My Colonoscopy Experience
It seems that when we hit the magical age of 50, we are supposed to submit to a variety of tests and exams. All of them are important, and we should take care of them. I think my one and only prostate exam took place shortly after my 50th birthday. But I put off the colonoscopy for a few more years. At 58, and with a new doctor who lost her dad to colon cancer, it was time to get this important screening done.
My main reason for avoiding it was more financial than anything else. I simply did not have health insurance. But I have been able to find affordable insurance through the ACA (Obamacare), so the financial excuse was gone. I also found that going through Moss Regional Hospital helped with the overall cost.
So, I began my colonoscopy journey in the fall of 2015. Since my primary care doctor was not associated with Moss, I was assigned one there. After a brief meeting with him, the preliminary testing began. Those included a chest XRAY and EKG to make sure I could be put under for the procedure. Yes! You sleep through it! All turned out good, so the prep appointment was next. That is where you meet with a nurse who explains the procedure to you and how the day before preparation works. That's where the real fun is! You then pick up your jug of GoLYTELY and wait till prep day. Also during the time before the prep visit, you are given a date and time for your colonoscopy. Since I was a new patient at Moss, this all took about 6 months.
My first colonoscopy was scheduled for April 13th, so the 12th was my prep day. This is really the hardest part because you cannot eat anything solid the whole day. My last meal was at 8 the night before. You can have clear liquids such as white grape juice or white cranberry juice, or clear broth. And you can have popsicles too, as long as they are not a dark color. I began my prep day with a large Mountain Dew for the calories and sugar. I went to work as usual and just tried not to think about food! It actually was easier to get through the day than I thought it would be.
Earlier in the day, I mixed the GoLYTELY as instructed. It is best served cold. At about 5, I began the long process of drinking the stuff. One glass, every 15-20 minutes. I found that chasing it with a sip of white cranberry juice made it much easier to tolerate. After the second glass, the stuff began to do its job,. and it was off to the bathroom! It takes about 4 hours to finish the jug. No, it's not the most pleasant thing, but it is the most important. Because if don't do this part correctly, you must start the whole process over again! Once is good enough for me.
My driver Jessica and I arrived at 10am on the 13th, ready to get this done. The procedure is done in the GI section of Lake Charles Memorial. And you MUST have a driver, or they will not do the colonoscopy. They tell you to be prepared to be there about 4 hours. They aren't kidding! While the actual colonoscopy takes 30-45 minutes, you will be waiting awhile. When it's your turn, they take you in and you get to dress in one of those backless gowns. You really can't be too modest with a colonoscopy, but that's part of the deal. An IV is inserted for the anesthesia, and you wait a little more.
Shortly after noon, I was wheeled in to the room where the colonoscopy would take place. To my surprise, they had The Lake on their radio, which made me feel right at home! I had to prove who I was by doing our image liner, "929 The Lake, Classic hits for Southwest Louisiana!" in my best radio voice. After 5 more minutes of prep, I was put under, and the procedure began. It took about 45 minutes.
Recovery doesn't take long, and they let you go. This is where you realize why they place so much importance on having a driver! You are still pretty much out of it 30 minutes later. But I had no ill effects once I fully recovered from the short nap a few hours later. There is no pain, and no lingering effects from the procedure. And they actually give you pictures!
I did have 2 polyps removed back in April. They were precancerous, so I had a second colonoscopy on November 9th. Since I am now a patient in the system, the second one required only the prep visit. I am hoping that one went better. I was told to come back in 5 years. That was a good sign, but it takes about a week to get the results back.
We have all heard stories about colonoscopies. Many aren't good. I will tell you that my experience both times has been excellent. The staffs at Moss and Lake Charles Memorial were very good and answered all my questions. I have no doubt that any hospital would be the same. These are the two I used. A colonoscopy is not as simple as having your blood pressure checked or having blood work done for a physical. But it is an extremely important procedure for us folks over 50, especially if there is a history of colon cancer in your family. Unless you are in a high risk group, it can be done once every 5 years or so. In most cases, colon cancer is a slow growing cancer, and usually causes no symptoms till it's in an advanced stage or has spread elsewhere. And when detected early, it is much easier to treat.
So if you are over 50, schedule a colonoscopy soon. The polyps found in my first one were a warning. If I had continued to put it off, I may have had a far rougher time a year or so down the road. It's really not as bad as the stories you may have heard. And if you use LCMH, tell them the radio guy from The Lake sent you!