Fun with Gatorade

Want to know what’s worse than a colonoscopy prep? TWO colonoscopy preps.

I had my regularly scheduled procedure last week, and it revealed an abnormality the surgical team wasn’t prepared to deal with at the time. The best option was to biopsy and hope it turned out to be a benign case of swollen tissue. A week later, we’re at Plan B, which involves another Gatorade prep, and another 5:30am colonoscopy, this time with specialty instruments. It’s nothing to worry over, just something that needs to be done.

So why a whole blog post about it? I made some jokes on Facebook last week about the conversation among the surgical team prior to my procedure, but I didn’t mention until way down into the comments what the procedure was. I thought about that later, and wondered if I’d have been more upfront had it been something like setting a broken bone or repairing a ligament. Yes, probably. And that’s a problem. We need to talk about colonoscopies the way we talk about breast exams, about how normal they are, and how important. Because there are a LOT worse things than two colonoscopy preps.

If you haven’t checked lately, the American Cancer Society has updated its guidelines for Colorectal Cancer Screening. Colorectal cancer is serious business; i.e., the third leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women. But here’s the good news: If you follow these guidelines, most colorectal cancer is preventable.

So if you’re 45 years or older, it’s time to do this. Drink, drink, drink. Poop, poop, poop. It’s unpleasant, but it beats the hell out of giving polyps and other abnormalities time to develop into something that will kill you. The results of your colonoscopy will dictate when your next one ought to be. See, colorectal cancer usually takes a long time to develop. If you get a clean screen, you may not need another one for 10 years. But let’s say they find some abnormalities. In most cases, polyps can be completely removed during screening, and biopsied. If they’re small and benign, you may get to avoid the Gatorade prep for 5-7 years. Maybe the next one will be clean and you’ll get the 10-year ticket!

And here’s a bonus: Most insurance plans pay the full cost of screening colonoscopies.

Because of my family history, I had my first colonoscopy in my mid-40s, even though the recommended guideline at that time was 50 years old. Had I put it off, there’s a real chance I might not have been here to write my first book. They removed several polyps, including a large one that would surely have caused some problems soon. In those days, they used a “twilight sleep” instead of knocking you out cold, and I remember the surgeon telling me he was marking the space with a tattoo. I asked him to give me something interesting so I could tell my friends about it; he laughed and said, “Tell them it’s a motorcycle.” That’s why I smile coyly when someone asks if I have a tattoo.

This was probably not the Public Service Announcement you were looking for during the holidays. Sorry, not sorry. If you’re behind schedule on your colonoscopy (*giggle* she said behind), please don’t put it off. And should your doctor find something during a screening, be sure to tell your family members, especially your siblings and kids. Did you see that part ^^^ about most colorectal cancer being preventable? Prevent it!

11 Responses to “Fun with Gatorade”

  1. Love this! I had to do the prep 3 times in 6 months last year! And have to schedule my next one in a month. But they found the polyp with high grade dysplasia, removed 3” of colon and I will not have it turn into cancer! BIG win! I’m another one that promotes getting your screening! I could be facing something totally different this year if I had not done my colonoscopy.

  2. I’ve been lucky and my screens have been clean so I get to wait 10 years but a good friend of mine waited until she was over 60 and when the doctor finally convinced her to do it he told her if she hadn’t she’d be dead in a year or so because she had quite a few polyps some of them big and ugly. So like you KG I’m telling all my friends to be sure and follow the recommended time frames and get it done.

  3. Even with a lousy family history of colo-rectal cancer I waited until I was 65 and I was convinced I was dying because of symptoms I experienced. I called and got scheduled and had my first colonoscopy that revealed I had IBS and a touch of diverticulitis. My relief was profound. Had I listened to my sibs and my own common sense I could have saved myself a heap of worry. The prep is no fun but it is better than making funeral arrangements. I hope someone who needs the nudge to get it done reads your blog and takes care of business.

    • Diverticulitis can cause lots of problems, and I’ve heard IBS is … irritating. I hope by sharing your experience, others will learn. And I hope you’re feeling better now. Taking care of business is a good way to put it.

  4. Finally had mine done this year age 56, they did find a benign polyp(no tatoo that he mentioned – I’ll ask) so I get to do it again in 3 years. The big news for me was the prep wan’t nearly as bad as I had remembered when I had my non-laparoscopic total abdominal hysterectmy. It was such an non-issue that I will be on that table promptly in 3 years.

    • To be honest, the worst part of the prep for me is that I find Gatorade disgusting. If they’d just let me drink water. Oh, and having to stay up all night. That’s no fun.

  5. Well put, KG. As an 11-year survivor of colo-rectal cancer, caught in fairly early stages, I can assure everyone that colonoscopy prep is *way* less gnarly than radiation treatment and chemo. (I got a tattoo out of the deal too, although the rest of the regimen unfortunately did not result in me being able to write like you. ) Thanks for the PSA. Take the message to heart, folks. It could save your life.

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