Dreading a Colonoscopy? Ten Tips to Help You

Hint: A Colonoscopy is a Piece of Cake

colonoscopy

The Dread ‘C’ Word

If you have already turned 50, and you visit your primary care physician on a regular basis, you’ve probably heard the dread ‘C’ word. No, not cancer—colonoscopy.

Having a colonoscopy didn’t make it on my fifty fun firsts lists—mainly because ‘fun’ and ‘colonoscopy’ don’t belong in the same sentence, much less the same room. Who do I kid? A colonoscopy is painless and you won’t remember a thing—piece of cake, right?

The forty-eight hours leading up to the colonoscopy might kill you, though. I have no star power (I head about some morning show host that televised his or her colonoscopy in order to promote the importance of having one done), but I have survived two of them so far.

I offer advice from the wealth of my experience. Your doctor won’t tell you everything—he or she will simply hand you a prescription and a set of instructions longer than a new car contract and send you on your way.

Doctors don't tell you everything about how to prepare for a #colonoscopy. 10 tips to help you. Click To Tweet

Buyer Beware

1. Plan your colonoscopy for a Monday. Take my word for it. You don’t want to experience the privation and misery of preparation during work hours.
2. Ask for the first appointment of the day—even if you have to awake at 4 am and drive 90 miles. You want to be out of your misery as soon as possible.
3. Phone a friend…a very close friend. Pedro has managed to absent himself (not on purpose) during both of my colonoscopies. You’ll need a responsible person to drive you to and from the procedure. Your friend shouldn’t be grossed out by talk about diarrhea and farting.
4. Plan on grocery shopping at least four days before the event. For my second colonoscopy, I had to eat very bland foods with no fiber for two days, starting on the Friday before my Monday procedure (refer to #1). Buy lots of Gatorade (just make sure it has no color).
5. Warn your family and friends. The diet did strange things to my blood-sugar levels and I got cranky. Don’t make any important decisions during this time period (or try towing a trailer behind your truck).

colonoscopyThe Night Before C (no, NOT Christmas)

6. Movi-prep has nothing to do with the theatre or entertainment. It’s an evil substance that turns your colon so clean the doctor could eat his breakfast off of it. Ick—that’s a horrible visual, but I feel doctors deserve this dig because they don’t warn you as to the awfulness of Movi-prep.
7. You’ll need a garbage bag and an old towel (or two). Spread the garbage bag on your bed and lay an old towel on top. By your sixth dose of Movi-prep, simply relaxing in sleep will cause diarrhea. Trust me.
8. Don’t try to drive yourself to your appointment. Let your friend or spouse drive you. You will have just spent a night trotting back and forth between your bed and your bathroom. Exhaustion and driving don’t pair well.
9. Keep your sense of humor. Crack jokes to relax your medical team (or creep them out). When the doctor told me to lie on my side, cross my arms and pull my legs up a little, I quipped, “I feel like an Egyptian preparing for mummification.” I think everyone laughed…
10. You will remember NOTHING of the procedure. This is a good thing.

There’s No Pain Involved in a Colonoscopy

See? A colonoscopy shouldn’t scare you. You won’t remember the actual event. I hope you feel inspired to go ahead and make that appointment if your primary care physician has recommended that you get on. If you’re still a young’un, file this away for the future.

Taking care of your health (especially if you act as a caregiver to someone else) makes good sense—even if it feels uncomfortable to let someone else take care of you for a few days.

You can do this!

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Mary

    This made me smile and cringe all at the same time. I have had too many colonoscopys in my lifetime. The prep is awful every time and I simply dread it. But after having colon surgery-6 inches of my colon is now gone-I know the importance of being proactive. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • How did you know that I’ve been putting this procedure off for . . . more years than I want to admit? Cringe. I do know better, but I guess it’s time to DO better. I’ll make an appointment this week.

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, and I think a lot of people will be grateful for the practical advice.

    One thing, though – if you have internal hemorrhoids, as I did, you may remember the procedure. I woke up halfway through, and it was not a whole lot of fun.

    But it was funny, because I had done my PhD work on a certain kind of foundation structure used to hold up buildings…wait for it…yes, I worked on piles.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/11/your-dying-spouse-232-narrowing-world.html

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  • I’ve had quite a few colonoscopies already and you’re right: the procedure itself is a breeze. It’s the prep that’s the killer. 😉 But it’s so worth it! It saved my life. If I hadn’t had my colonoscopy 7 years ago–they found cancerous polyps–I might not still be here. It’s such an easy thing to do for life-saving results. Thanks for encouraging others to get one, Anita!

  • Julie Loos

    Yikes! I have a couple years to go and it doesn’t sound like something I will look forward too.
    The tips are noted;)
    Julie

  • Donne

    One cautionary tale…if you happen to be obese, the recovery may not be such a breeze. When I called the office 5 days after my procedure, when I was still feeling quite uncomfortable and cramping, I was informed that they use nearly double the amount of gas to ensure that they are able to see all the nooks and crannies (as it were). All told, it took 3 weeks for me to get back to my normal level of activity. Oh, and lest anyone think I was just being a wimp about the pain, I’ve had multiple laparotomies.