Having a colonoscopy is never pleasant, but often a necessary procedure to investigate symptoms and issues. But I will say that the procedure itself was so much more easy than I was expecting it to be. There are many other tests that I have had that are far more uncomfortable and take far longer.
Why did I have a colonoscopy?
I have had stomach issues for years. Uncomfortable, bloated stomach and bouts of an upset stomach, which seems mainly due to certain food groups (I now follow a low FODMAP diet).
The colonoscopy was one of a few tests that a gastroenterology ordered, including ultrasound scan and gastroscopy (when they put a camera down your throat to look inside your stomach). As far as I can remember, as it was a few years ago now, the colonoscopy was to rule out Crohn’s disease or colitis. Both were ruled out by the test.
What happens prior to the colonoscopy?
Well, I am not going to sugar-coat it, but you have to do ‘bowel prep’. And bowel prep isn’t fun in the slightest. Basically, your insides have to be as clean as possible so that the doctor can see it, and not just your lunch from the day before.
I think that there are slightly different procedures depending upon the exact test that you are having, but I had to fast for 36 hours before the test. I was allowed water, clear fluids (such as broth that had no lumps of food or certain fruit juices) and, the best bit, gummy sweets.
Those gummy sweets were amazing!
Anytime I felt hungry or felt as though my blood sugar levels may be dropping I had some gummy sweets. I even found some vegetarian ones.
That day wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I had visions of fainting, feeling very light-headed and dizzy and being confined to the bed or sofa. Or in my worst-case-scenario that I had built up in my head - going to hospital. Actually I had a bit more energy than I was expecting and didn’t feel too bad. Again, the gummy sweets, I think, played a key role in that.
A good tip here is to make a list of things to do. I made a conscious effort to buy a magazine that I saved for this day, I watched a few episodes of a TV show, and did some other things that I had been meaning to do such as clearing out my wardrobe and cleaning my make-up brushes. Sounds strange, but it made me focus on the task in hand and not that I was hungry.
Bowel prep tips
In the late afternoon / early evening I had to start the laxative treatment.
This is where it gets a bit horrible. Horrible both because of the obvious dash to the toilet, over and over again. And horrible because the drink was absolutely awful in taste. It was truly nasty and I had to sip it and then take a large mouthful of water straight after to try and disguise the taste. I gagged many, many times.
So there were hours of running back and forth to the bathroom.
Two tips here:
- Stay close to the bathroom. Unless you have a toilet downstairs, then you need to be upstairs in your bedroom or whatever room is close by! Seriously, the urge to go is sudden and you don’t want to be running up the stairs at that point.
- To put it delicately, you will get sore down there from all the trips to the toilet. My GP recommended that I use Vaseline or similar for a few days before and during to help prevent soreness or even splitting / anal fissures.
On the day
After rather little sleep I had to be at the hospital quite early the next morning. Then I was taken to the ward, given a bed and asked to change into a gown and some shorts that had a split in them where your bum is. Really attractive!
Once in the examination room I was given a sedative, which did make me a little dizzy for a few minutes but was then fine. I was lucky that my doctor was very friendly, as were the nurses.
I was asked to lie on my side with my knees slightly up towards my chest. Then the doctor inserted the camera, and I expected to feel pain. But as you don’t have any nerve endings internally there you don’t feel any pain, just a sort of bloated feeling. The doctor repeatedly said I would experience gas, and to ‘release’ it. It was quite uncomfortable, but not painful at all.
There was a screen for the doctor to see my insides and I found it quite fascinating to see it as well. The doctor did find a couple of polyps which were removed and sent for testing (all was fine).
The whole procedure took about ten minutes and was really far less embarrassing than I was expecting it to be. The doctors and nurses treated me with complete dignity and respect and were very friendly and helpful. It was without doubt that the bowel prep the day before was more difficult than the procedure itself.
So don’t worry about a colonoscopy. Brace yourself for the foul-tasting liquid and running and forth to the toilet, but don’t worry about the actual procedure.
Please follow the advice of your doctor as to all medical treatments, supplements, and dietary choices, as set out in my disclaimer. I am not a medical professional, and this is simply my story and the resources that are helpful to me.