This post may verge into TMI land for some readers, but I’ve found other people’s personal accounts of inflammatory bowel disease-related experiences helpful and sometimes comforting, so I am sharing mine here.
If you’re lucky, you won’t have to worry about your first colonoscopy until you’re in your 50s or 60s and need to start getting screened for colon cancer every five to ten years. But Crohns-y me had my first this week, and I can look forward to many many more over the coming years.
The quasi-good news for me, in mentally preparing for my colonoscopy, is that I’ve already survived a barium enema on the route to diagnosis. It was not a good time – both the prep and the procedure itself left me feeling nauseous, weak, tired, and generally awful. But my handy guide to life with Crohn’s, The First Year – Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed (by Jill Sklar), assured me that from a patient’s point of view, the colonoscopy is basically similar to the barium enema, but not as bad since you can be sedated for the colonoscopy. The bowel cleansing prep, often considered the worst part, is about the same for both procedures.
Things didn’t start out well since I was feeling quite abnormally sick the night before the colonoscopy prep started. But the positive side of feeling sick and throwing up the night before the prep started was that I wasn’t feeling hungry at all for much of the day of the prep. And since I had to be on an all clear liquid diet for the prep day, it was actually a good thing to not be hungry. I drank water, tea, vegetable broth, and Gatorade throughout the prep day and before the colonoscopy on the big day.
Since I complained to my doctor about how awful I felt from drinking the magnesium citrate for my barium enema prep, she advised me to take Pico Salax this time. I took my first dose at 4:00 pm on prep day and it actually tasted fine – slightly citrusy and not at all gag-inducing. The Pico Salax started doing its job after about an hour, and then I felt fine (albeit a bit hungry at times) for the rest of the night. I slept well and then took the second dose of Pico Salax at 7:00 am on the big day. A few more trips to the bathroom, more water, Gatorade, and tea, and then finally off to the hospital.
I opted for sedation for the colonoscopy, and I think that is definitely the way to go. I talked with my doctor for a bit, then she injected the sedative, and then my consciousness/memory gets spotty. At some point I was conscious enough to realize that the doctor and nurse were talking about inflammation that they were seeing in my colon and I asked for my glasses so I could see it on the computer screen too. The next thing I remember is my doctor sitting across the room filling out some paperwork and telling me that I did great. So with the procedure over with, they rolled my stretcher into recovery and I snoozed for a couple more minutes, had another quick chat with my doctor now that I was mostly with it again, and waited until the nurses let me go. Afterwards, I was thirsty, hungry, and a bit bloated and weird feeling, but otherwise felt fine. All in all, it wasn’t such a bad experience.