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What to Expect from a Colonoscopy

What to Expect from a Colonoscopy

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After months of knowing I had some issues and putting off going to the doctor, I made an appointment for a gastroenterologist late last year. I made it early November, but the earliest available date I could get was late December. Literally 12/31 - New Year’s Eve, I got a lovely rectal exam. My doctor (who I love - she is great!), promptly recommend a colonoscopy asap, due to my symptoms. And no, I’m not going to talk about my symptoms specifically. Just pay attention to your body and if something weird is happening, make note of it and call your doctor. That day, they also had me do a bunch of stool tests (things like parasites, etc) and drew blood to rule out things like celiac disease.

To be honest, I was scared and mortified. What? I’m only 28 and I need a colonoscopy? Apparently they are pretty normal to start getting around my age? No one is talking about it, so I figured I would. Anyway, a million thoughts were running through my head… They are going to what to me and put me to sleep to do it? What if I never wake up? What if my prognosis is bleak? Blah blah blah. I didn’t read anything on what happens or how they do it, because I get vasovagel responses and didn’t want to trigger one of those. Innoncence was bliss for me regarding this, though there are tips and tricks I wish I knew beforehand. People told me it would be fine, but I kept thinking BUT WHAT IF IT ISN’T. So, I’m here to tell you that everything will be fine and the worst part isn’t the procedure. IT’S THE FREAKING SUPREP. I’m not going to go into detail about what specifically they do, but I’ll talk about pretty much everything besides that!

Let me walk you through the whole process, but first, do what your doctor tells you. These next paragraphs are what I was recommended by my doctor. There’s also more specifics like stop eating seeds, red or purple dye, stop taking certain medications, etc. Those are all provided to you from your doctor. I stopped ingesting those specific things well before they told me to stop, because I wanted the colonoscopy to go as well as possible! Anyway, here are the dirty deets!

DAY BEFORE COLONOSCOPY

You literally can’t eat normal food at all today. You begin the day by taking Suprep (a low volume bowel preparation kit), which basically liquifies and flushes everything out of you so the doctors can see well in your colon. I woke up around 8:00 am and took my Suprep at 8:15 am. You have the option to mix it with other things like gatorade or white grape juice, but I just mixed my bottle with water. Suprep is pretty sweet, so I didn’t want to add more sweetness to it. If I had to compare it to a flavor, it would be artificial grape. You get a plastic cup with the solution and pour the solution and whatever liquid you want to mix it with. After you drink that, you have to immediately fill that cup with water and drink it x 2. After I drank it, I went to the bathroom less than an hour later and got chills, so laid down and went to sleep.

After sleeping for an hour or two, I woke up hungry and decided to try to eat some jello. You can’t have red or purple and the blue flavor made me nervous since it combined with red makes purple and I didn’t want to accidentally mess it up. I went with green jello, and just did not enjoy it, so I ate an Italian ice instead. This was around 11:00. After I ate, I went to the bathroom and I realized that the earlier trip was not as Suprep induced as I thought. Hah! You might go faster if you are moving around / sitting up, but I laid in bed for 3 hours, so not sure how fast it is supposed to hit you.

About an hour later (12:15), I had bone broth and tea. I promptly went to the bathroom about 45 minutes later. And then had to go again 10 minutes later. I ate a fruit bar popsicle around 1:40. Then went again around 2:50 and went back to sleep. I forced down some jello around 4:15 and then went again around 4:40, and went back to sleep. I ate more jello and another Italian Ice around 7, then went again at 8 and 9. After that, I just drank water for the rest of the night. I wasn’t really hungry at all during the day, though that evening, I started to crave chips and a sandwich. I went one more time at 10:15, then went to bed. I’m not trying to be gross, just trying to be honest about how close you will be to your toilet this day.

WHAT YOU CAN CONSUME PER MY DOCTOR: My favorite things were water, tea, gatorade, and Italian ice. The fruit bar pops were good too. I didn’t really enjoy the jello flavor, but it was nice to “chew” on something. I did not enjoy the broth or white grape juice and wouldn’t even buy them next time.

