortunately, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, came out. Sleeping was a bit of a challenge, though, as I got up five times for more bathroom fun.

The colonoscopy procedure

When I woke up the next day, I actually felt fine. My husband and I headed to Baptist Medical Center South for the 8:30 a.m. procedure, and he stayed in the waiting room so he could drive me home afterward. In the pre-op room, the nurse, who was amazingly comforting, gently rubbed my arm as another nurse inserted the IV. It stung for a few seconds.

Then it was showtime. I was wheeled into the operating room and a gastroenterologist explained the procedure to me and emphasized that I would be comfortable and wouldn't feel a thing.

That was hard to imagine because I had done my research. During a colonoscopy, the doctor uses a long, flexible tube about a half-inch in diameter that allows him or her to see possible abnormalities in the lining of the colon. The colonoscope is inserted through the rectum and advanced to the other end of the large intestine. That just didn't sound good to me!

The anesthesiologist came in and began the IV drip to put me in twilight sleep. We talked about work and tennis and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery room. It was over! I had survived and I felt relieved. I learned that I had a small polyp that was easily removed during the procedure. They sent it off to pathology and suspected it was benign.

After about 30 minutes in recovery, I was discharged, and other than feeling hungry, I felt fairly normal. My husband took me to our favorite little diner and I ate like a champ. I was a little groggy afterward and had a glorious bonus day snoozing on the couch.

Diagnosis: Colon polyp not a problem

About a week later, I got a letter verifying the polyp was benign. It felt good to be able to cross this important health screening off my list. I'm glad I did it. And glad I can put it "behind" me. You can, too! Don't delay because colonoscopies are the best way to detect colon cancer early.

Is it time for your colonoscopy?

A primary care doctor can review your risk factors and refer you for the procedure. For more information on colonoscopies or to schedule an appointment, visit Baptist Primary Care or call 904.202.4YOU (4968).

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This story was originally published in October 2019.

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