Tips for Getting a Colonoscopy

This is not a very sexy post, but neither is getting colon cancer, so let’s just leave it at that. If you want something more entertaining in the colonoscopy-lit genre, may I suggest Dave Barry: A journey into my colon — and yours. As Dave and anyone else who has ever had a colonoscopy can tell you, the procedure is no big deal. If you need one, go get one. On the scale of awkward and painful, I’d take a colonoscopy over a root canal any day.

What follows are a few tidbits that made my own experience a few months back easier and/or I wish I had known beforehand.

Planning

  • Pick a Friend – they will tell you this when you call to schedule, so it may go without saying, but you will be sedated during the procedure and will need someone to take you there and take you home. No transportation buddy, no procedure.
  • Pick a Day – I suggest a Friday. You will feel right as rain after the procedure, but you will be tired from both the sedation and being up all night in the loo.
  • Pick a Time – this is the one I wish I had asked about more carefully. I am a morning person and figured early was better. However, I did not realize that my prep was a two-step process and selecting an 8am procedure meant I would have to get up at 4am to take a second dose of the prep. Ask the scheduler to help you factor the prep times into your selection of a procedure time. Note: you also don’t want to pick a time that is too late as your prep will then interfere with your ability to live a normal life greater than 2 feet from a bathroom.
  • Pick your Poison – turns out there is more than one way to clean out your colon. Some prep solutions are more or less awful than the next. Make no mistake, to date, there is no good tasting bowel prep, but ask about the prep they are selecting for you and what are the pros/cons and options. (I had Suprep, which tasted like a liquid salt lick, but the internet says is less awful than some of the other options.)

The Week Ahead

  • Go Vegetarian – or at least drop the red meat. The less you have in your colon, the less work the prep has to do. Save the surf-n-turf for a celebratory post-procedure meal and stick to lighter fare before-hand.

The Day Ahead

  • No Food for you – this will be part of your instructions, but you will be on an all clear liquids diet the day before the procedure. You can eat jello, but no red or purple jello. And believe me there is only so much green jello a person can eat. Chicken broth and Sprite were my faithful companions.

Prep-time

  • Chill it – mix up the prep ahead of time and put it in the fridge (unless your prep requires otherwise – see ‘pick your poison’ above). For whatever reason, chilled prep seems to go down better than room temperature prep.
  • Suck it – having a straw made the prep go down way easier and faster than trying to drink it out of the container.
  • Drink it – the prep is awful tasting and it is extremely tempting to bail out on finishing it all, but if you do not complete the prep and your colon is not clean enough, they will reschedule or repeat the procedure. What is worse than having to drink all that gross prep?  Having to drink it again less than 10 years later…

Go-time

  • Short Attention Span Theater – As far as what to do when you are traipsing back and forth from the bathroom, some folks suggest taking an iPad with you and just stay in there for the duration. I did not find that necessary or desirable. However, whatever you decide to do, it will be punctuated by frequent interruptions. I put on some of my old favorite movies that I had seen a million times and therefore could safely pop in and out of the plot without missing anything.
  • Baby your butt – one of the best bits of advice I got was to buy baby wipes. You will spend a lot of quality time on the throne during the prep and your bum gets a bit tender from all the wiping.

Procedure Day

  • Weigh-in – They will weigh you at the hospital when they take your vitals it will be the one day in your life you will be excited about getting on a scale.
  • Take a little nap – they will hook you up to an IV and give you a sedative and then you will wake up and it’s all over. There is no discomfort or after-effects as, get this, there are no nerve endings inside your colon.

That’s it. Go home and have steak and eggs for breakfast. Relax on the sofa and watch a movie all the way through. Pat yourself on the back for doing something that’s really not so difficult and may save your life. Encourage a friend to do the same.

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The Joy of Bitching

bitchingMy running days have been put on hiatus due to a ‘very small’ stress fracture in my femur. I have also had more than my fair share of other health issues this year (misdiagnosed diverticulitis, actual kidney stone, antibiotic-induced C.Diff colitis…). None of them, thankfully, have fallen into the VERY SERIOUS bucket, although I suppose that is a somewhat relative and subjective description. If you counted by the number of benefit statements I have received from my insurance company, or by the ways and times my pelvis has been ‘imaged’ the stats are impressive (and expensive – how on earth do people without health insurance afford to be sick??). But, they are all resolved already or will be within a few months time. Hardly worth complaining about, especially when I consider those with chronic illnesses, those battling cancer, or those recovering from life-changing injuries. My problems pale in comparison and most definitely fit more appropriately into the NUISANCE bucket.

Regardless, I have found myself in a weird space of wanting to talk non-stop to those willing to listen (and/or unable to escape) about my laundry list of woes while at the same time feeling somewhat embarrassed for whining about what are ultimately minor problems. In my more zen like moments I am able to put my situation into perspective. Other times, I want the full-on, self-indulgent, pity-party-rave-of-the-century. And somewhere in between those extremes I simply wonder what is my deal with all this BITCHING I seem to be consumed with of late.

Because sometimes I can be a little dense, it took me a few days to connect the dots between not being able to run and not being able to bitch. I am fortunate to have found just about the perfect running partner in my friend, Duana. We are both pretty slow. Well, I am slower; a lot slower, but not by enough to make running with me more painful than running alone, so we make it work. We made a deal some time back that we “leave it all out on the trail.” This means no topic is off limits. We can bitch and moan about the most mundane frustrations of our day or talk deeply about our greatest fears and anxieties. We do both. Sometimes in the same breath, but if I’m honest there is probably more in the mundane category than life’s deepest mysteries. It’s an amazing gift to have a totally catch-free, no holds bared bitch buddy.

