Colonoscopy: What to Expect and How to Make it Easier.

I know how difficult it can be to find the time to take care of yourself.

And while this is not the most comfortable topic to discuss, a colonoscopy is so important to maintaining your overall health and preventing serious illnesses.

Woman drinking tea in a dark room with sunlight shining in windown.  Text says Colonoscopy what to expect and how to make it easier.

Here’s what happened to us.  

When my grandmother was 87 they found a “mass” believed to be Colon Cancer.  The doctors agreed that my mom needed a colonoscopy scheduled as soon as possible. 

My mother had refused this test for years, but finally caved and agreed to get it done.  She should have had a colonoscopy 15 years ago but had never had one before. She thought the procedure was disgusting and she didn’t want to do it.

In her defense, we had our hands full helping my dad fight Lung Cancer for 21 months.  And then coping with his decision to stop treatment and begin Hospice.

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We go in for my mom’s scheduled colonoscopy (now several years late).

And when she’s finished, they tell us “they found something, and the doctor will be in to talk to us.”

We spend the first of many agonizing hours waiting.  When the doctor finally comes out of surgery, he tells us “there’s a large tumor in mom’s colon and it’s too big to remove.  They took a biopsy and are awaiting the results and we will need to schedule an appointment with a surgeon to have this removed.”

We left the doctors that day pretty terrified.

I just lost my dad to this horrific disease.  I seriously can’t even deal with the idea of losing my mom too.

The Panic Begins

stressed young woman covering her hands with her face.

The panic and anxiety that creeps in while you are waiting for results, the next steps, and 2nd opinions are so incredibly intense.  And when you’ve already been through this, your panic skyrockets.

The results came back and of course, it’s cancer.  So now they schedule tests and scans to see if it’s spread.

More stressful and intense waiting.  For appointments, for results, and for the plan to deal with this.  Thankfully we had the results in a few days, but “a few days” when you’re stuck inside a pressure cooker can feel like DECADES.

The scans are good, with no spread showing, although 2 little spots on the liver (where we’ve now been told Colon Cancer likes to spread) would need further evaluation.

The trauma continues. My dad’s cancer diagnosis started with a similar statement of “2 little spots”…  

The two little spots were not cancer and mom was scheduled for surgery. They needed to remove a foot of her colon and several layers of the surrounding lymph nodes.  Once the tumor was removed, they sealed the two ends of her colon back together.


After the surgery and several check up’s she is now cancer free. 

The worst part is, if she had done the colonoscopy at age 50, they could have probably removed this tumor when it was a “blip” during the colonoscopy, and we would have never dealt with it again.

If you ask my mom today how bad the colonoscopy was she will tell you it was no big deal and she should have gotten it the first time it was recommended instead of ending up in this position.    

Cancer screenings, no matter how uncomfortable save lives!  But, you have to actually do the test to get the lifesaving stuff!   

You can find an outline of recommended cancer screenings here…

The Colonoscopy Procedure

A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows doctors to examine the inside of your large intestine, also known as the colon. It involves using a flexible tube with a camera attached, which is inserted through the rectum to visualize the colon. 

One of the main reasons why a colonoscopy is recommended is its effectiveness in detecting colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer in both men and women. 

This procedure can identify polyps, which are small growths in the colon that have the potential to develop into cancer over time. By removing these polyps during the colonoscopy, we can significantly reduce the risk of them turning into cancer or identify any existing cancer at an early stage when treatment is most effective.

But it’s not just about cancer. Colonoscopies can also help diagnose other gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulosis, or even identify the cause of unexplained symptoms like abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or changes in bowel habits. It allows doctors to visually inspect the entire colon and take tissue samples if necessary for further analysis.

While the idea of a colonoscopy may seem disgusting, this procedure plays a vital role in the early detection and prevention of various colorectal conditions. Plus, it’s literally a 20-minute procedure.

A relatively safe and well-tolerated procedure. Advances in technology and sedation techniques have made it much more comfortable for patients, minimizing any potential discomfort or pain during the examination.

By scheduling a colonoscopy, you’re taking a proactive step towards protecting your health and well-being.

The procedure itself is easy, the reason why people avoid this is because the colonoscopy preparation sucks.

It’s without question the hardest part.

How to Make Colonoscopy Prep Easier

Woman drinking a water bottle.

So here I was 8 years earlier than the recommended age, gearing up for my first colonoscopy.  I’ve heard the same colonoscopy prep horror stories as you have, so I was not excited about this at all. 

The first thing the doctor said to me when I told him why I was there is “don’t worry about this, if there’s anything in there we’ll get it out before it becomes an issue.” 

I had a full page of detailed prep instructions which they went over with me before I left the office.   And so the fun begins.

Choose a Comfortable Location to Prep

My mom lives 10 minutes from the hospital where the procedure was happening, and I live about an hour away.  

Hint:  Factor these time frames in because you’ll need to find a bathroom if you’ll be driving for a while to the procedure. 

I decided to skip all that, spend a few days at my mom’s house hanging out and watching Christmas Movies while we got this done.  She was thrilled. 

Stick with a Clear Liquid Diet

I’ve heard that eating raw fruits and raw vegetables, whole grains, red meat and sticking to high-fiber foods a few days before the prep day helps, but me… I was eating chicken and white rice at 11 pm the night before.

 I woke up the day before the procedure, hungry.  And you can’t eat anything the day before.  Nothing. That’s one of the worst parts of the colonoscopy prep.

