Did I dread it? You betcha. On top of it, they’d given me a schedule for the middle of December, speak right before Christmas. Definitely the wrong time to undergo a colonoscopy. But I, medical wimp that I am, told myself that I could do this, should do this, just to get it done and over with. Not that cancelling didn’t cross my mind. But I kept vacillating between Yay and Nay, and then it was too late, because cancelling within 5 business days, I’d be charged a hundred bucks.
“What if I break a leg?” I asked the nurse who had given me my instructions for the procedure.
“Well, now, that would be an emergency, wouldn’t it? We just don’t want people who are scared to cancel at the last minute.”
I was one of those people. Being a medical wimp, Dr. Oz is a stranger to me. I never watch the show. As I never watch Grey’s Anatomy, or Medical Mysteries, or any such fare. Any commercial that hails great medicines, only to end with a long list of side-effects, such as, check with your physician, because the side-effects may be fatal, gives me chills and means a sure change of the channel via my remote. As for any kind of medical discussion that news channels seem to feel obligated to run, ditto. I immediately get symptoms and stay away from such enlightenments.
But, the colonoscopy loomed, and it wasn’t made much better by a friend of mine who said:
“This stuff tastes terrible.”
“Am I going to survive it?”
“Oh, sure. Just chuck it.”
And another friend said, “Oh, my God, I’m glad I started earlier than they said, because I wouldn’t have made it.”
By the time a third friend said, “Colonoscopy? That’s nothing nowadays,” my anxiety had reached Xanax levels, and her positive outlook didn’t soothe me one iota.
I wasn’t scared of the procedure itself. I knew I would be out cold for just a bit, and the last time I had it, which was five years before, I thought the whole thing lasted two minutes, it was over so fast. Rather, I was scared of “drinking that stuff” and what it would do to me. Five years before, that prep procedure had been different, and no drinking of “terrible stuff” had been involved.
So here’s the thing: Don’t listen to your friends. Caring and helpful as they are, they will manage to scare the hell out of you.
The doctor’s office phoned the prescription for “that terrible stuff” into the pharmacy, and I picked it up on the way home. They handed me a white gallon jug labeled Golytely, which had some powder in the bottom. Yuk! Reading the instructions the nurse had given me didn’t make me feel any better: Fill with water to the fill line on the morning of the day before the procedure, and shake well. Drink 8 oz of the solution every 15 minutes (1/2 gallon) starting at 6 at night, and the rest of it, every 15 min beginning at 4 a.m. Oh, for heaven’s sake, I thought, I will never, ever be able to do this. But, in wise foresight, I had bought some straws, because I figured, drinking things through a straw, the stuff doesn’t fill out your mouth and lingers there, making you sick.
I was given a set of instructions as to what I should eat three days before—white rice, white pasta, cooked veggies, cooked fruits, potatoes, bananas, even chocolate (I called the clinic to make sure I could—yessssss), chicken, white bread—in other words, all things that were easily digested or, as they said, “low residue.” (Love that. I had heard an astronaut say this once when he was asked what his breakfast was before he blasted off into space: “Poached eggs, toast, potatoes, in other words, low residue stuff.”) And, in the age of where everything “white” is pooh-poohed, no pun intended, and whole grain stuff is hailed, eating only “white” stuff was a treat. Yes, I ate pound cake. And a cookie here and there.
On the prep day, that is, the day before the actual procedure, I would be permitted only clear juices, orange juice without pulp, Pepsi, ginger ale, low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth, water, coffee and tea, yes, sugared if I wanted, and jello and popsicles.
So, the day before the prep day, I made a big bowl of lemon jello (4 pks), bought some chicken broth, 2 quarts, forgot the popsicles, which was probably just as well, because I could have eaten only the lemon ones (nothing with blue, purple, red, or orange in it), and anxiously awaited the next day. Oh, and I did buy a package of pads, such as one might use for incontinence, just in case I wouldn’t make it to the bathroom in time.
When I got up the next morning, I retrieved the ominous gallon jug of Golytely, which I had well hidden from sight so accidental glances of it wouldn’t startle me, filled it with water to the fill line, shook it violently a couple of times, and put it into the fridge, as instructed. There it loomed, but I forced myself to stare at it bravely every time I opened to door to it. For breakfast, I had two pieces of toast. Could have had an egg, poached, but couldn’t handle that. No solid food after that. Every time I got hungry thereafter, I had a bowl of lemon jello or a cup of chicken broth. All worked very well to keep my cravings in check—besides, I figured, why not lose a couple of pounds, whether I needed to do so or not.
I tried not to check the clock, because 6 o’clock, when the first glass of “that stuff” was due, crept ever closer. And then—there it was. Somberly, I took the cap off the jug, poured the first glass, put a straw into it, gave myself a mental push, and drank that glass dry in about 5 seconds.
Surprise, surprise! I may as well have had a plain glass of water, because this “stuff” tasted but ever so faintly salty, and that was that. Ah, what a relief! I set my timer for 15 minutes, and then I had the next glass, which went down just as easily, and so it went, until I had the required 8 glasses. No problem. Watched the news and a crime show in between, and waited for the “explosion,” and my not being able to make it to the bathroom on time. Nothing happened.
Not until about half an hour after I had the last glass, and then the results, though they came rather frequently, were so “gentle,” I thought I may have done something wrong. I didn’t. This went on for about two hours, and then it was over, and I got a bit of work done and went to bed. I dreaded the four o’clock rise, not being able to eat anything or drink anything, except, once again, “that stuff.”
Tired and cross, I peeled myself out of bed at four the next morning, headed for the jug, poured a glass, put the straw in, drank the stuff, as before in 5 seconds, turned on the timer, turned on the TV, wrapped myself in a blanket, and tried to get 10 min snoozes in between the timer bings. Didn’t work very well, because this time, the stuff worked much faster, and so I visited the bathroom more than I had anticipated, even after I was done drinking the solution (which was at exactly 6:12 a.m., Yeah!!), but hey, the cleaner I was, the better the doc could see if anything was going on in my innards. Though I felt sleepy, hungry, and cross, having to go to the bathroom every fifteen minutes, I told myself, yawning, to get a grip here. To help me out, the TV flashed a Wounded Warrior picture across the screen, which helped me to develop a backbone in two seconds flat.
Done with the solution, I jumped into the shower, and by the time we left for the clinic, I felt a bit drowsy and sleepy—after all, I hadn’t had anything to eat in ages, but I was quite proud of myself. A good thing is that they require you to have someone drive you there (you’re hungry, a bit drowsy), stay with you there (so someone other then yourself hears the instructions), and to drive you home (you feel a bit wobbly). No driving for the rest of the day.
We got to the clinic, and the nurses, being their usual lovely, helpful, funny, and positive, prepped me with what they had to prep for —temperature, blood pressure, IV, etc., and then they wheeled me into the procedure room, knocked me out a little, not much, and the next thing I knew, I was wide awake again, had a glass of ginger ale in my hand, which I gulped down, through a straw, and it was delicious. Was I proud of myself, or what? You betcha. The doc came in and said: “We didn’t find a thing. You’re clean as a whistle.”
So we went to the Waffle House to celebrate. I had coffee, two eggs over-easy, hash browns, sausage, and, for once, truly great grits. Yummy!!!
(And do check out my other blog, Diary of a Naive)