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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Flunking Colonoscopy 101

Before we hit the road full time in our Journey, one task we wanted to get out of the way was to have head-to-toe physicals so we could head out healthy as well as happy.

I passed all my physical tests with flying colors, including an EKG, a PPT and even an ICUP.  All the blood tests came back great, all my parts are in the right places and working normal.  As the doctor looked over all the test results, he said there was just one more test needed.  I've reached the esteemed age where I qualified for...a colonoscopy.  Finally, a procedure where those open backed hospital gowns they give you to wear is the appropriate attire.

I had to go to a specialist to have a pre-test checkup, my freshly completed physical didn't count.  I filled out several forests worth of paper forms and was scheduled for my procedure.  I was given a lecture by a stern faced nurse, pointing out, upon pain of death, all the things I had to do and all the things I couldn't do.

 Stopping medications five days before, no biggy, I don't take any.  Also no foods with any red, orange or purple colors, no nuts and corn was especially verboten.  Three days out, no booze (no problem, don't use any), and drink eight to ten glasses of water a day.  As a postscript, the nurse informed me that two days before the procedure, I'd have a call from the hospital nurse to review (?) things with me.  She gave me a script for some pipe cleaning medication and told me that the day before the procedure, I had to fast, I was only allowed water and Jello, as long as it was any color but red, orange or purple.  Why she didn't say I could only have green Jello, I don't know.

In no uncertain terms, I had to be at the hospital the morning of the procedure at least one hour early.  She scared me so badly that I didn't want to find out what the penalty would be for arriving late, especially when someone was going to probe my tender, rearward nether regions.

I didn't think it would be too bad.  Then when I mentioned the procedure to some people, I found them forcing a nervous laugh, or averting their eyes from mine and then start looking for the nearest exit.  Being the trained investigator I am, I should have picked up on there was going to be more to this that meets the eye.

So our weekend with the grandsons was right in the window where I had to start limiting my intake.  Look in your refrigerator and notice how many things are red, orange or purple.  I had to be careful.  We took the boys to see the Smurf Movie.  Have you ever noticed how much candy in the candy counter is red, orange or purple?  At least the Smurfs were blue so I could watch them.

No worries, I'll just have some popcorn.  Wait, didn't the nurse say no corn?  But does it count if it's already popped?  I decided not to chance it and suffered through the movie, not because it was bad, but the munching sounds of mouthfuls of popcorn being eaten by Andrew and Owie was kinda hard to take.

Two days before the procedure, the hospital nurse called.  She said she had to ask me some questions.  I asked why, because I had just covered all my medical history with the doctor's office and was told that they had to make sure everything had been covered.  She must have been from the office of redundancy office.  She started rattling off questions like a machine gun, I had to ask her to slow down and repeat questions again and again.  The questions started off with my age, date of birth and so forth.  Then they got deeper, have you ever had high blood pressure?  Did you ever grow a third eye on your forehead, have you or any of your blood relatives had pneumosidoclorist mold between the toes?

Then she got down to the really important questions like when did you first kiss a girl and did you ever cheat on a spelling test in the third grade?  I decided there must have been a specific reason for these questions so I answered as honestly as I could, except for the first time I kissed a girl and did I cheat on a third grade spelling test...

So the day before arrived, I had picked up the medication and prepared to start my fast. I mixed up the medication powder in a cute little plastic litre sized bottle.  I stuck the liquid in the fridge to await the proper time to start drinking it.  I thought the bottle was a nice size and I decided I'd keep it after the medicine was done, because it looked so handy.

I drank some water.  I drank some more.  I was getting hungry, so I drank some more water.  After listening to my stomach growl louder than the TV, I ate some Jello, green, of course.  That took the edge off, for a little while.

A couple of hours later, several more glasses of water down, I had to start drinking the pipe cleaning medicine.   It had to be consumed, one quarter of the bottle at a time every 15 minutes until all the liquid was gone.  I noted the time on the clock and started my first drink.  It tasted like lemon flavored salt water with the thickness of Elmer's glue.  Pouring it over ice,  I got down the first portion, it was not quite as pleasant as I thought.

Watching the clock, the next 15 minutes went by, back to the medicine.  More ice, another mouthful.  This time, even pinching my nose, the salty, lemon flavor broke through.  Another swallow, the tears started flowing.  Beads of sweat started forming on my forehead.  One more swallow and it was finished.  Phew!

The clock moved too fast, I found myself willing the hands to slow down.  The clock didn't listen.  Back to glass number three.  With fresh ice and shaking hands, I got the next mouthful.  Choked it down.  Started pinching my nose so hard it began to hurt.  A couple of more little mouthfuls and I splashed fresh water all down the front of my shirt as I washed the salty, lemon flavored glue taste out of my mouth.

Panic started setting in as the clock ticked towards the last dose.  I walked back towards the kitchen counter on shaky legs, the back of my shirt soaked in sweat and took the final dose.  With my heart  racing faster than an Indy 500 Pace Car, I forced the last of the "liquid" down.  I survived.  I couldn't believe there was so much liquid in that bottle, which now looked like a 55 gallon drum.  At least I was done.  Until 4:30 AM when I had to repeat the whole process again.