Only a strict clear liquid diet is allowed the day before, so I stuck with things like…

  • Water (I drank over a gallon of water during this)
  • White Cranberry Juice   
  • Black Coffee (you can have sugar, but no cream)
  • Iced Tea

Other options that I didn’t use are apple juice, white grape juice, sports drinks (like Gatorade), and clear soft drinks.   

And the “hearty choices” which help you feel full when you’re not allowed to eat.  These were the real life savers.

Chicken Broth (no chunks)-  My mom made chicken soup with all the chicken and the vegetables and then strained out the clear broth juice.  It was delicious and it made me feel full.

Lindy’s Lemon Italian Ice-  Lemon was the only flavor allowed.  You can’t have red, orange, or purple dyes (get the 6-pack at the grocery store for like $3.00 I ate 5 of them!)  Note: you can also have ice pops if you prefer.

The First Prep Started at 6 pm

Woman drinking clear liquids from a coffee cup.

I had a 2-step prep.  My colonoscopy prep was the first dose the night before and the second dose the morning of.

I had a package of mix and a container with a measuring mark.  You add the mix, then add the water to the mark and shake the mixture until it was dissolved.

Then it was “time to drink the Kool-Aid”. 

I took the first sip and as I am sure you can imagine; it was totally disgusting.  I mean sweet and overpowering.  It tasted like someone poured a pound of crystal light into a cup of water and asked you to drink it.  It was WAY too sweet. 

My first thought was to add a ton of water so I could barely taste it.  Thankfully my mom stopped me.  “If you do that,” she said, “it will still be disgusting, and you’ll have to drink even more of it.”  

Hmmm…. Good point.

So, I drank as much as I could muster in a sip, swallowed, and chased it with 2 gulps of water, which helped balance out the taste. 

Once it was down, nothing happened.  I kind of imagined that you would be running back and forth to the bathroom with an extreme sense of urgency.  That’s not what it’s like at all.

You go when you need to go, which is frequent, but not at all what I expected.  And within an hour and a half to two hours, you’re done. 

Hint:  Invest in a few rolls of really soft toilet paper, some wet wipes, and a good book.  I’d also wear pj’s or sweat pants so you don’t have to fight with the buttons.  You’ll be happy you did.

I went to bed about 10:30 and slept through the night like a baby. 

Then, I woke up at 6 am for prep #2.

The Second Prep Process Started at 6 am

I repeated the same process with the mixing and this time it was a different flavor, but still gross.  So, I drank the “Kool-Aid” and chased it with water as I had the night before.

After about the 3rd time in the bathroom this morning, everything was coming out clear.  I had to stop drinking everything by 7:30 am because my scheduled check-in time was 8:30 am, so I took my last big drink at 7:28 am and I headed to the hospital.

Successful Colonoscopy

Dr's, nurse and patients in a hospital room working on a patients colonoscopy.

I checked-in for the procedure.

When they check you in, they want to physically see your ride home.  You can’t drive after this procedure, so make sure your ride comes with you.

I got a bracelet, and a hospital bed, changed into a gown and then they inserted an IV into my hand.  

I’d never had an IV before but, once it was in my hand it didn’t bother me at all. It did mean I had to take the pole with me to the bathroom. 

That was it.  The doctor came out and ran through the procedure.  

He told me it would take about 20 minutes and that I wouldn’t remember any of it (he was right.) 

He also told me that as soon as he’s done and they remove the anesthesia, I would wake up pretty quickly.  It’s short-acting anesthesia, intended for quick procedures.

I met the anesthesiologist who asked a bunch of questions about allergies and history and then they took me into a room with a bunch of computers and a big TV.

The doctor said we were going to start, and I made a joke about not forgetting the anesthesia and that is the last thing I remember.  I woke up back in the room where I started.

The best part, the doctor came right in after the procedure and gave me the all-clear.  No precancerous polyps, no issues of any kind, totally clear and everything looked good.

He said normally he would recommend that I come back in five years, but because of my family history, I should have another one in 3 years.

They gave me some drinks (go for the ginger ale which helps with the gas that happens after the procedure) and some snacks and after a little while, I was able to go home. 

Take It Easy That Day

I should tell you that I took it easy that day and fell asleep in the recliner for over an hour.  I was hungry, but it didn’t take much food before I felt full. 

And the very next day, I was totally back to normal.

Compared to the 5-hour surgery my mom had to remove the tumor (which by the way includes a prep with even more to drink), 3-day hospitalization, and losing a foot of your colon. 

The colonoscopy was a cakewalk.

May 2023 Update: The New Prep Solution

Woman reading the detailed instructions for the colonoscopy with a smile.

I just had my next colonoscopy.  They now offer a pill version of the colon prep, no more drinking that disgusting liquid.  

Here’s how it works:  You take these large white pills and you have to take 12 of them for each prep (morning and night).  You take the pills 2 minutes apart with water over the span of 30 min.

After I took all the pills, I started needing to go about 1 and ½ hours later and 2 (ish) hours after that I was done.   I slept through the night no problem.  

The next morning I took the remaining 12 pills and I started going to the bathroom within 45 minutes.  The best part, I had NO issue with the 1-hour drive from my house to the hospital.  I didn’t even have to stop.

The prep still sucks, but seriously it was much easier when you didn’t have to drink all that crap.  And who knows what they’ll come up with in the future… 

Have you scheduled your colonoscopy yet?

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Things feel better, and more in control when you have a plan.  So if you’re looking for action steps, resources, and strategies that will help you manage this crisis, we’ve got you covered. And it’s totally free… 

You can get the Cancer Combat Plan for free here…

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