The Truth About Colonoscopies – Part One in a Three Part Series

A couple of months ago I celebrated my fiftieth birthday. Ever since, all sorts of people, some I barely even know, have felt it their duty to remind me it’s colonoscopy time, which incidentally is like hammer time – minus the silk vest and genie pants – because it makes me want to scream YOU CAN’T TOUCH THIS.

Anyway, these folks are nowhere to be found when it’s time to get your teethed cleaned, or time for a tetanus booster, or time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors, but turn fifty and they’re crawling out of the woodwork, clanging the colonoscopy bell. They’re the same impertinent types who think it’s okay to touch a woman’s belly just because she’s pregnant. NEWS FLASH: it’s not…and stop being so pushy. My colon is my business.  

People who’ve had colonoscopies (and apparently this includes everyone over the age of fifty except me) wear it like a badge of honor. They love to recount their own colonoscopic adventures, and while the details may vary from person to person, one thing remains constant. These wistful editorials always and inevitably conclude with, “You know,” nudge, nudge, wink, wink, “the colonoscopy itself really isn’t that bad. The worst part is the prep.”

Are you kidding? THE WORST PART IS THE PREP? Am I expected to believe two or three days on a liquid diet and some laxatives, even the really super-industrial-strong-enough-to-clean-out-a-septic-tank prescription variety, is worse than someone sticking a camera (attached, mind you, to the end of a tube long enough to circumvent the globe) in my butt? I may be gullible, but I’m not THAT gullible.

I don’t care how small the camera is. I don’t care how thin and flexible the tubing is. I don’t care if the laxatives are strong enough to propel me into the stratosphere. I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care. There simply is no way you are going to convince me the prep is worse than the procedure. Call me crazy, but I don’t like people sticking things in my butt, even if it is medically necessary.

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you, concocted by smug colonoscopy alumni with their we-had-to-do-it-so-you-have-to-do-it-too attitudes. I recently told an over-fifty friend of mine as much when she started nagging, and do you know what she said? DO YOU KNOW WHAT SHE SAID? She said QUIT BEING MELODRAMATIC.

“Look, either you have cancer or you don’t,” she argued. “If you’ve got it, having a colonoscopy will save your life, and if you don’t, well, you’ll be relieved. So make the appointment and QUIT BEING MELODRAMATIC.”

Melodramatic? Moi? I suppose she had a point. I certainly don’t want to be a statistic, one of those should’ve-had-a-colonoscopy-could’ve-avoided-colon-cancer statistics. Turn fifty and a colonoscopy is a necessary evil. I was poised to agree when unfortunately she added, “Plus you’re asleep the whole time anyway. You won’t even remember it.”

WHAT? ASLEEP THE WHOLE TIME? A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and a little more knowledge is even more dangerous. I knew about the camera and the long, flexible tubing and the point of entry, but I DID NOT KNOW I WOULD BE ASLEEP.

Go ahead, drop a healthy glob of shaving cream in my hand and tickle my nose with a feather when I’m asleep, but stay the heck away from my butt if you know what’s good for you.

I may sound paranoid, but once the work is done, what’s to stop the doc from slapping a tattoo back there just for the fun of it? Or taking a few extra snapshots and posting them on facebook? If you ask me, anybody who chooses to be a gastroenterologist is sporting a fairly perverted sense of humor in the first place. Once you think about it, I’m not so crazy after all, now am I?

(Sigh.) I suppose I need to schedule the darn thing. I’ll do the prep and I’ll sign the consent form, but I will not consent to sleeping through it. No one, I repeat NO ONE, including some top of his med-school class anesthesiologist is going to force me to sleep through my colonoscopy. If it takes washing down my preparatory laxatives with 5 Hour Energy Drinks every five hours, dangnabbit, I’ll be awake during my colonoscopy…and I’ll be back to tell you about it. You can count on me for the truth about colonoscopies.

*Coming soon, The Prep – Part Two in a Three Part Series.

  Have you had a colonoscopy? Share you story in the comment section.

7 thoughts on “The Truth About Colonoscopies – Part One in a Three Part Series

  1. Katie Couric stayed awake for her colonoscopy, and broadcasted it to boot. Your choice. My cousin is probably alive because of getting one done. I’m just another one of those nagging friends. Yes, there is risk involved. Stop knocking the rass-a-frassin’ doctors and get on their schedule. I’ll be sure to knock doctors all day to keep you covered if you tell me when you are going in.

  2. My colonoscopy found four polyps, three of them precancerous, so I am happy to have done it. I dodged a bullet. I let them put me out initially and then was awake for the second half. Since they found so many polyps I have to return in three years. It was interesting to watch what they were doing on the monitor. My husband had minimal anesthesia, just enough to relax him a little bit, and stayed awake for the whole thing. He didn’t have any polyps, so he can wait ten years for his next one. I am glad you are going to have one done.

  3. I did not think the “prep” was bad at all…really…I would tell you…I was in a “twilight” sleep for about 15 minutes…next thing I knew the nicest nurse was offering me coffee…my quote “this was not bad at all..would do it again tomorrow…do you have any Splenda?” Now that you’re a “big girl”…make the appointment!!!

  4. While on the table before my procedure, I told my doctor he looked very familiar. We went through the usual “do you go to this school”, “do you go to this church”, “did you live here”, “do your kids go to this school”. Nothing came up. Right before he was to put me under the anestesia I told him “Hey Doc, if you see my bum and figure out where you know me from, let’s just keep that to yourself. OK?”

    Never saw him again.

  5. I would have been able to call my mom for mother’s day yesterday if she had kept up with hers. She didn’t make it to 50 (my family is high-risk). The prep is awful. It tastes like you’re drinking dirty dishwater that someone washed their feet in. Bring a TV into the bathroom, because you’ll hardly make it to the couch before you have to *RUN* back. And buy some good toilet paper, because after about 5 hours (or 50 trips to the toilet), even the fluffy stuff with aloe lotion will feel like tabasco-flavored sandpaper.

    We no longer have my mom, but my sister is alive today because she got her first colonoscopy at age 28. Same goes for one of three of my uncle’s children. (My family’s genetics make it a 50/50 chance).

    For revenge against the person who’s pushing you the hardest, have them come into the recovery room afterward. You’ll be semi-drugged and hanging out with five or six other people behind curtains who are all farting for all they’re worth. It’ll be funny to you since the drugs are still working, but your friend will be totally sober.

    • Jason,

      Please accept my condolences on the loss of your mother. Part of what inspired me to write this series of columns is the need to raise awareness. Thanks for the heads up on flatulence and recovery ( I’ll be sure to have a pair of nose plugs on hand)…I’m having mine done sans drugs. Yes indeed-doo. I’ve got this irrational fear of being put to sleep so I’m opting to be fully awake during my colonoscopy. Plus I need my wits about me if I’m going to be the primary source of information for part three of the Colonoscopy Chronicles – The Day of Reckoning.

      Unfortunately, the soonest consultation appointment I could get was August 1 so parts two and three will have to wait a few months.

  6. Pingback: The Truth About Colonoscopies, Part Three -The Day of Reckoning « Just Another Ordinary Day

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