I walked back to the couch and sat down.  My heart rate dropped back to normal and I started to relax as I watched the TV.  Then I noticed my stomach was starting to roll, back and forth, making some noises that I've never heard before.  Then an unbelievable urge hit and I was dashing to the bathroom faster than an Olympic sprinter.  All I can say was it felt like a volcanic eruption.

And then another volcano blew its top.  And another.  And another.  Finally after a few hours, the volcanoes quieted down some and I started to wonder how I going to sleep.  It turned out to be no problem, I stayed wide awake, fearing the next dose of medicine.

Marti came home from work and brought herself some Chinese food for dinner.  I watched her eat and began to have fantasies of what I was going to eat after the procedure.  Steak, no spaghetti, no, a baked potato with sour cream.  Maybe a grilled cheese sandwich.  Even though I was watching TV, my mind just couldn't get off food, except for the periodic volcanic eruptions.

Marti went up to bed but I wasn't tired yet.  With the marching band hoofing around in my stomach, I knew I'd not be able to drop off to sleep any time soon.  Plus, I was really hungry.  No more green Jello left, what else can I have?  Looking around, my eyes fell on a can of Planters peanuts.  I knew that I could not have nuts, but what if I just put a couple in my mouth and sucked on them for a little while and then spit them out?  I swear Mr. Peanut was beckoning to me.

In no time, I had a pile of peanuts on a napkin next to me, all naked.  I had licked the salt off of each one and savored the flavor before I spit them out.  I was getting pretty desperate, so I headed to bed and tried to sleep.  That didn't work too well, with the marching band and the volcano.

4:30 AM came way too early.  Plodded down to the kitchen and started the whole process again.  The little bottle now looked like it was a tanker truck.

I got the first portion down and set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes and laid down on the couch.  The timer sounder off in what seemed like seconds and I choked down the second portion, then 15 minutes later, downed the third.  When the timer sounded for the last time, I was able to get the last bit down, crying like a baby and gagging with each swallow until the bitter end.

With the very last swallow, there were some unmixed grains of the medicine.  They went down and I breathed a sigh of relief.  I leaned over the kitchen sink and started to relax, but then it happened.  Another eruption.  A violent eruption...from the wrong end!  I tossed my cookies, a PP (Power Puke) of all the medicine right down in the sink!  Now I was really crying, all this pain and suffering and I did it for nothing!  I think I might have brought up an organ or two, it was so bad.

A call to the doctor later in the morning confirmed my fears.  No procedure for me, I flunked Colonoscopy 101 and I would have to reschedule.  Marti now has me on suicide watch.

I should have done this years ago when I was on the 82 foot long Coast Guard cutter.  I remember being out in some storms in the North Atlantic in 30 foot seas (they are impressive) and having the you-know-what scared out of me...

As for that cute little plastic bottle, it now resides in the recycling bin,  I never want to see it again!

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.


  1. Beautifully, and accurately written. I have had three of them. All negative.

    Have you been having any symptoms that warrant a colonoscopy? Is this simply because it's time to do one, to navigate the landscape and enjoy the scenery? Those are often used as baseline examinations, done for comparison purposes, in case you get symptoms later on, so they can know what normal is for you.

    They are also sometimes just a recon mission, checking to see if all is well.

    If that's okay with you, and you are concerned that something may be wrong, then of course reschedule.

    If you think it is an unnecessary test, since you have no symptoms, you can decide not to. You don't have to do it just because your doctor says it's time to have a colonoscopy.

  2. Wow, you just gave me so much to look forward to! Thanks a heap, my friend!

    BUT..... the test could be a life saver. A very dear friend did not have her test. She had absolutely NO signs or symptoms. She and her hubby were fishing and she fell on her tailbone. I would not stop hurting for weeks and weeks.

    When she went to the doctor, they found that she had stage 4....did you get that? STAGE FOUR colon cancer! She died within 6 months of diagnosis. Remember...she had NO SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS.

    So, please for your sake and for Marti's, please reschedule and tough it down....Better safe than sorry!

  3. Please do reschedule. We have a friend who developed colon cancer in her early 50's. She's had a hard time with her treatments. Only half a colon left now. Sure am glad my colonoscopy was easy last week.

  4. I'm sure you will get lots of anecdotes from everyone with their own versions. I had the same experience with the volcano out the northern end, but it didn't keep them from doing the procedure. My lovely doc had me drink Gatorade with Miralax and Dulcolax & that was it. Volcano, yes, butbut no unpleasant taste. Just more than my tummy could take, I guess. :'(

    They told me the upchuck was normal!

    Good luck on the next one. ;)

  5. The colonoscopy is very easy compared to the prep! The Rx will usually give you multiple flavors if you wish to help with the redundant taste.

