Colonoscopy – the elephant in the room!

Last month I finally had the colonoscopy my ANP had been pushing for the past 2 years! It was time. I’d just turned 60! There were no family risk factors I knew, but colorectal cancer (colon or rectum) is the 2nd most common type of cancer in North America, and Lori was not yet convinced a virtual one is as reliable.

The preparation was bad; trying to work, powered only with clear apple and white grape juice the day before the procedure sent me home at noon with such a fuzzy head, I almost got on the wrong bus. I drank some clear lemonade with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup in it (for brain food) and slept for 4 hours, something I never do in the daytime. So, Tip #1: Ensure your clear fluids pack plenty of sweetener – natural is best! I woke in time to take my first dose of MoviPrep – the liter of sweet but salty,lemon-flavored  fluid guaranteed to clean out the colon fast. Tip#2: Don’t leave the bathrooom once you’ve finished that liter till you are sure it’s safe! I slept well, but had to wake at 6 am to take the second liter, which was even more effective than the first! No further fluids were permissible till afterwards (around 12:30 pm)- so that was tough. I was very thirsty.

I checked into the Alaska Digestive Center at 10:30 am, filled out numerous forms and disclaimers, and the intake nurse made sure my husband would be on deck to drive me home and watch over me for the next 6 hours… The paper gown was thin, and I was freezing by now. Tip#3: Wear warm, thick socks! They brought me a heated blanket – a real treat, started a saline IV and asked a few more questions about any allergies I have – none that I know of. They also took my blood pressure, and maybe because mine is normally very low, inserted an oxygen cannula in my nostrils. Then they wheeled my bed, IV and all into the procedure room and I was introduced to Dr. McLendon who would do the colonoscopy.  That done, the nurse added the sedative to the IV and I was out!

diverticua2Next thing I knew I was back in the recovery room, and my husband had arrived. I was happy to hear they found no polyps, but I do have some small pockets called diverticulae in my large colon, which are ostensibly caused by stress, or constipation.  I was a bit puzzled by this as I have always eaten lots of fruit and vegetables, as well as heavy grain breads. But the primary function of fiber in the colon is to absorb water from the surrounding tissues to ease elimination, and I suddenly realized I’ve never drunk much of anything in the past, and really should be paying attention to that if I don’t want to develop more of them.  Incidentally these don’t cause problems unless they catch food particles or stool, which cause inflammation, causing diverticulitis. This can be serious, as it kills off part of the colon tissue!  Tip #4: Always drink plenty of water, no matter how healthy your diet.  Once dressed, I was plied with post-procedure instructions, both verbal and printed, and we headed home for a most welcome lunch.

Later that day, I developed  very itchy eyes, a runny nose and congestion in my head.  I decided it was an allergic attack, and reported it during the follow-up call from the Center next day. The nurse said they’ve only seen one instance of this before, so I did a little research. The only evidence I could find was a 1989 letter in the Archives of Dermatology which described the allergic reaction of a 67 year old woman to the uncured epoxy resin in the nasal cannula she had bee using:  Could this be my problem too?  It was unpleasant for three days, but I am O.K. now. Nevertheless, Tip#5: Ask if additional oxygen is really necessary? You may be allergic to this plastic too. Well – I’m good for another 10 years, by which time I hope we can all go virtual!