  • water

  • tea

  • yellow gatorade

  • organic chicken broth (I love bone broth, but I stuck to chicken broth, since it’s straight broth)

  • white grape juice

  • lime jello

  • italian ice (lemon only! not strawberry - they come in the same box)

  • outshine fruit bar lemon popsicles

TIPS / THOUGHTS:

  • you can use vaseline to soothe the area if you’d like

  • don’t look in the toilet - it grossed me out more-so than actually doing it - JUST DON’T LOOK DOWN

  • it will feel like you’re peeing out of your butt, because it is straight liquid

  • don’t focus on the fact that you can’t eat - I never really had crazy hunger pains like I thought I would, as normally I eat every couple of hours

  • don’t fear tomorrow - IMO the day before is worse than the actual procedure day

  • do not go to work while taking Suprep, I mean I guess you could, but I would not recommend it - you could probably work from home though if you needed to

Trying to do other things besides drink the Suprep - this is the plastic cup that is included in your Suprep kit.

 

DAY OF THE COLONOSCOPY

I had to wake up at 3 am to take my last bottle of Suprep + 2 cups of water. While this was annoying, it was nice to have a morning surgery time, because it means you have to fast less. You have to drink the Suprep in an hour this day, as you can’t eat or drink anything several hours before your procedure. I had to have everything consumed by 4 am and THIS WAS THE WORST PART. I could barely finish it, because I was on an empty stomach and did not want to consume something so sugary-sweet. Nick kept telling me to chug it, but taking sips was the best I could do. I felt like a kid being coerced to eat veggies, when really I all wanted was TexMex enchiladas. I literally finished at 3:57 (after gagging and trying not to throw up) and had 3 minutes to chug 32 oz of water. Anyway, I made it and promptly went back to sleep. I did go to the bathroom around 4 and 4:40, and did have chills like the day prior, but was able to go back to sleep until around 6:30. I had to be in at 7 for prep and my procedure began at 8. Luckily the place that administered the colonoscopy was only 5 minutes away from my apartment!

Everything went swimmingly at the hospital. The only kind of issue I had is the nurse who didn’t believe me when I told her of my fight or flight response. My blood pressure dropped so low, another nurse came in and doted on me. Hah! The first nurse also taped my IV too tight, so I wasn’t getting the fluids I needed, but the second nurse fixed that too. My anesthesiologist was literally an angel sent from God. She kept calling my princess and was so fantastic. I remember her moving me to my left side and putting a pillow between my legs (how you lay for the procedure) saying the time and procedure, but that was it. I do vaguely remember waking up for a second during it, but no pain or real memories.

My doctor woke me up shortly after and informed me that I had Ulcerative Colitis and she would be sending a scrip in for me. She prescribed me with Canasa (mesalamine) 1000mg, which I needed to take twice a day. She also prescribed me a stool inflammation test, which ended up coming back with the same results they found when they conducted the colonoscopy. An after thought, but I wish I had my husband in there for this part, because honestly it is kind of hazy. Anyway, they then brought Nick back and I was discharged to go home, where I pretty much slept the whole day. I wouldn’t recommend trying to work or take meeting this day.


TIPS/THOUGHTS

  • you have to have someone pick you up - you can’t drive yourself home or take an Uber

  • my doctor only scheduled procedures Thursday or Friday, as your doctor might do something similar and you need to schedule someone to pick you up

  • look into Good RX, my prescription was so expensive - I also had a hard time getting the pharmacy to fill it

  • try to schedule your procedure in the morning vs afternoon, so you can have more of the day to recover AND so you don’t have to go longer without eating

  • don’t go to work this day either, you won’t be able to drive until the following day - honestly I was still pretty wiped on Friday, but I could have gone into work if I needed to

  • again I think the day before/morning of is worse than the procedure

  • I was lucky and my procedure was at the beginning of the year, so I was able to meet my deductible in January vs it being at the end of the year, but if you need it you need it

  • even after eating, stomach was very growly / loud day of and the following couple of days

When I was just waking up from the procedure. The brought me water and crackers, so I could start digesting again.

AFTER THE COLONOSCOPY

  • don’t be dumb and work out the day before (I considered working out the day before) or day of (you 100% aren’t supposed to this day)- technically you can work out the day after, but I did and regretted it

  • you’ll be fine to go to work the next day, though you might feel a little weak

  • you won’t poop again until several days later, because you are all cleaned out - my procedure was Thursday morning and I didn’t go until Saturday afternoon

  • first poop after was kinda hard to do

  • the procedure is pretty painless, but it did irritate my hemorrhoids, the area also stung when I ran water over it in the shower, the day the procedure occurred

PROGNOSIS

I had my follow-up procedure appointment this week - 2 months after the colonoscopy. Originally we were planning on doing another stool inflammation test, but because it’s not that great, we are going to wait. I’m still taking the Canasa (mesalamine) 1000mg twice daily, but she is switching up how I take it, to try and reach more of my colon. I have been using suppositories to apply ointment directly to my ulcers. I will continue that and also start doing the same medication via enema in the evenings. She also scheduled a SIBO breath test for next month, to try and rule that out, as I do still have bloating. My UC is actually more like Ulcerative Proctitus, as it is only in the lower half of my rectum. In the next 12 months, I’ll probably have to schedule another colonoscopy, so they can check on my situation.

