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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Colonoscopy is Your Friend

Everyone says the worst part of getting a colonoscopy is the prep involved. And that may be true for most people, but for me it was convincing my doctor I needed to get a colonoscopy. You see, for the last 19 years I have lived in the Roanoke Valley and for some reason I have found that the women here are treated with less urgency, and taken less seriously by doctors than the men are. I also believe if a woman wants the best care she had better hit those books and hit the web to familiarize herself with her symptoms and become an expert on the best treatment she thinks would be best to help her and then convince her doctors to "give it a go." And if she doesn't like the doctor's response, she best find herself another doctor, and quick! Shit, if I hadn't I would still be on chemotherapy for rheumatoid arthritis, a disease I found out I never even had! But that's not today's post...today is all about the colon.

When my husband turned 50 his doctor, the same doctor I have, hounded him to get a colonoscopy. It took him two years to convince my husband to get one. When I turned 50 there was no mention of a colonoscopy. Same at 51, 52. At 53 I brought up the colonoscopy but the doctor didn't respond, so I thought oh well, that's good. At 54, I brought it up again, still no urgency noted, so I let another year pass. Then when I hit 55, "my people" which is what I call my intuition, my guides, my guardian angels, you get the point, began to whisper rather loudly it was time to get a colonoscopy. They said, "You don't want to move to Brooklyn and find out you have colon cancer up there, do you? You know everyone that checks into Maimonides Hospital never comes out...remember your mom?" So I listened to them, and when I went for my next doctor visit I mentioned again that I still hadn't had a colonoscopy and threw in a by the way, my grandmother had colon cancer tidbit. To ensure the urgency I also told him that I planned to spend a good portion of my time up in New York and wanted to be checked out before heading up there shortly. He said he would send a referral and I would hear from the center. After hearing nothing for 10 days, I called the center and they said they had just received my referral that morning, so they conducted the pre-interview on the phone and we set up an appointment. When I requested the doctor my husband had had I was informed that my doctor's office didn't specify anyone in particular so she scheduled me with someone else. Ummmm, no. You see, I did my homework and I knew which doctor I wanted so I told them I would wait until I could get an appointment with the doctor I wanted. Heck, I waited 5 years, I could wait a couple more weeks! So I did and I had my first colonoscopy yesterday and wanted to share a couple of observations. I won't show pictures, but I actually did get some!

First off the prep...yup, it is as horrid as everyone says it is. You have to drink 4 liters of it broken up into two sessions. The first day, it's two liters, 8 ounces every 15-20 minutes. Then the following day, or middle of the night, depending upon what time your procedure is, the rest of the 2 liters, 8 ounces every 15-20 minutes. I got three packets of flavoring to choose from, cherry, lemon & orange. Rather than mix the entire package in the jug I sampled each flavor by glass. They were all horrible so I ended up not using any of them. Since I'm really not a gulper, and am more of a sipper when it comes to any liquid, I was pretty much gagging trying to get each glass down. I tried using a straw but that didn't work. By the second liter I found something that worked for me. Before downing each glass I would swish a capful of RealLemon in my mouth and spit it out. Then I would try and drink the prep glass as quick as possible followed by another capful of RealLemon swished in my mouth. That really helped, but I will probably not be drinking lemonade any time soon. It is crucial that you drink the entire prep because if you do not cleanse your colon properly the test will not be accurate, or worse, they'll tell you you have to come back. You don't want that.

I couldn't get a morning appointment as everyone advised me to because I wanted that certain doctor. So that meant I was very, very hungry by the time 2:00pm came around. It also meant that the appointment would not happen at 2:00pm because the folks before me went past their 20:00 allotment time. If you get an early appointment you will not be as hungry and you will not have to worry about the back-log. On the negative side though, you will have to wake up at 1:00am and begin your second stage of prep. However, you will most likely be up already using the bathroom! I didn't sleep at all the previous night even though I didn't need to start my prep until 6:00am. So I would advise going for the early schedule.

When my daughter had her colonoscopy her doctor had it done at the hospital. She had to wait over three hours pass her scheduled time and the bill she received was astronomical. I did not want mine done at a hospital so I went to a local endoscopy center where all the talk was about Joan Rivers' death at an endoscopy center. I spoke with the anesthesiologist who I always consider the most important person in that room. My biggest fear of getting this test done was that I would not wake up. That's always my biggest fear. She assured me that wouldn't be the case and that the procedure should only take 20 minutes. My cousin had told me that by the time he counted to three he was under. Of course that was not the case with me. I could have counted to 100 and I still wasn't under. I think my body was fighting it the same way it fights when I try to get hypnotized...doesn't happen. The anesthesiologist kept asking if I was feeling tired yet. I kept talking. Finally she said, ok think of a happy place and gave that needle a deep plunge! I thought of my hammock on the beach, but when I awoke which felt like was a minute later, but according to the clock, was one hour later, I was dreaming of my son getting a new job. I said to no one in particular, "My son looked so happy, he just got a new job!" I hope that was a good omen.

I was a little groggy and gassy, which is normal, but I seemed to have all my faculties so I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. I had survived the anesthesia! After I got dressed the doctor met with me and my husband. You will need someone to drive you home. He had a couple of sheets of papers with photos. Ewww, gross! He said it was a very good thing I had decided to get a colonoscopy because he removed four polyps, two were pretty large, 8mm & 6mm and the others were 3 and 2. He said he would send them out to get biopsied and would have his office call if there were any "problems." He explained how important it is to remove any polyps because they can turn cancerous and the sooner you remove them the better. If there were no problems with the ones he took out I wouldn't have to come back for three years. My husband doesn't have to go back for ten years. Hey, I finally found a doctor that takes my health seriously! I just received a phone call from their office and gulped when I saw their name on the caller-id. It was a nurse just following up to make sure I felt okay. It's too soon for the biopsies, but at least the office was concerned. My daughter's doc never called to see how she did the day after.

As a side note...A very good friend of my husband's underwent treatment for what started as colon cancer over the last two years. He is 80 years old and never had a colonoscopy. The polyps he had were so large they blocked his colon and had turned cancerous. This in turn trickled down to a host of other ailments. Although he is alive, his quality of life will never be the same. A friend of mine posted on Facebook what one month of treating her cancer (not colon) cost her...over $135,000! Crazy. Colon cancer is one of the most treatable and preventable cancers there are. I urge you to not be afraid of the test. Yeah, the prep sucks, but once you're done you'll forget about it. Better to be pro-active than re-active. And if your doctor doesn't take you seriously, insist that he does. Patient, especially if you're a woman, heal thyself!

colonoscopy photo: roadside colonoscopy roadside.jpg

3 comments:

  1. Good advice. I've had two and will probably have another one in a few years. You are right, better be safe than sorry.

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  2. I know I should have one, but I'm fearful of the prep because when I don't eat, I get very sick. I feel shaky and extremely dizzy. I'm not sure if I could handle it.

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  3. Barb, I thought the same thing, but you will be able to "eat" the day before as long as it's Jello or broth. By the time you start the prep you will feel full and probably won't even want to eat. You can do it!

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