"Family History" is an ugly guest in our family when it comes to colon cancer. It's the loud, obnoxious, uninvited guest who is with us at every single family gathering, even though no one remembers inviting them.
So following that old adage of "Better Safe Than Sorry" and, the somewhat less eloquent but equally fitting, "Let's Git 'Er Done", I'll be getting my first colonoscopy screening tomorrow.
In my mind the whole colonoscopy thing is two distinct parts: The Prep and The Scope. Most people tend to say that the prep is the worst part. I just have to say that vague generalities like this tend to annoy me. That can be taken 2 very different ways, and for those (like me) who hang on words, we're stuck in an understanding gap. It could mean: "It doesn't matter what the heck happens during the colonoscopy; nothing comes close to be as horrible as the prep." Or, on the more gentle side, it could mean: "You would honestly think the worst part of a colonoscopy would be getting nooked in your cranny, but since that is not even slightly bad, the default "worst part" (if something MUST be classified as such) falls back to the only other part of the process--the prep."
I've been hoping for the second meaning, but am pretty sure the one and only way to know for sure is to just do it for myself. So the following is my experience with the prep. The web is full of horror stories....this won't be one of them. I think I wasted hours of my life looking at forums with people in two categories: The No Big Deal folks and the For The Love Of Pete, The World Is Ending group. I figured the first group had it right, but the latter had one collectively louder voice; it was hard to drown them out. My goal in writing this is to help someone else. Let's face it, if they're being smart about health, everyone will do this at least once in their lifetime. Why be afraid of it? If you're in the Prep boat...don't be afraid. Remember that right at this minute, you are one of many people doing this. It's okay. You'll be okay. Repeat after me: This. Is. No. Big. Deal.
Pre-Prep: I should mention that I started a pretty liquid diet about four days out of my actual prep day. Brothy soups and smoothies. It wasn't hard for me to follow that. I have no idea if it helps in the process, it was just something I felt like doing to give myself some control over a situation that made me feel kind of powerless.
1. I was supposed to start the first dose of Suprep at 12:00. I started at 11:45---it made me feel like I was in control. Sounds like a silly thing, but I felt like a rebel. "Hey. No one's gonna tell me when to take the poop medicine."
2. The taste isn't great---but it's not horrible. Get a smoothie straw and a really fun glass. Add a liberal amount of lime juice. The biggest issue with the flavor of the Suprep is the sweetness; cutting it with lime helps a lot. The smoothie straw means larger amounts per sip. Put it flat against your tongue, way in the back of your throat. Every sip will magically pass right over your taste buds. You'll still get a bit of the flavor, but it will be tolerable. I promise.
3. Don't stand still!! While you're drinking the prep, walk around. It will take your mind off what you're doing. (Seriously, half of this game is a mental one....you can absolute overcome that.)
4. Make a motivational play list and blast it while you're drinking. (You can apologize to the neighbors later.) My husband walked behind me with my play list at top volume. Music has a way of erasing the physical and transporting you to another place. Take advantage of that. I was so busy being mentally engaged in the songs playing that I didn't even notice when my glass of prep was gone. Seriously. (A watched pot will not boil and a watched glass of prep will not empty.)
5. Don't be afraid of "The Go". One of the big worries that plagued me was: "What is it going to feel like when the magic starts happening??" I envisioned trauma and torrents and all manner of sad things. Here's the reality: It's okay. No worries. You'll just have to "go". Nothing major. Nothing traumatic. (Rather anticlimactic if you're like me and had worked yourself up into a tizzy.) Yes, you'll make it to the bathroom on time. No, you won't be on the toilet for hours. It's just...fine. Really. I stocked my bathroom with my laptop, video games, books, and even some crafting stuff. (Yep, that's me..I crafted during my prep.) Also, make sure you have some ointment and wet wipes on hand. And this is a time to splurge and get the really cushy toilet paper. Do you "need" it? Nah, but it makes you feel pretty darn special.
6. Eventually the "going" will kind of fizzle out. I was on a split dose with 8 hours between doses. After about 2 hours, all the excitement had passed. In effect, you'll end up biding your time for round two. Spend your "down time" well---get caught up on TV shows (especially the guilty pleasure ones that you'd never actually admit to anyone that you like to watch). I found that having a variety of activities on hand was best for me--I tend to have a really short attention span in the very best of times and it's darn near non-existent at others. So I just sort of hopped around the house from here to there, doing whatever I wanted. Bliss.
7. No matter what...KEEP DRINKING. You won't necessarily want to, but it's really a good idea to keep the liquid libations flowing. (Be kind to your kidneys). In an effort to promote actually wanting to take a sip of something, I gathered several of the prettiest glasses we had and set them out on the counter. I filled each with something different: tap water with fruit juices, sparkling water with a squirt of lemon, white grape juice, apple juice, Gatorade, Ginger Ale, etc. I put a straw in each glass. Every time I passed by the counter, it was easy to snag a glass and take a sip. If the contents didn't do anything for me at that moment, I had a plethora of others to choose from. It was like a beverage buffet. Stupid, I know, but it worked for me.
8. And when you've drunk that last gulp of prep...CELEBRATE. It's a victory. You did it!!!! I celebrated by squashing and stomping on the box my prep came in; I crushed the cup into bits; I destroyed the 2 little bottles. All while listening to Katy Perry's Firework. Whatever works, right?
Prep is not something to be afraid of. Remember that. It's one moment out of your life that could SAVE your life. It's worth it. I have lived for 7 years in dread of this first colonoscopy prep. Absolute dread. Finishing that last bit of the second dose literally was a huge weight lifting off my shoulders. I did it. The prep drinking was over.
You will be okay through it. Know that. Take deep breaths. Smile. Laugh. You will be fine.