Home after my procedure. I pretty much stayed in bed all day long.

Overall, though I was nervous and didn’t even want to go to the doctor, I’m glad I did. Please go see a specialist if something is going on. At least call your general practitioner! I’ve been trying to have the mindset that I am lucky to be able to see a great doctor and get a diagnosis. I’m thankful that I was abele to have a colonoscopy and insurance for things like procedures and medicine, as I know not everyone is able to do so. It has also made me think about two things in particular. One being that eating healthy is truly a person to person basis. Just because some one eats one way, does mean that it will work or should work for you. For example, I had been reading about how consuming raw vegetables gives you the most nutrients. Wellll did you know that people with severe Ulcerative Colitis literally can’t eat raw veggies and can only eat cooked fruits and veggies. WHAT?! This was so eye opening to me and I hope it encourages you. Your health should be based on you and you alone. Sure you may take inspiration from others and even learn a thing or two, but remember to test it out and what actually works for you! Two being that birth control should be researched further. I recently shared a blog post on quitting birth control and briefly mentioned that I think that my usage of hormonal birth control could be linked to my UC. I was on BeYaz for most of my time on it andI have found some research linking the two. I’m currently looking to report my symptoms, so I can try to help others affected by this and bring more awareness to side effects. Holla at me if you know how to do so or have a connection.

Anddd one last thing. I’ve mentioned it before, but the main reason I even went to the doctor is because my skin was horrendous. Looking at Chinese face mapping, I had a hunch my symptoms below were affecting me face/skin and it was my body’s last ditch effort to tell me. Vain I know, but it got me to the doctor. Since getting on the medication, my skin has done a 180. I’m still working on scarring and I do have occasional pimples, but I’m much less inflamed and so on. Our body’s are so cool! Be sure and be kind to yours, whether that means a 30 minute walk every day or simply making that appointment. LOVE YOURSELF.

P.S. I didn’t address how much it costs, because that is really based on your provider and what kind of insurance you have. We have an HSA which I don’t really recommend for this, but hey. At least we have met our deductible now! The base cost for our hospital, not including anything else, was over $5000. We ended up having to pay close to $2000, and bills keep coming in. One of the most recent as for my anesthesiologist, who apparently was out of network. I couldn’t choose her, so I don’t think it is fair, but I will say that I loved her so much and would choose her again, as she made my experience so great. They had me sign paperwork when I first scheduled the colonoscopy, mentioning that sometimes insurance agencies will deem that anesthesia wasn’t actually needed for the procedure, which I think is BS, but I assume it happened here. Just wanted to make you aware! Off to write an $800 check…

UPDATE 2022: I got another colonoscopy as a routine check up. This was one was different, so I had to give an update! I’m not sure if it’s just that times have changed since early 2020 or it’s because I had an emergency colonoscopy before, but here are some differences: (side note, we would have had my check up a year later in 2021, but I was pregnant, so we pushed it to the following year.)

  • I was instructed to take 2 doses Miralax 2 nights before.

  • Red blue AND purple were listed on my “don’t” list this time instead of just red and purple.

  • I made yellow lemon jello which was more palatable for me than the green lime.

  • I woke up the day before my procedure STARVING, which is different, because I didn’t really experience hunger pangs the fasting day last time. This could be due to where I’m at in my cycle, since I’m doing it in my luteal phase where you need more food.

  • I didn’t have to take my first Suprep bottle until 6:00 pm the night before versus 8:00 am. This might of had something to do was less hunger pangs.

  • I had to wake up an hour earlier to do my last Suprep bottle - 2:00 am instead of 3:00 am. I had more trouble going back to sleep this time. I finally fell asleep dreaming of cheeseburgers.

  • I have twins now, so having to take care of other people is different than being able to lay in bed. Luckily our nanny was able to come and help on both the day before and day of.

  • Overall I felt like this time it was easier for me. I only gagged on the Suprep once and my recovery was better too. I’m not sure if it is because I just knew what to expect or if this is just a testament to how sick I was last time. It is probably a mixture of both! ALSO I feel like everything is easy after my twin pregnancy / twin birth. My doctor was really please with the results of the colonoscopy, but I’ll have a follow up with her soon.

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