Sunday, November 14, 2010
The Wonderful Years Between Two Yucky Events
Okay, there’s no getting around the fact that a colonoscopy is UNPLEASANT, in other words, yucky. But, so is a mammogram or a pap smear. And though I have no experience with it, I suspect certain PSA screenings are no cup of tea either. But all are important screenings to detect cancer in the earliest stages possible.
The day before the screening is by far worse than the screening itself. First you flood your system with a variety of “preps,” as the medical community genteelly calls it. I would say the more graphic description is atomic laxatives. I took three different kinds – one harmless looking pop-sized bottle of a rather pleasant tasting lemon-lime carbonated liquid called Magnesium Citrate.
Hmmm . . . I thought. This isn’t so bad.
Next, I mixed powdered Miralax (238 grams) with 64 oz. of Crystal Light Lemonade, and had to drink an 8 oz. glass every 30 minutes. Initially, that didn’t seem so bad either. Until about the third glass. Between the frequent trips to the . . . well, you know . . . and the pewky sweet and sour taste of the concoction, I never want to taste another Crystal Light Lemonade again. And only five more glasses and umpteen trips to the . . . you know . . . to go.
Somewhere around the sixth glass, I was instructed to take four--yes, FOUR—Dulcolax laxative tablets. And there you have atomic.
This is all not to mention starving yourself the day before – not that you’d want to eat anything as you’re attempting to clean yourself out.
The next morning, feeling drained (literally,) we headed to the clinic at 6:45 a.m. for my procedure at 8:00. What a way to start the day. But, I was happy the whole thing would soon be over with.
The nurse explained to me that I would be given a sedative where I’d remain conscious, but that I wouldn’t remember anything. As I waited to meet the doctor, I scanned the room, wondering what all the pieces of equipment were for. To say the least, I was a little uncomfortable looking at the large flat screen TV in the corner of the room, knowing my innards would soon be flashed on the screen in all its HD glory. I hoped I wouldn’t be too conscious to experience that.
A rather handsome doctor came in, and the first thing I thought was, “How old are you, anyway?” He looked younger than my son.
I glanced back at the big screen TV and suddenly wanted out of there.
When the doctor left, the nurse came in to give me an IV. She told me to turn onto my left side. I remember staring at a poster on the wall, wondering when the words would start to get blurry. That was the last thing I remember before waking in the recovery room with my husband looking over me.
I felt a little queasy at first, certainly not hungry. I came home and slept for a couple of hours, then ate a few soda crackers, then some soup. For a couple of days, I felt a little “gurgly,” and didn’t have my normal appetite back, but after that, felt back to normal.
Not only was I thankful “the event” was over, I was thankful for the negative screening – one time when “negative” is a good thing. I couldn't help reflecting back to my colonoscopy in 2001, and wondered what might have happened to that benign polyp had the doctor not snipped the darn thing.
Here’s a list of the wonderful things that happened in between the two yucky events:
* My daughter and son both graduated from college.
* I got married.
* I have traveled to many places around the world, including China, Japan, India, Turkey, Italy, France, Peru, Greece.
* I have become an artist.
* I am about to finish my first novel.
* I’ve met wonderful new friends.
Had I not had the colonoscopy in 2001, had the doctor not found the polyps, maybe they would have continued to be benign, maybe not. But if not, think of all the good things I might have missed.
I don’t have to have another yucky procedure for another five years. I smile when I think of all the events I’ll experience in that time.
Note: The American Cancer Society recommends the following for screening of colorectal cancer and polyps:
Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of these testing schedules:
Tests that find polyps and cancer:
• Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or
• Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
• Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*, or
• CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*
Tests that primarily find cancer:
• Yearly fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)**, or
• Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year**, or
• Stool DNA test (sDNA), interval uncertain**
* If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.
** The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done by the doctor in the office is not adequate for testing. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.
The tests that are designed to find both early cancer and polyps are preferred if these tests are available to you and you are willing to have one of these more invasive tests. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you.
The American Cancer Society recommends that some people be screened using a different schedule because of their personal history or family history. Talk with your doctor about your history and what colorectal cancer screening schedule is best for you. For more information on colorectal cancer screening, please call the American Cancer Society and ask for our document, Colorectal Cancer: Early Detection
Information taken from American Cancer Society website.