Thursday, January 10, 2013

Colonoscopy ProTips

Welcome to TMI-town. If you have no interest in colonoscopy prep, then you can just move along. But if you, or someone you know, has the joy of an upcoming colonoscopy, then you should probably read this, share this, and forward on. But I'm keeping it real below - you've been warned.

I know that some people have had many more, but I've had 4 colonoscopies in 5 years. And in that time, I've learned a few tricks. Some people don't have any trouble (those people are rare) - if you don't, and don't want to get psyched out, then again - move along. Nothing to see here. Just a basket of puppies.

Are they gone? Good. Let me clarify - colonoscopies really aren't that bad. That's the secret. It's all the prep. The prep is just about the worst thing I would wish on a person I hate the most. It's also possible that I don't have really creative tortures and that I don't really wish ill will on many... But it's bad. Imagine if you have to eat a gallon (bucket?) of spicy chicken wings in just 2 hours. That itself may be hard (I know I have a little stomach), but include in that the abdominal discomfort, gas, and explosive, burning diarrhea that often accompanies too much spicy food. And there's less burn in this, except that you can't buy toilet paper soft enough to feel good at hour 4 of toilet time.

After a night of that, going into the hospital, stripping down, and getting a roto-rooter camera up your butt doesn't seem that bad because at least you'll get a good nap without being woken up by the sudden urge to fart (except you know it's not a fart. How there could be anything left, you won't know at 3 am - but you do know not to trust a fart after a gallon of laxatives so you get up anyways). It's a good sleep. And the fog you have when wake up is worth it, because you get at least one more poop-free nap when you get home. Unless you have trust issues. At which point you might want to wear Depends. Get over the shame - you were just roto-rootered.

This whole thing is prompted by the fact that colonoscopies seem to be a trendy way to end or start the year. And I've heard that a few people aren't feeling well, so I hope that this at least makes you smile a little bit. Below are some of my top tips from my most recent Plumbing Exam. I will preface this by saying that since I am not your physician, his/her advice definitely overrides mine. And also there are several different kinds of colonscopy prep, so obviously listen to your doc about yours.

(1) Practice chugging. If you were a good kid like me, you never learned the fine art of chugging in college. I didn't because of the timing of my Crohn's diagnosis. And also I didn't like beer (the feeling was mutual...). I've learned chugging through these exams, but the worst part of all the different kinds of prep is the sheer volume of liquid that you're required to consume in a relatively short period of time. I don't mind telling you that it's hard enough for me to drink my 8 glasses of water in a whole day, let alone a gallon in 2-4 hours. So in the days leading up to your exam, it won't hurt to practice pounding back a few glasses of water at a time. Bonus: pre-funk hydration is key.

(2) Find a method that works. This depends on your prep, but I've only ever had Golytely (or Trilytely - neither appropriately named). The basics of most of these preps is to assault your system with too much salt and it just expels ALL THE THINGS from your digestive track. Something about all of this salt in the mix that changes the texture of the water just a little. Ever accidentally swallow sea water? Not only is it straight up salty and gag-worthy, but it's a little... viscous. Just not right. Not right at all. After about the half-way mark, Golytely gives me THAT feeling. Now - keeping it chill really helps. But that also makes it harder to pound back (Salty Ice Cream Headache without the joy of ice cream and with all the pain and sorrow of salty tears). To miss the gag reflex, I used a straw for a few times. It works for some people. If you don't mind the smell of things, just chug-a-lug out of a regular glass. But my new favorite is out of little plastic water bottles. Easy to chug from without smelling, and I found little ones that were the perfect size for the 8 oz chug times.

(3) Don't drink between chugs. You will want to cleanse your mouth to remove the unholy terror that is Golytely. With something. Anything. But let me promise you - it just takes up valuable stomach space for the chugging. You will be hungry. You may not think that you could fill up on some salty exile fluid. But you can. And you will. And you will feel grosser than that one time you ordered a XL chili dog with super sized onion rings and a chocolate shake and regretted it immediately but strangely couldn't stop eating. Or that other time with the gravy. So. Much. Gravy. You'll feel like that. And even though there's no grease, just salt, it does weird grimy things. Speaking of grimy...

(4) You'll want a shower. You will be going to the bathroom. A lot. This is obvious. What you may or may not be familiar with is the urge to shower. Between the toilet frequency, gross bloaty feeling, and that weird sweating (has to be the salt, right?), you'll consider several showers over the night. But you'll have to time it carefully, because you'll need to use the restroom again. Proceed with caution.

(5) Buy some super gooshy toilet paper. The reasons should be obvious.

