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Off Topic But Necessary

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I think it needs to be talked about more openly.

I just had a colonoscopy.
Fun times, eh? I’ve heard a lot of stories about how painful and embarrassing they can be so I want to share my experience with those who may benefit from a “first hand” narrative.
(tl;dnr summary: its not that bad)
By way of background, I have had a steady stream of “encouragement” to get a colonoscopy for the last six months or so, after two events: my mother getting treated for colon cancer (successfully by the way) and a second, life-threatening gastric ulcer (the first one was four years ago, caused by H. Pylori bacterium and the second one this past May caused by an idiot primary care physician over-prescribing Ibuprofen for a back problem). After the second ulcer episode the gastroenterologist “suggested” that I get a colonoscopy to make sure that “the other end” didn’t have ulcers. My (new!) primary care physician also “suggested” the procedure both as a second opinion to the gastroenterologist and also since I was hitting the age of 50 anyway. I delayed as long as I could until last month my wife went SWMBO on me and scheduled the procedure.
So, here’s what happened. For the three days prior to the procedure I had to avoid eating beans, peas, popcorn, corn, and grapes.
The day before the procedure I had to be on a clear liquid diet: chicken or beef broth, tea, coffee (black), white cranberry juice, sports drinks (e.g. Gatorade), apple juice, white grape juice, orange juice (no pulp), carbonated sodas, etc. No dairy products or anything that had red or purple coloring.
At Noon that day I started the “purge” by taking two Bisacodyl pills. They started working about 4pm with what I can only describe as a “butt explosion.” OK, make that several “butt explosions.” It was a LMD–Laxative of Mass Destruction. Seen a Space Shuttle launch? Yeah, its kind of like that: I thought I was going to get launched off the commode. But there wasn’t any pain or cramping associated with it and while “the urge to go” was fairly sudden I did have time to make it to the bathroom.
Coincidentally this was right at the time I was supposed to start drinking “Halflytely.” This is stuff you mix with two liters (!) of water and is drunk in 8oz increments every 15 minutes. So for the next 90 minutes I’m drinking and going, drinking and going.
(By the way, this process used to be a lot worse from what people have told me. Halflytely is the successor to “Golytely,” an apparently truly ghastly concoction. Halflytely tastes a little like a lemon-lime soda that has “gone flat.” While not exactly great tasting I tolerated it easily even with the quantity I had to drink. But whoever thought up the name “Golytely” and “Halflytely” should be taken out and shot. There is nothing “light” about the results.)
Anyway, the worst of it was over by about 9pm. After Midnight and up to the procedure nothing by mouth allowed: no clear liquids, chewing gum, mints, cough drops, etc…nothing. I still had to “go” periodically overnight and into the next morning, and it was still pretty forceful, but less and less came out. Out of curiosity I weighed myself before I started and again just before I left for the doctor’s office: I lost 4kg (that’s almost 9 lbs).
My appointment was scheduled for 11am the next morning; its an out-patient procedure at the clinic my gastroenterologist is associated with. I sign in, answer a lot of medical questions, pay the fee (gawd, I have to PAY to have this done to me…), and get taken to the preparation area. I undress and put on a hospital gown. More questions from another nurse and she starts an IV with a fluid-replacement mix, though she tells me its really there to make the medicines they’ll give me take effect more quickly. OK, I’m a little nervous now, but the nurse assures me that the medicine they’ll give me will put me to sleep and I won’t feel (or at least remember) a thing.
My wife gives me a smooch and bids me adieu as they wheel me out of the prep room and into the endoscopy room. The first thing I notice is the endoscope…with a loooooong tube attached to it. *Gulp* They hook me up to the monitoring equipment: BP 140/80, pulse 90, pulsox 98%, etc. I try not to think of the loooooong tube and look at the pulse monitor to do some biofeedback. Pulse drops to 80. More people come into the room and go about their business. Pulse goes up to 100 briefly; I tell myself to relax and pulse goes back to 80. Finally the doctor comes in: this man has (literally) saved my life twice so I trust him and I stay relaxed for the moment. We chit-chat for a minute and everyone seems ready to begin. I look at the nurse next to me and ask “I’m not going to remember any of this, right?” She smiles and says “goodnight…”
I’m next dimly aware of a strange sound, almost like groaning. Then another sound also like groaning but somehow different. I wake up a little more and open my eyes: I’m in the recovery room with my wife and a nurse and *I’m* groaning. My stomach is very uncomfortable, almost like gas cramps. The nurse gently massages my abdomen and tells me to try to pass gas. What’s going on? No one told me they shoot air up there! For the next 30 minutes or so I try moving around, walking, sitting, anything to get things going. Finally I get a couple good “toots” out and I start to feel a little better. My abdomen isn’t quite so hard so they send us on our way: my wife drives us home.
I’m still pretty uncomfortable though. My wife suggests “hugging” an electric heating pad to try to relax some of the abdominal muscles. It takes another 30 minutes or so but then I start having some truly impressive flatus: louder and longer than anything I have ever experienced (no smell though. Remember, nothing but air is in the intestines at this point). By 8pm I feel good enough to have a small meal. By the next morning I feel fine.
So there you have it, everything you secretly wanted to know about a colonoscopy but were too afraid to ask.


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

10 thoughts on “Off Topic But Necessary”

  1. I had mine done for a 50th birthday present routine (54 now, so next year again). The most unpleasant thing was the “prep”, the procedure was painless.
    This is nowhere near as uncomfortable as a barium enema, a fully conscious 45 minutes of the tube “in there”, the tube has an inflatable bladder at its base to anchor it against the “need to go” reflex!!!

  2. Wow.
    And wow again.

    A surely not-so-pleasant experience narrated in a way that absolutely made me LOL. Thanks for that 😀 What's important though is that you're now OK and that's what really matters. I don't think any one of us is a huge fan of doctors and hospitals (apart from House M.D.'s steadily growing fanbase, that is), but as long as they do their job PROPERLY we can only be thankful they're there.

    Hope you're 100% done with health issues so you can truly concentrate on enjoying life 🙂 Cheers mate!

  3. This makes my CT scan look like nothing. Thanks for the first "hand" info, 3 more years and this is what I get to look fwd to.

  4. Sounds relatively painless compared to what they *used* to have to do. Still, I'm glad I have twenty-some years before I have to get checked. Maybe by then they'll find a way to do it without any intrusion at all.

  5. Thanks for the story Mark, but I still have not desire for my "exit" to be a "rotational door" for a day!

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