The second colonoscopy is much easier than the first. At least that’s what I told myself as I laid on the OR table getting my second test done this year. There was no other place I could be. The first one in January had shown a need for a follow-up. The recommended age for women is 50-74 years old to start getting tested. 50 years old would have been too late for me.
I am 43 years old and came close to having the cancer talk with my doctor.
After my thyroidectomy and follow-up treatments, I was unable to lose the pounds from the hyperthyroid to hypothyroid diagnoses. After 7 months of medication changes, my endocrinologist tested my blood for Celiac disease. It came back positive. It was odd because no one in my family has the autoimmune disease. Soon, I would learn the link between thyroid and Celiac disease.
My endocrinologist referred me to a gastro specialist, who then sent me for more tests. Those came back positive, and a gastroscopy and a colonoscopy was booked for March 2017. Looking back, days before Christmas 2016, my specialist called me to say he wasn’t happy with my last results and moved my colonoscopy and gastroscopy to just after the New Year. And I am forever grateful he did.
Nine polyps were removed that day. A third of what was removed was precancerous. It is highly possible that if I had the procedures in March 2017, as originally scheduled, he could have had the chemo conversation with me instead of simply changing what I eat.
In retrospect, it is the prep for the test that is worse than the actual test. The second time was better than the first, unknown time, because I knew better. There are five things I wish I knew before I begun prepping for my first colonoscopy.
(As always, follow your doctor’s orders.)
You are not bugging the receptionist if you are unsure of what you can eat or want more information about the test. Once you know what to avoid in the future, the easier it will be to figure out what your body will experience.
2-3 days before your colonoscopy, you can have black coffee/ tea, dairy, eggs, clear fluids (including clear alcohol within reason), enjoy mashed potatoes, and bananas. Think bland food and drink.
You can’t fruit or vegetable skins or raw fruit or veggies. The seeds and skins can stick to the colon and intestine and stop the test. Do you want to come back again to re-test? I didn’t.
The day before you can only have clear foods like: water, ginger ale, apple juice, Jell-O, black coffee and tea. You will be grateful for watching what you eat, because what went in will have to come out.
Don’t cheat, your doctor will know!
Be home by mid-day the day before your procedure, since you might be shaky from hunger and need exclusive use of a bathroom. Have candles, flushable wipes, and a book or Netflix at the ready.
Arrange for child-care until the next day when you start the meds to prep for the procedure, which is usually dinnertime the night before.
It will be over faster than the prep work took. Arrange for a ride home and have someone be with you for the rest of the day. Take it slow. When your doctor allows you, start the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast.), and dream about that glass of something when the sedation wears off.
Here's a few bonus things you should know:
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in women in Canada. You might be asked while waiting to go in to get gowned-up if you are escorting an older relative. Farts will come, and without warning, after the procedure. Light those candles and laugh that it’s over.
It may have saved your life as it has mine.