What It's Like To Have a Colonoscopy

Nov 30

What It’s Like To Have a Colonoscopy

Yep, I’m going there.

As I started writing this blog, I’m curled up in bed on a Friday night, sipping on ginger ale and recovering from my first upper and lower endoscopy. No idea what that means? Basically, it’s a scope going down my throat and another going up my colon and intestines. Super awesome and fun, don’t you think? I thought it would be interesting to share what it’s like to have a colonoscopy, since it’s not something everyone goes through and it can be a really intimidating. Okay – and embarrassing, right?

I’m going to just go ahead and say it: I’m going to be totally honest in this blog. So if you really don’t want to know about colonoscopies, consider this your warning to check out a different blog on my site. 😂

Why I Had a Colonoscopy

A few weeks ago I met up with my GI doctor to talk about my IBS issues, and we decided it would be a good idea for me to get a check up … internally. 🤭 I’ll be honest, I don’t even like to go to the dentist, let alone the gynecologist. So the idea of having a doctor and a camera going into my backdoor nether-regions sounded about as much fun as … well, nothing. 🤣

But I knew it was important to rule out scary things and really, the only absolute way to make sure nothing was wrong was to get it checked out. My symptoms include going back and forth between diarrhea and constipation, bloating, cramps (both dull and stabbing), nausea, heartburn and acid reflux, burping like a sailor, headaches … I mean the list literally goes on and on. I’ve had these issues for not just weeks or months, but years. It’s been terrible.

My GI doctor prescribed me the low FODMAP diet and it has made an incredibly positive change in my life. Nearly all of my symptoms improved or outright disappeared by changing my diet, but, it was still a good idea to get things checked out.

What It’s Like To Have a Colonoscopy

In the weeks leading up to my procedure appointment, I talked to a couple of other women who have had colonoscopies and every single one of them said, with emphasis, that the prep is the absolute worst.

Y’all: They. Were. Not. Wrong.

The prep process started two days before my appointment time. I had to eat more of a soft-food based diet, nothing too greasy, fatty or spicy. That wasn’t really an issue for me since I don’t tend to eat a lot of that stuff anyway, though. Then, I had to take a laxative before bed which didn’t kick in until the next day.

The day before my colonoscopy, I was put on a clear liquid diet with the caveat that I couldn’t have anything red, pink or purple. Apparently that can look like redness or even blood in the digestive tract, so I was sure to steer clear of those. I ate Jell-O throughout the day, remembering with every bite how much I absolutely cannot stand Jell-O.

At 9pm, I started to drink something called GoLytely which is akin to Rachel’s Traditional English Trifle from Friends.

GoLytely Is The Juice of the Devil

Earlier in the day, I had mixed the GoLytely with some Crystal Light lemonade and put it in the fridge per recommendation. By the time 9 o clock rolled around, I had to drink half of a gallon of this evil concoction in two hours. I remember feeling cocky about it, thinking it would be a snap to drink it.

Y’all: I. Was. So. Wrong.

The first glass wasn’t the worst. The second wasn’t too bad, either. But the third? I wanted to throw up. It tastes like what I imagine lemonade might taste like if you used dirty ocean water from the beaches of Southern California. Or maybe like a if you put rotten lemons in with Noah’s football socks and let them stew for a few days.

But I powered through, and chugged it down and after 45 minutes, I started my many runs to the bathroom. This blog is honest, but I’ll leave this part up to your imagination. I panicked slightly when I had aloe-vera-palm-tree-green liquid coming out of me, until I realized the stupid blue Jell-O I had eaten had mixed with the GoLytely to create a party in my bowels.

