Colonoscopy Prep: What To Expect and Tips to Get Through It.

It’s amazing how quickly you find yourself agonizing about the colonoscopy prep what to expect, when cancer comes knocking.

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

My mother who had refused this test for years, 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 battle Lung Cancer for 21 months.  And then coping with his decision to stop treatment and begin Hospice.

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Being in a caregiving situation can make it difficult to find time to take care of yourself.

It’s easy to push things off and say “I’ll do it later.”  But later never comes.

The Results

Adult Woman Sitting Look Worried

So, we go in for her scheduled colonoscopy (now several years late).

And when she is 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 he finally comes out of surgery, he tells “there is a large polyp in the area and it was 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

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 CT scans to see if it’s spread.

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

The CT 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.  We’ve already been through, “2 little spots”…  

We Got Lucky

The two little spots were not cancer and mom was scheduled for surgery where they removed about a foot of her colon and the surrounding lymph nodes.  Once the polyp was removed, they sealed the two ends of her colon back together.

We GOT SO LUCKY.  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 polyp 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…

Colonoscopy Prep What To Expect

So here I was 8 years earlier than the recommended age, gearing up for my first colonoscopy.  I’ve heard the same colonoscopy prep what to expect horror stories 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”.  “If there is anything in there we will get it out before it becomes an issue.” 

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

Choose a Close/ 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 are going to be driving a while for 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 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 what to expect.

Only clear liquids are allowed, so I stuck with things like…

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

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 juice.  It was delicious and it filled me up.

Lindy’s Lemon Italian Ice-  Lemon was the only flavor allowed.  You can’t have red or orange coloring. (get the 6-pack for like $3.00 I ate 5 of them!)

The 1rst prep started at 6 pm

I had what they call a 2-step prep.  My colonoscopy prep what to expect was One prep the night before and one prep 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 for the colonoscopy prep what to expect.  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 baby 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.

Prep #2 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.

The Colonoscopy Procedure

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 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.

Have you scheduled your colonoscopy yet?

P.S.  If you’re drowning in all this cancer business, and you have no idea where to start…  The Cancer Combat Plan is a step by step guide from someone who has struggled through this and found ways to manage the chaos, the stress, and the overwhelm.   

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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