Thursday, April 25, 2013

Colonoscopy Survival Guide

Welcome to Overshare City. Population: Me. A couple of weeks ago, when I was looking for information like a reasonable person (and not at all frantically trolling the Internets like a crazypants), I was really surprised at the lack of good, coherent info on colonoscopy prep. Just about everything I found was medical instructions or doomsday-level warnings. For someone who thrives on always being prepared, it caught me off-guard that I was going into this with no genuine idea. So, in the name of science and information, and bypassing all boundaries of civilized society, I've come up with my own Colonoscopy Survival Guide. I'll try to spare you guys too much grossness, but it is what it is. Let's just rip the band-aid off right away: There will be poop. Lots of poop.

Hang on tight, this might get messy (that's what she said ... while doing a prep).

1. Understand your prep: I mean, really understand it. My doc suggested a prep mix of Miralax and Gatorade. Gentle, pleasant-tasting, the "easy" prep. Since she told me it was just the over-the-counter product, I put the paperwork on my desk and paid it no attention until the day before Prep Day. When I got the instructions out, I saw that it called for TWO bottles of Miralax ... which, to me, sounded a little excessive. I called the doc's office and was reassured by a nurse that it was correct. "Trust me," she said. "You'll be glad to be doing an easy prep. And if you mix it with cold Gatorade, you'll not even notice you're drinking it." I don't care what you mix it with, there is nothing easy about shotgunning 28 doses of laxative.
Lesson learned: Call if anything sounds fishy. But they will probably make you do it anyway. 

2. Drink up, Johnny: During Prep Day, you are allowed to have clear beverages and "foods" (I use "foods" because in no world is Jello considered a meal). I went a little nutso at the grocery store and bought GF chicken broth, lemon Jello, lemon Italian ice, apple juice, white grape juice, ginger ale ... if it was on the acceptable list, I bought it. And then I gorged myself on it from about 9 a.m. until I started prep at 3 p.m. Technically, you can still have those things while you are prepping, but putting more fluid into my body was the LAST thing I wanted to do. Try to build up a good base of calories - you're going to need them. And drink loads of water - you don't want to get dehydrated (which I did, because I stopped drinking water. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES, PEOPLE).
Lesson learned: Dehydration sucks. Drink more water. And then more apple juice. And then more water.

3. Boredom makes it worse: If you have a similar reaction to mine, you aren't going to be hanging out on the couch, watching Game of Thrones and occasionally having to hit "pause" to visit your own throne room. It's going to be a constant onslaught once things get started. My best advice is to gather up some reading material and a tablet or laptop. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I used my Kindle to watch some TV - from my bathroom! Thank you, Amazon Prime. We've shared a very intimate moment together. In my arsenal as well was my favorite scented candle (made the whole thing more zen), a couple bottles of water and my prep solution. If you are one of those folks who can hang out further than 10 feet away from your toilet, more power to you, but better safe than sorry (and by sorry, I mean doing unspeakable things to your somewhat new leather couch). Also, invest in good toilet paper and maybe some Vaseline. Yep, you're going to put it where you think. Yup, it's that intense. But a few schmears of Vaseline will save you the embarrassment of walking like a cowboy after a three-day range.
Lesson learned: Be overly prepared to entertain yourself in your bathroom. And not like that either, gutterminds.

4. Layer up: Once things start, ahem, happening, you might start feeling a little chilly (something about cold fluid jetstreaming through your body?). If you don't want to have to red-tag your blankets, bring a couple of big bath or beach towels into your new home with you. You'll be glad you did once you start shivering like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining. Also suggested: Fuzzy socks and a warm hoodie. I will tell you to stay away from wearing anything on your bottom half you wouldn't mind burning. Especially if you decide to venture beyond your porcelain throne. I know, we're having this much fun already and the real show hasn't even started yet.
Lesson learned: It is better to poop furiously at a comfortable temperature than to do it cold.

