I had been dreading this moment in my life for an extremely long time. It doesn’t help that my mother passed away within a few hours after having a routine colonoscopy. So when my doctor attempted to encourage me to have one, I shook my head adamantly. I asked if I could take the test to collect a sample from home and ship it off to a lab. When she asked why I explained what happened to my mother, she told me that it was highly unusual and tried to pursue me. When she saw that I wasn’t going to budge, we compromised. We agreed that I would do the at-home sample test, but I would need to get the colonoscopy if there was anything unusual.
Welp, of course, there was something unusual with the results that came back. I tried to argue with her and asked her if I could retake the test. Instead of arguing with me, she said, “I’m referring you to a gastroenterologist. You can discuss it with them.”
I held onto the referral for over a month before I finally made the appointment to consult with the gastroenterologist. She reviewed the results of my at-home test and was just as stubborn as I was, but we were on the opposite sides of the table. “You need to have this done. It is no longer a routine procedure but medically necessary.”
“Can’t I just retake the at-home test, and if it comes back abnormal again, then I have the colonoscopy?” I begged.
“That test you took was the last chance. I strongly recommend the colonoscopy.”
“My mom died within a few hours of having one,” I said. She softened a bit. “That’s unusual.”
Ultimately, and in simpler terms, my mom had a severe heart attack. There was so much at play within the few hours that followed her colonoscopy and many human mistakes. Perhaps when I have the courage, I will write about it and share it with others. But basically, the doctor explained that it most likely was the anesthesia that triggered an already underlying issue. This didn’t really encourage me to have the procedure since there was no way I would have it without anesthesia.
Obviously, the doctor won our debate; otherwise, I would not be blogging about it now. She ordered the colon cleanse prep prescription and gave me instructions on what I need to do. I walked out of the office drenched in sweat and shaking hands. When I got into the car, I cried. I was just thinking about my mom and my kids.
It took me a month to make the appointment, and the next available appointment was a month away. I scheduled it and told my kids and husband. So, for those who’ve never had a colonoscopy or heard about the preparation involved. You have to start prepping a few days before your procedure. You’re given a list of the food you can and can’t have. The day before, you pretty much stick to liquids but no dairy. You can have coffee, tea, clear broth, popsicles, and gelatin. Nothing appealed to me, so I had water. When it came time actually to drink the prescribed liquid prep, I read the instructions and decided I’d just chug it down and get the process going and over with. DO NOT DO THIS! Learn from my mistake! My daughter told me, “Mom, don’t do it… Mom…” But, me, being me… I did it. I chugged it, and I was proud… for about two or three minutes. I gagged. Then ten to fifteen minutes later, I ran to the bathroom and threw it all up, plus any other water I had earlier in the day. I honestly thought I just won my out of getting out of the procedure, so a part of me was happy. I called the gastroenterologist and was reasonably confident she’d say I’d need to reschedule. In my head, I was thinking, if she tells me to reschedule, I’m not getting it done. Period.
The doctor called me back. She chastised me for chugging it. She said, “I know it tastes like lemon-flavored sweat, but you gotta sip it and take it slow.” I laughed at how accurate her description of the taste was. Then she said, “Let me see… what time is it? Okay, it’s almost 5:30. You still have time. Here’s what I want you to do- go to CVS and pick up two Docalax and packets of Marilax. You are gonna need to take 7 of the packets of Marilax. Get at least 32 ounces of Gatorade. Get the orange and blue Gatorade. You can’t have any red. Okay. Take the two Docalax, then mix up the packets of Miralax with the Gatorade. Sip on it but try to get it all down by 6:30 pm, and you should be good to go in the morning.”
I was so annoyed and so unbelievably crabby. I went to one CVS; they didn’t have all that I needed, so I had to go to another one. But, I finally got all that was needed, came home, and got the party started. My husband had jokes. But he stopped when he saw the crazy look on my face. By this time, I had a headache from not eating all day, crazy hair from just not caring about how I looked, and just getting on my own nerves. Well, of course, when the party officially began, I ran to the bathroom. I won’t go into the gory details of all that occurred there, but I will say I clogged the toilet, which was humiliating because the plunger was in the garage.
The garage was my husband’s turf where he had just escaped to in order to avoid my evil crazy crabby, hungry self. I thought I’d luck out and quietly open the garage door and reach in to grab it without him noticing, but of course, the plunger was not by the door where it usually was. Nope, it was nowhere within my range of sight. He looked at me. I think he knew. He must have known. He had untold jokes glimmering in his eyes. I took a deep breath and asked, “Do you know where the plunger is?” I felt so humiliated.
“Do you need help?” He asked so nicely and sweetly. I wanted to punch him. I know… it’s wrong, but I felt like I was losing a battle I didn’t even want to fight in the first place.
“No!” I snapped.
He looked around the garage and found the plunger, and handed it to me. I snatched it out of his hand and stomped back into the house. The reality was I should have accepted his help because my stomach was churning and if I didn’t unclog the toilet soon… I was going to have a whole other mess to clean up.
To make it short and less gruesome, things progressed more smoothly from thereon.
My son was the one who took me to the appointment that morning. He was a rock star. I was shaking, sweating, praying, crying. I was thinking of my mom and all of my loved ones who passed away.
When I entered the building, I felt like I was just a number. I get that it was during a pandemic, and no one wanted to be there. Everyone had their masks on, and I just felt rushed and just this object that didn’t have feelings. Or at least, my feelings didn’t matter. It went by in a blur. I got the IV stuck in me, and a nurse walked me to a hospital bed. My mind became my enemy, and I started shaking some more. The anesthesiologist asked me many questions; I couldn’t see what he was doing, and the next thing I knew, my eyes blurred, and then I was out. The first thing I heard when I woke was the doctor say, “We couldn’t finish. There was a piece of lettuce. We will have to do it over again.”
In my head, I was thinking, Fu@$ you! You aren’t seeing my a$$ again!
“I’ll send a prescription out for something different for you to try. Schedule it for three months from today.”
I was so upset. I seriously considered ignoring the doctor and my primary doctor and just not schedule it. It’s ultimately my decision. They can’t force me to have a procedure I didn’t want to have.
To make this post short, I did eventually schedule another appointment. I ended up having it four months after the first one. This time around, I sipped the prep slowly. Things went much more smoothly, and I knew more of what to expect, so I wasn’t as crabby and terrified. After the procedure, the doctor and nurses cheered. “We finished—you’re good to go. No polyps. You won’t need to come back for another ten years.”
It was a relief. I know things could have been a lot worse.
I felt I needed to post this because I know many family and friends don’t want to go through it. Especially those who heard about my mother’s passing. But I’m here to say, if you are over 45 (it was 50 but now 45) get a colonoscopy. Talk it over with your doctor. It could save your life. It could catch something way before it’s too late to do anything about it.