Saturday, April 22, 2017

I Wanna Be Sedated: The Colonoscopy Experience

Well another month is almost done and I do apologize for not blogging, but I have had other things to deal with that took priority, including my first colonoscopy.  With March passing by (it was also Colon Cancer month), I am not going to go into all the gory details, but I will write about my personal experience because I know there are so many people who are terrified of this procedure and of course, when you go online, somehow the Google Gods direct you to websites that literally scare the sh!t out of you.

So let’s start with my nagging feeling that I needed to get a second opinion after seeing my first GI doctor.  I thought for a fleeting second that maybe my anxiety was fueling doubt, but with the allotted 5 minutes of time I was granted after results came back from my sigmoid, since my symptoms were not going away and I was just in so much agonizing pain, I decided to go back to my family doctor and ask for a second referral to another GI doctor here in the city.  I am really glad that I did because although this one was not taking any new referrals because he treated me many years ago (gallbladder fun) I was accepted and so it was just about waiting for the doctor to review my file and decide what to do next.

Everyone knows that our health-care system is complicated. Most specialists are booked solid and it can take months to see anyone. Back many years ago when I was first dealing with pelvic pain, the waiting list to see a specialist in London, Ontario was almost a year and a half or longer. Thus, my trip to the States.

Here in Windsor, I was informed that the length could be a few weeks to a few months because of how backed up he was with patients (no pun intended). I was fortunate to get in for a consult within a few weeks time. Now mind you I was proactive with calling up the office and letting the receptionist know that I was available at ANY possible time that I could be fitted in and to please put me on their cancellation list.  Let me say that having a good staff is so important, as they are pretty much your first contact before seeing the doctor.  This GI’s staff is remarkable and with the volume of patients they deal with on a regular basis, man oh man, they are angels.

So during my consult, the GI doctor decided that a colonoscopy was definitely warranted.  He spent close to half an hour with myself and my fiance going through my whole history and pointing to the poster that showed the whole GI tract and explaining the functionality of different parts and some of the illnesses associated. Scary stuff, I won’t lie.  Towards the end of the appointment, he gave a good analogy that I try to hold onto when I get incredibly health-stressed:  “You don’t get divorced before you get married.”  So I was advised not to self-diagnose, nor jump to conclusions on what could be happening until after we go through the procedure and get the results. Easier said than done, but i'm trying.

I was booked for my colonoscopy in the second week of May, which seemed like an eternity, but it was the earliest he could do.  Then it happened.... I got a call on “Good Friday” asking if I was available to come in on April 18th because there was a sudden cancellation.  Obviously, many people want to celebrate Easter and since it’s personally not important to me to celebrate anything anymore on the given day (that’s what dating a performer teaches you as well when they have to perform on all those special holidays that are usually reserved for family time and just dealing with so many unexpected interruptions in life) so I jumped at the opportunity.

So let’s talk about the prep. I will say that every doctor is different on what they want done, so I am just stating what my instructions were prior to the procedure.

Pharmacy Shopping List:

  • Laxatives  (I opted for Life brand, it’s cheaper than Dulcolax)
  • Pico-Salax (2 sachets)

The day before you need to fast. No solid foods are allowed.  Then you drink...drink and drink. Only clear liquids are allowed, so strained juices without pulp, clear broth, water, coffee/tea (without milk or cream), Gatorade, soft drinks, plain Jello and popsicles. Stay clear of anything that you cannot see through, red or purple juices (these colours could signal inflammation and ulcers during the procedure where this is none), milk and milk products, and yep booze is a definite no-no!!

The morning before the colonoscopy, you’ll take 10 mg of whatever laxative you bought. Then in the late afternoon, you’ll mix one sachet of something called Pico-Salax with cold water. Keep on drinking throughout the day.

