Just watched a segment on the "Today" show about two women living with late-stage colon cancer. One important thing that was mentioned was that people don't talk enough about the issue because it's "down there" and chatting about colon health isn't as fun as talking about George Clooney or ice cream.
Allow me to talk about it!
I try not to do too much oversharing on the blog but this is important, especially if you are 50 and older and haven't had a colonoscopy.
I had a physical around this time last year and my doc wrote me a referral for a colonoscopy. I held onto that referral until last month, when my husband actually beat me to the punch and had his colonoscopy.
Seeing that the entire process was far less treacherous than I imagined, I made an appointment, and this past Tuesday I had my colonoscopy.
Here are some things that no one will tell you about the process -- consider me your "colon whisperer":
There's more than one way to empty a colon: You can go the prescription route or you can use grocery-store preparations. Of course, you should ask your doctor, but Cleveland Clinic Florida (where we had our colonoscopies) uses a Dulcolax-Miralax combo. I heard awful things about some of the prep solutions, so I went with the colorless, odorless, tasteless Miralax. It’s the MOST. BIZARRE. THING. EVER. to dump an entire bottle of Miralax powder into a half-gallon jug of Gatorade (I chose blue).
Chicken broth is awesome: I bought a quart of Kitchen Basics unsalted (yep!) chicken broth, which tastes absolutely homemade, and you won’t miss the sodium at all. I added a squirt of lemon juice to it and pretended I was having Greek avgolemono soup. It was so good that I’m going to keep it around all the time for a nighttime craving crusher. Hot liquids tend to satiate better than cold ones.
Get your workout in before you “prep”: There is no way in heck you’re going to be able to exercise during that festival. And frankly, the next day you might feel a little worn out – probably from the dehydration and lack of sleep. Why lack of sleep? Read on …
Your feet will turn into icebergs: The night before my procedure, when it was finally safe to go to bed, I couldn’t sleep because my feet were PAINFULLY cold. Not just throw-on-a-pair-of-socks cold – they were ice cold, and then my nose and hands started chilling down. I mentioned the phenomenon on Facebook and my pal Susan mentioned that the same thing happened to her (you can read about her colonoscopy here). When I mentioned it to the nurse at Cleveland Clinic, she explained that the chill can come from a fluid shift. That’s also why it’s good to use Gatorade instead of something like Crystal Light, because the Gatorade will replace all those lost electrolytes.
Buy the good toilet paper: Do I need to explain? Cottonelle has an aloe and vitamin E one. Buy it.
Weight loss isn’t guaranteed: Damn! I thought I’d lose a bunch of weight with this thing. Turns out, if you’re a “regular” person, there won’t be a bunch of stuff hanging around in your colon. My net loss was probably a half pound.
You’ll have the best nap of your life during the procedure: Y’know that stuff that killed Michael Jackson? That’s what they use to knock you out during the colonoscopy (at least that’s what I got). It’s amazing – the nurse told me “OK, this might burn a little going into your system,” to which I thought “OK. Hmmmm, don’t feel any …” Next thing I know, the nurse is waking me up in the recovery area, and I felt like I had the best night sleep ever.
You’ll find out right away how the “fantastic voyage” went: I didn’t have any polyps but I did learn that I have diverticulosis – what the what? I looked it up and was frankly insulted by the diagnosis of the tiny pockets scattered throughout my colon (hey, you can never have too many pockets).
Cue the old “Saturday Night Live” sketch:
Apparently you get it from being inactive and eating a highly processed, low-fiber diet. I am neither! But I’m also 51, and it also comes with age (cue the sad trombone). How do you keep it from flaring up into diverticulitis? Exercise and eat a high-fiber diet – check and check!
Resist the urge to “eat all the foods” afterwards: Remember, you took enough laxatives to make an elephant regular. They may not be completely out of your system, so take it easy the first day.
You’ll be able to find out how quickly food travels through your system: “Transit time” varies from person to person. The average is 1 to 2 days. I am above average and was rewarded in about 12 hours. (If only my jogging speed was that fast!)
It’s really not that bad at all and can save your life: Need a better reason?