Plus you add running to the equation and it’s win-win. Each step on the trail releases each whine and moan into the pavement and at the end of the run we are tired, sweaty, and a lot less stressed-out. Without the running, I feel like my petty complaints are hanging in a cloud around me, tagging along wherever I go. Talking about them does help and I am so grateful for those who have been a sounding board these past few weeks, but without the running to go along with the talk, I seem to be having a harder time letting the pettiness go.

Meditation would probably help, or yoga, or coffee dates or happy hours, or even a good Rom-Com on Netflix. I don’t discount any of those alternate methods, but I sure will be glad when the day comes that I can lace back up my running shoes.


More Agony, Same Teeth

Or, rather, same tooth – the infamous #27. Don’t know what number has been assigned to your teeth?  Neither did I until I got to spend so much quality time talking about this particular tooth with various dental professionals. A lot has happened since The Agony of the Teeth and if you go back an re-read the post there is a little clue that all was not well in my final paragraph about the pain being worse after the root canal than it was before. I’m happy to report that the only real agony I’m experiencing these days is to my pocketbook and even that is more a nuisance than actual suffering. In fact, at this point this post feels a little more like it should be called, “middle class white woman whines about toothache,” but for inquiring minds here is the story…

After returning from Hawaii in March, I felt better, but not what you would call great. I was still living on ibuprofen and a few weeks after the procedure when it didn’t seem like I was improving, I called the dentist but they reported that sometimes it can take a long time to fully recover. It was a rough few weeks at work, but eventually the pain faded into the background and I moved on with my life. It was still kind of awkward to sleep on that side of my face, but I just adjusted the way I held the pillow and kind of figured that would be the new normal. Fast forward to June and I did the Seattle Rock N Roll Half-Marathon with my friend Sandy Hickey. Sandy is a photo-taking maniac and she took roughly 1 million pictures of the two of us at every stage of the race. As I was looking over them at the time I noticed that the same side of my mouth as the root canal was crooked in every picture (you can see two of the pictures in my half-marathon recap). I emailed the photos to the dentist and asked if that was something I should be worry about, and he suggested I come to see him, oh, say, right away. He took x-rays and I knew immediately that all was not right. There was a very brief, almost imperceptible, pause and for that moment all the sound (and oxygen) were sucked out of the room. I like to call it the “oh shit pause” which is the brief moment when the medical professional takes a quick breath and prepares to face the patient. When he came back around to my side of the chair, I already knew bad news was coming. That bad news was that there was ‘something’ there, a lesion (dentist-speak for they have no idea what the hell it is) and he referred me to an oral surgeon.

Off to the surgeon I go where they take another x-ray. The technician announces that he’s sure I’ll need a CT scan, then proceeds to take my blood pressure where he remarks that it is a little high. Maybe in his universe CT scans are no big deal, but in my world, that is something scary that only happens on TV shows like House (and if you watch that show you know bad stuff always happens in the CT and MRI machines). I meet the surgeon and he shows me the “thing” on the x-ray and says (surprise, surprise) that I need a CT scan. Another referral, this time to radiology. The upshot is that it could be a variety of things, but regardless it has to come out, and good ‘ol #27 is at risk for having to be removed altogether, but we’re all optimistic so we’ll leave it (for now).  On August 26, I had minor surgery and had what turned out to be a garden variety cyst removed. Ironically, the recovery from the surgery was much easier than the root canal. I did not need anything other than ibuprofen for the pain, and even that was minimal. Eating was a challenge with the stitches, but aside from one ill-fated attempt to eat a grape, I managed quite well on chocolate shakes and mashed potatoes. Today, I am pain free. My jaw is still a little stiff and I do still use my modified pillow sleeping position, but there is a lot of work going on in there as the hole left behind heals itself  and it will take a few months for everything to go completely back to normal. My smile is much improved if not exactly symmetrical just yet. The surgeon told me to come back and see him in 6 months (March 2012) and if all goes well, it will be a boring visit and we can officially stop obsessing over #27.

I recently went back to my regular dentist for my 6-month check (amazing to think this whole  process has been going on for that long) and of course I had to cap it all off with a couple of cavities, so I got to see him two days in a row.  The dentist remarked I must really love him since I come to see him so much and I told him, nothing personal, but I didn’t want to see him again until next year thank-you-very-much.

In my typical style, I have been anxious to share my woes with anyone and everyone, but in what must be a cosmic lesson of some sort, every time I have started to talk about it I discover that the person I’m with has suffered injuries or surgeries far more extensive or serious than me. In what has to be one of my most classic foot-in mouth blunders, I was blathering on to my hair dresser about how I had maxed out my dental insurance and was having to pay the rest out of pocket. I caught myself and commented that she must not even have dental insurance and she told me, in fact, she has no health insurance at all. I won’t rant about healthcare in America. Okay, maybe just a teeny rant – I don’t have all (any of) the answers to how to manage healthcare, but there is something that somehow seems fundamentally wrong with the notion that on top of having to cope with whatever medical ailment you have, the uninsured have to also cope with how they will pay for their care, or if they can actually afford to get any.