Pico-Salax comes in two powdered flavours; cranberry and orange. I opted for orange since I thought okay it may be just like drinking a glass of orange juice.  I had to buy 2 packages since they only came in single formats, but you may be able to find some packages that have 2 sachets, depending on what store you go to. My go-to is always Shoppers Drug Mart and really, who wants to be shopping around for laxatives?!  Just get in and get out. So what’s Pico-Salax. It’s basically a very powerful laxative that will clean you out so the doctor can get a clear view of your entire colon.  If  you are not cleaned out, you may have to redo the procedure (hello anxiety!), so you want to really follow all the instructions well from your GI.  This is a true colon “detox.”  You can read all about it here:

Pico-Salax options

Pico-Salax purchased at Shoppers Drug Mart

The next morning which would be the day of the colonoscopy, you’ll take the second dose of Pico-Salax.  You can drink 3 hours prior to your appointment time. (Ex. 6 am for your dose if your appointment is in the morning, 8 am if your appointment is in the afternoon).

Okay so if you’re with me so far and I haven’t totally grossed you out, this next bit might make you feel a bit squeamish, but this is the joy of being an adult and having to go through health issues.

All you do is pour the entire sachet packet into about 150 ml of water.  It will fizzle up, so then you will want to stir for about 2-3 minutes until completely dissolved. Then you chug chug chug. Follow up with 1.5 – 2 litres of water and wait.  Every person is different so you may start to feel the gurgling in your stomach sooner than others. Make sure you are close to a bathroom because that sudden urge to go will come quickly.  Side note, for me it took about 4 1/2 hours after taking the liquid to start. I actually called the pharmacist because I was concerned that since nothing was happening, I would have to reschedule. Shortly after his advice to drink a lot more water, I was making a bee line for the washroom. Once, twice, three times...and on and on for pretty much on/off for most of the night. An exhausting process considering there is no food in your system, and the Pico-Salax, although is tolerable, still tastes very medicinal. Unfortunately, until they can come up with a more innovative way, this is what one must do. Again, your experience may be totally different, but just warning you to be close to a bathroom, have ample toilet paper, some good sprays like Vipoo, Glade, or Febreeze (these are my top scents).  I also got some Gatorade to replenish any electrolytes lost and to get a bit of energy back, so I wouldn’t be a total zombie. I am happy that I consulted with a couple people beforehand so I knew sort of what to expect.

Febreeze, Vipoo and Glade sprays

A great brand of toilet paper that is really gentle!

Gatorade Frost
After basically a night of broken sleep, the morning arrived with the birdies chirping by my window and yes, it was time to take my second dose!  Thankfully it wasn’t as exhausting as the evening prep, but still unpleasant nonetheless.

Leaving our place, Bill spotted 2 bunnies! I was pretty nervous, so seeing my cute little friends made me smile and was a positive sign.

I went to MET Hospital this time, which was a great experience. Everyone was friendly and it was like a well-oiled machine in the Endoscopy Unit.  The actual procedure...well I have no idea because I was fully sedated. However, being rolled into the operating room, it reminded me of the tv show, Nip Tuck because they had music going for every procedure they did. I recall having my IV put in and getting some tubes stuck up my nose to breathe. My GI came up to me and asked how I was feeling. Of course I said I was scared to death and he comforted me. Next, he asked me to roll over on my side and that was it. My eyes closed and I woke up about an hour and a half later, given some fluids to drink and when I was ready, I could get on my clothes and see my honey who would take me home. Since biopsies were taken and that takes time to get back,  I would have a follow-up in a few weeks, which will be the middle of May to find out what's going on.

So there you have it.  If you have to go for a colonoscopy, I hope that some of this information will be helpful for you.  Never ignore uncomfortable symptoms that you may have because you are afraid. It’s always a good idea to get checked out and get that clean bill of health, or at least know what you’re dealing with.  Go with someone who you trust because if you're like me, I tend to blank out at medical appointments.  Huge thank you to everyone who has given me so much love and support!

Although colon cancer and other illnesses can be preventable and even very treatable once found, delaying going to see your doctor or foregoing important procedures may just cost you your life.

Feel free to drop me any comments on this blog post or you can always e-mail me privately. 

Bottoms up! :)

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