One thing I wish I had done was listened to Randy when he suggested that he buy myself some super soft toilet paper. When you go to the bathroom 15+ times in a short time period, trust me – your normal budget-friendly toilet paper might be okay from time to time but I very much regret not having something softer during my GoLytely experience. 😬

Overnight

By the grace of God, I was able to sleep from 11 until 3 in the morning … and then I had to start chugging down the other half of the gallon. And by “chug” I mean choke it down because the second half did not go down near as easy as the first. I was so nauseas and had such a terrible headache, and trying to get that drink down felt nearly impossible. I came so close to throwing it all up, but thankfully I didn’t. The refrigerated GoLytely made me feel so cold, I sat in front of my fireplace for over an hour trying to stop from shivering from head to toe. That’s a pretty common side effect, but boy was it annoying.

After I got that junk down, I crawled back into bed and promptly passed out again for a couple more hours. When I woke up again, my headache and nausea were tolerable, but I was clearly quite dehydrated and I couldn’t even take a sip of water. 😬

It’s Go Time!

We made the 45 minute drive up to where my doctor is, and got settled in. The pre-op nurse got me all hooked up to an IV pretty quick because I was so dehydrated, which helped a little bit with my headache and nausea. I really just remember just staring down at my teal green sock covered toes, waiting for the doctor and anesthesiologist to come in to whisk me to the procedure room.

Once I got into the room, they had me swish and gargle with some lidocaine. It tasted so bad – like straight up medicine like if I had chewed up a tylenol, which of course, it was! I joked around that they couldn’t even sugarcoat that stuff, which made the nurses laugh. Once I spat that nasty stuff out, they had me lay on my left side while there were four nurses in the room, rushing around doing things. The anesthesiologist talked to me for a few minutes, before putting drugs into the IV. One of the nurses put oxygen into my nose, and the last thing I remember is saying that my nose was cold.

Then I woke up back in my room.

Afterward

It took me about 15 minutes to come out of anesthesia, and Randy was right there. I was super cold when I woke up (which happens every time I go under), so he cuddled with me until I warmed up and got conscious enough to sit up. After about an hour, I was able to leave and go home.

My headache and nausea temporarily had gone, but did come back with some force later on in the afternoon, even after getting some food into my system. I was pretty much a bum all afternoon and night, laying in bed. I ate a little dinner, and went back to bed.

In all truth, I felt nothing. I couldn’t tell at all what had happened – no soreness, no pressure, no feelings of invasion, no pain, nothing at all. That was one thing I had been really apprehensive about – and was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel violated after my colonoscopy whatsoever.

I got my biopsy results back in 4 days and I’m happy to report: it’s all good!

My Top Tips For Colonoscopy Prep

I’ll end this not so embarrassing blog with my best tips, now that you know what it’s like to have a colonoscopy.

  • Listen to your doctor and follow prep to a “T.” My pre-op nurse told me that she was very glad I did, because if I hadn’t – they would have had to manually go in and clean things out. No, thank you!
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I drank a gallon of Gatorade before my procedure on my liquid diet day, and it still wasn’t enough. Randy bought me the sugar free kind because I normally watch how many carbs I’m having, and in retrospect I probably should have had the regular kind. I think my headache might of been related to my carb withdrawals.
  • Jell-O is the worst. Unfortunately, it does provide some satiety. Just be sure to avoid red, pink or purple colors. Also, if you eat blue or green color – expect to see it come out the same color.
  • Buy soft toilet paper. Just trust me on this one, you won’t regret this purchase.
  • Stock the medicine cabinet. If you don’t have any Preparation H Cream in your medicine cabinet, buy some just in case you need it during prep. Again, just trust me on this one. If you don’t have regular ol’ Tylenol, get some of that, too; you’ll need to avoid NSAIDs like ibuprofen for headaches.
  • And last but not least: talk to other women who have had the procedure. It’ll make you feel more comfortable and less embarrassed, and not so alone. If you ever want to talk, I’m just a click away!

what it's like to have a colonscopy

Ashley Durham is a lifestyle blogger, who is fighting for her health and sharing all about it. If you have questions or would like to collaborate to discuss women’s health issues, get in touch!

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