5. Just do it: Okay, you're moved into your new home. You've had the mail re-directed to your bathroom. You've got your Kindle/iPad/Fern Michaels novel all cued up and ready to go. You're wearing a sweater. You've got your favorite beach towel. Water's chilling in the cooler you packed for yourself (great job thinking ahead!). Now it's the moment of truth - time to drink the Kool-Aid (or Gatorade, whatever). Honestly, I found with my prep solution, it didn't taste all that bad. I had to do 8 ounces at a time, every half hour. I set my timer, used a straw and sucked it down like a big girl. It took about two doses to get the party started, but once it did, much like a Kesha song, the party don't stop. I was worried about yakking it up, and then having to do it all. over. again., so I had to pause a couple times once I got toward the end, but it really didn't make me feel nauseous. I made the mistake of not drinking anything but my prep after I started at 3 p.m., and um, things were happening until almost midnight. This is why I needed multiple bags of IV fluid the next day. Don't be me, kids. Drink the water (see Item 2).
Lesson learned: Pirate up. You have to do it, so just put your head down and power through. (And also? DRINK THE FREAKING WATER).

6. BYOB: Okay, maybe not your own "b", but if you are gluten-free, pack a snack bag for the hospital. When you wake up, after you've made some hiney music, you are going to want something to eat and drink. My hospital is not GF-friendly, and I gave my mom specific orders to pistol-whip anyone who tried to feed drugged Alissa any Famous Amos. I brought a baggie of Ian's cookie buttons and a bottle of apple juice that I knew were safe. I was glad I did, I needed sugar like whoa when I woke up (full disclosure: my procedures got pushed back by more than three hours on the day of. If I was hangry when I went in there, I was rage-starving when I came out).
Lesson learned: Let your awesome, "be prepared" mindset carry over to the next day and bring yourself some safe snacks.

All in all, it wasn't the horrible experience I was expecting it to be. Granted, it isn't fun (unless you are into some pretty weird stuff, and then, I don't want to know what you were Google searching that brought you here). And by the end of the night on Prep Day, I sort of did feel like death on a stick. But it was my own fault for getting dehydrated. I was able to sleep through the night from midnight until about 7 a.m., but be prepared, because activities WILL start up again the next day. Totally normal. You shouldn't panic and cry at the first nurse you see because you think you're going to fail your colonoscopy because DEAR GOD, WHY WON'T IT STOP?!?  In the end (ha, yep, in the end, that's how the whole thing goes), you'll be in and out of your procedure without even knowing what was happening. You'll have a better knowledge of the amazing feat of nature that is your digestive tract, and you'll have done something proactive for your health. And if that isn't enough to soothe your nerves, just think of the awesome drugs they give you.


  1. Talk about needing to make a run for it! Good to know what to expect if I ever have the "joy" of going through one of these. But you are totally right, the other info out there is way scary, so thanks for writing something honest and humorous.

  2. I sat and read this last night before bed and laughed because I seriously did the same thing with my last colonoscopy (which makes a total of 5 now before the age of 30). Except with mine I was nursing little man at the time, got up, and tossed him to Hubby and RAN quicker than lightening before our wood floors got messed up.

    It's so glam talking about our poop :)

  3. A very good narrative. I remember the prep feeling like a shower for your insides. It was an untraumatic experience for me. Must have had a good prep from my doc.

  4. This is the most hilarious and honest thing I've read in a long time. You need to make this post into a pamphlet to be included in the prep packet. Colonoscopy newbies of the world will thank you.

    Much like anonymous, my scope was pretty untraumatic. Granted it was almost 14 years ago (shit, I'm old), but I don't remember a prep mix like that. I took a shot of Castor oil and that cleaned me out. The most traumatic event of my prep was that it was on Halloween, so all my friends were out trick-or-treating (yes, we were freshmen in college) and literally as I put the shot glass of castor oil down they rang the doorbell to "visit me". Talk about bad timing...

  5. To join you in Overshare City: I spent my whole prep, a couple years ago, thinking nothing of "substance" was actually coming out. But then when I went in for the procedure they said I was all clear. The lesson there is that I will just always feel full of poo whether or not I am.

    P.S. I linked to this survival guide in my most recent post because I really enjoyed it. So funny!

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  7. Thanks for posting this! I am terrified of my virgin colonoscopy, especially with the gluten free thing. I normally don't eat sugar. Ever. So not looking forward to drinking a bunch of it. Sigh. It's all hard but this is the easiest, best prep advice around!

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