Having a colonoscopy: it’s a walk in the park (kind of…)

“I need a what!”

I have to admit, of all the medical procedures my overly active imagination had expected my GP to proffer as a solution to recurring stomach issues, a colonoscopy definitely wasn’t one of them.

It’s so strange; when I needed a mammogram (I have to get them yearly) I have no problem shouting it from the rooftop, telling friends, family and anyone who will listen to have one done.

Out of all the procedures, it’s the one you’re most likely to want to crow about – not that it’s glamorous having your 10A breasts squeezed in-between two plates; it’s a mammoth effort and not at all comfortable. However, it somehow seems more acceptable. There is so much more awareness around it.

Having a colonoscopy is just not the same, yet it shouldn’t have this ridiculous social stigma that it seems to have for many midlifers.

Yes, it’s your butt, and yes, it’s not pleasant – more on that to come – but let’s normalise it a bit more, be more supportive and encourage people to have this done.

Get checked out, it could save your life. We lost a family member last year, and I can 100% tell you, if she’d had a colonoscopy it would have saved her life, unfortunately it was too late, and the gapping hole left in our family will never be filled.

We think of her every day, and only wish we could have done more.

So, in her memory I decided to write this story on my experience, and hopefully encourage others to seek medical advice if you notice any changes.

It’s all about the prep

The worst part of this procedure is the preparation. It kicks off with a ‘white foods-only’ diet 36 hours out before the fasting phase starts from midday the day prior.

Then the night before your procedure you start on the first dose of ‘bowel preparation’.

Easy prep – mix both sachets into 1 litre of water
Your local pharmacy will have these prep packets.

I naively didn’t think this bowel prep would work, as I am very regular and after eating almost anything I am on the toilet, so basically thought there was nothing else to come out.

Good god, I could not have been more wrong. When I say make sure you are near a toilet and don’t get off it for two hours, I’m am not exaggerating.

For me the prep liquid worked in 30 minutes. The prep liquid itself was fine, it has a lemon kind of taste and I found it okay. It was the speed at which it worked, the noises coming out of my body, the amount coming out of my body – wow.

I have to say though, I saw the funny side of it, and got the giggles – so did the hub.

Naturally I’d scoffed at the hubby’s rather dramatic advice in the lead-up – he’s a two-time member of the colonoscopy club – and dismissed his retelling of his experiences as typically over-the-top.

Oh no they weren’t!

That night my stomach felt a bit tight, but all was good. Then I was up at 5am to drink another litre of the prep liquid. After thinking I couldn’t possibly have anything left to come out, I was surprised to spend another two yours on the toilet. I thought I’d never get out!

The hospital process was quick and easy. I was put in a gown and waited in the pre-surgery ward, and the procedure itself was under sedation – I was knocked out cold, and the next thing I was woken up, told it all went well and offered food (the best part of the day, I was starving).

Can’t believe I was so worried. It really was a ‘walk in the park’.

Need to know

  • Prep the night before – 1 litre of bowel prep liquid
  • Spend a few hours on the toilet – DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE
  • Sleep
  • Wake at 4.55am the next morning
  • Drink the prep – 1 litre followed by 2 glasses of water
  • Spend two hours on the toilet – do not head to the hospital until you are all done, because when it comes, it comes, no warning – just like a hose on high pressure
  • No food or liquid allowed from 6am
  • Head to the hospital
  • You are prepped for surgery – the anaesthetist will meet you, a canula is placed into your vein
  • You go into surgery and before you know it, you are knocked out cold
  • You wake up, none the wiser to what has happened
  • You are then given lunch
  • After about an hour, you are good to go home, but not alone

It really was that easy. A simple yet effective treatment or investigation that could save your life.

If you have blood in your poo, stomach problems, find it hard to go to the toilet, or the opposite, or you have pain, or changes in your toilet habits, pain when going to the toilet, bad bloating, have lost a lot of weight etc, please see your GP, who will then refer you to a specialist if they think it is needed.

It is not embarrassing at all; you are one of many to have a colonoscopy on a daily basis.

I had my procedure due to a few stomach issues. Turns out I can’t eat certain foods – all the ones I love – and if I do, I usually end up in hospital on a drip with serious drugs running through my veins.

Here’s to taking the stigma out of something so simple, yet effective. How very lucky are we, that we get this service free on our health system. Some don’t.