As a colorectal surgeon, I have been telling my patients over the past 17 years to get their screening colonoscopy. Well, I just turned 50 and now it is my turn. Just like many of my patients, I had a million excuses not to get it done. Primarily, I was just too busy to take the bowel preparation the day before and too busy to miss work. This was not on the top of my “to do” list. But, I knew as a doctor, this was a must. I have seen too many patients delay getting a colonoscopy and develop colon cancer. Colon and rectal cancer are one of the few cancers that are preventable. Almost all colorectal cancers start out as small polyps that slowly grow and transform into cancer over several years. The idea in doing a colonoscopy is to detect polyps and then remove them. By removing the polyps, you can hopefully avoid developing cancer.
I was determined to practice what I preach and so I scheduled my colonoscopy. Here is how it went:
The day prior to my procedure I had a light breakfast and was only allowed to drink clear liquids the remainder of the day. I would start the actual bowel preparation later. I worked all day and had a business meeting afterwards. As soon as I came home, I drank my first glass of the preparation followed by 40 ounces of fluids. The preparation tasted like lime soda. Over the next hour I could feel rumblings in my stomach which gradually rose like a baby alien wanting to come out. Then I got the call and off to the bathroom I went. And I went…. And I went….. Within an hour and a half, I think my colon was empty. There was nothing but water. But, I knew I had to take a second glass of preparation later. My friend and colleague was performing my procedure and I wanted to be as cleaned out as possible. We don’t have many secrets in our house so I was the center of several of my children’s jokes the rest of the night. Again, since my procedure wasn’t until mid-day, I didn’t have to take the second glass until early the next morning. I went to bed and got up twice to go to the bathroom. I tossed and turned all night worried about the second glass of preparation. Will I get nauseated or vomit? Will I be cleaned out enough? Will I be able to drive to work and see patients in the morning without having an accident? Will I forget to wake up in time to take it? At 5AM, I drank the second glass and again another 40 ounces of clear liquids (Gatorade) and waited. Within an hour, the results started with a lot of watery bowel movements. I was done by 7AM and went to work.
Everyone in my office knew that I was getting a colonoscopy and cautiously asked me how I was doing. Several of my staff already had colonoscopies done by me and were familiar with “the drill”. I saw a few patients before my own scheduled appointment and only had to rush out of one my patient’s room to use the restroom.
I arrived at the surgical center at 11:30 AM. I was interviewed by the nurse and she started the IV. My friend and now doctor arrived and off to the procedure room we went. After several safety monitors were placed, I lay on my left side and went to sleep. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery room asking, like so many of my patients, when are we going to get started. Dr. Mari Madsen chuckled a little, said I was done, and showed me healthy pictures of my colon. No polyps and no cancer. Yeah!
After about 30 minutes, my family picked me up and we drove to Disneyland for my daughter’s birthday. It was the best present I could give her….my health. Surprisingly, the whole thing wasn’t that bad. Please put your colonoscopy on your “to do” list and then check it off.