    Please make sure you do it... It is a lifesaver! We need you around to keep writing you descriptive posts about mundane and icky things!

    I enjoy the blog very much!
    Bugsbunny in NH

  6. I am still smiling, not that I enjoyed the suffering,, but it was just plain funny.

    I had by first one almost ten years ago. It was clear, so I was told see you in ten years. After reading this, I am thinking if I was good for the first 55, why would I go back after just ten more.

    I understand they have an external, non invasive version that works, but not as good as the snake. maybe the 80% solution is okay:)

  7. so sorry to hear your failed the colonscopy you get to do it all over again..maybe it won't be as bad next time!..we can all hope..great recap you blogged though!..we will give you that!!

  8. First of all, DON'T wait for symptoms! During the procedure, they take care of any potential problems before they turn into cancer. And of course you did the hard part, the procedure is nothing.

    But, good news! I understand they have pills you can take instead of drinking that horrible salt water and then you just drink lots of water.

    Good luck!

  9. I had a colonoscopy three years ago. The procedure was nothing, the prep was horrible. But because of their findings I now have to have them every three years and guess what's up this year. But this time I am doing the Go Lightly version. The pill and only have the solution to drink. It's a lot more expensive and a lot of insurance companies won't pay for it but I don't care. Anything to make the prep easier. Procedure - piece of cake. Good luck with yours.

  10. So funny! Terry had one a little over 12 months ago. He's very glad he did. If there's anything there, it's so much better to find it before you start looking for it. It could save your life. Try it again. I bet you get an A.

  11. Yuck! I did the pills instead of the awful liquid and it was a piece of cake. Tell them you want the pills instead!

  12. Something for me to look forward to next year. Yuk - but it's got to be done.

  13. Great post! I hate the prep but love the drugs they give me to relax, it almost makes up for it. But it has to be done.

  14. That was the best description of a prep I've read yet! Not to mention, hysterically funny :)
    I could really relate as I had the same done last year. It's true, the procedure is a piece of cake IF the prep doesn't do you in :) I did not know there were pills as some have mentioned. That will be my request next time.
    Looking forward to the follow-up post when you pass colonoscopy 101.

  15. Oh my gosh!!!! This post was even funnier than your "my shoes are squishy" post. I laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my face!!

    We're so sorry that you failed Colonoscopy 101 and have to repeat it, but it really does need to be done. We want to make sure you're around for many, many years -- no one else can make us laugh like you do!

  16. BTDT (Been There Done That)

    Need I say more????


  17. First of all, we are sorry things didn't go to well:o(( You sure were put to the test and then to fail like that....

    However, you have entertain all of us more than you can imagine. If you think you need another job, how about just writing a book about what goes on in your life!!

    Bill and I laughed through the entire post and oh, we are sorry you have to do this all over again;o))))

  18. One good thing that comes of having it done is that your colon will absorb vitamins and nutrients much better and you feel fuller much sooner. I had mine done in Jan and have dropped 20 pounds by watching what I eat a bit more, exercising 20 min 4x a week - I am not hungry all the time as I think I am getting better nutrition since the colonoscopy

  19. I hope you know that you've set voluntary colonoscopies back 10 or 15 years. :)

    Good luck when you finally have it. ,

  20. Art, the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others.
    It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and paintings.

    Your blog totally matches this definition and I promise I'll come back. I also suggest you check out this blog I just saw, I think it's great as well: Drawings Paintings Prints
    Will be coming back,

  21. Right there with you Paul!!! I couldn't choke down the morning oil drum either, I just didn't tell the doc and all was fine. I don't see how anyone can drink that Lemon flavored (yea right) crude.

    But hey, you have have all to look forward to again......Take Care

  22. I can't believe you had to reschedule because you lost the 2nd round of 2006 I had a routine colonoscopy which showed colon cancer. Then it was repeat colonoscopies 2x within the next 2 weeks..and biopsies...we couldn't get clear margins so we were off to the OR. Luckily all was cleaned up via the surgery..I required no treatments etc. I was very lucky I had no symptoms whatsoever!
    So be sure to have the test the prep is the worst part..but I always lost the 2nd stage of the prep it would not stay down...was like drinking salty sulpher..upon arrival at the hospital I told the nurse I couldn't keep down the 2nd round of prep she told me "don't worry about it noone can keep it down" they WHY make us DRINK it...gawd...anyway now I'm a pro...and I don't do the normal prep ... 2 ducolax does it for me..I ease up on the solid foods a couple of days prior to the testing...and switch to clear liquids the day before..and I'm always test ready when the time specialist agrees with me!!! the 2nd prep is over kill..its a just in case situation I think...rule of thumb if your passing clear liquids your cleaned out!! Good luck!!!!

  23. I would have laughed my head off at this if I didn't fear the prep so much. After suffering with you, I thoroughly resolved "no thanks" until I read the comments.

    I didn't know they had pills so I
    will definitely be looking for a doctor who does it that way. I was IT manager in the Division of Gastroenterology for years so I knew what was up. Pun intended!