(6) Bring something to do. Whether sudoku, a book, solitaire, or your twitter feed... maybe movie streaming on your laptop? You'll be in and out so often, that you might as well just camp out. It sounds weird, until you're there. All shame leaves right around your 4th or 5th flush.

(7) Find a dye-free flavor that you like, but won't mind never drinking again. Most preps come with a flavor packet - lemon is common. After the second prep I realized that I needed a new flavor because I got some sort of pavlovian response to the lemon and would start gagging well before I started pooping. Once I was able to find a lemon-lime-cherry flavor without red dye (what?!? I know right!!). This time I found some peachy thing that was good. But you'll never want to drink that flavor again. Seriously. And be sure to read your prep directions carefully about your dye limitations.

(8) Don't. Trust. A Fart. Once you start drinking, all bets are off.

(9) Make jokes. The process sucks. It just does. But find people who laugh with you, keep you company, and keep you sane. It will take several hours, and it will take a lot of you. It gets better in the morning. But it's also easy to get really psyched out by the whole process. People who have been there will laugh at you. People who are grossed out by it might ignore you for a little while. Get over it - they will. It's just poop being forcibly expelled at rapid velocity and high frequency. Get over it.

(10) Remember: It will be over soon. As terrible as this evening is, it's just the one evening. And you will feel better in the morning. You will want to eat. You will stop sweating in weird ways. The bloating will go away. The world will keep turning. And you will return to normal bathroom visits.

To everyone undergoing checks this year (whether planned or due to illness), I wish you all the best of luck with quick and easy preps, and good news on all your labs. And keep smiling - because you're never alone in this.


  1. All of this is true. At no other time would you consider taking your laptop to the computer. Laugh now, but you'll be pinning by your 3rd trip to the can. Unless "lytely" is Celtic for "cataclysmic", the prep liquid is totally misnamed. Even if you think "Well, that wasn't so bad" at the first glass, your opinion will forcefully change before the last. My favorite colonoscopy step, which you don't have listed yet, is #11 - upon leaving the hospital, drive directly to your favorite burger joint and order double-meat. I'm not due for another one for 3-4 years, but TCP is and I'm not looking forward to his bitching about it. Thanks for keeping it real, B!

    1. Cataclysmic is right! I LOL'ed at all this <3

    2. This post was horrifying and hilarious. Thank you. It was also oddly reminiscent of my experience with Salmonella last year, especially the don't trust a fart tip. I wish I had known that ahead of time. Luckily I wasn't at the office or running errands!

  2. for my most recent colonoscopy i asked for the suprep kit. it's less liquid to drink. two 16oz drinks nite before (1 hour to drink), two 16oz day of. it's a more expensive co-pay, but worth it. much better than chugging 8oz every 15 min.

    they also make a pill, but the nurse said they don't prescribe it at the place i went to. but can you imagine, just 1 pill and a glass of water? no chugging nasty liquid.

    1. I know someone who took the pill - apparently still lots of water, but I would prefer that over anything else. And I've asked about other preps, and my office keeps saying "no". I will keep asking, though! I'll have to remember suprep. Thanks!

  3. Oops... of course I notice an error right after I hit 'publish'. That second sentence should read 'take your laptop to the toilet.' Need. More. Coffee.

  4. I LOVED point #8. SOOOO TRUE! Another thing I do is use baby wipes instead of toilet paper. Who wants chaffing on their butt? Yeah, not this girl.

    (PS - I love that I can openly say that on your blog. Thank you for your openness with this.)

    (PPS - You have me beat as far as how many in five years. I think I have had 9 total in the past 18 years, but then again I kind of lost count.)

    1. What a great idea to use baby wipes!

      Clinics should have frequent flyer packages. Get your 10th one free. Because who ever wants to "get" 10 of these?? Start a petition. ;-)

  5. I still think that mix in some lime flavor, and about a pint of tequilla, yes, a pint of plata. You will care less.
    I can vouch for a stop on the way home- the best mexican restaurant in your 'hood. Get that new day started a great way.


  6. Fantastic tips! TMI Town is our favorite place to go.

  7. Appendix is a tubular structure, shaped like a pig’s tail, that is attached to the first portion of the colon . It measures approximately 10cm in length. When the opening of the appendix is obstructed by substance such as hair or stool, it can become inflammed, which may result in a condition known as appendicitis.

  8. I'm in tears over your comments. You just described my GoLytely experience yesterday, and my first fart this morning was with fingers crossed. Thanks for sharing this. I already feel better!

  9. This was good medicine for me to read. Thanks so much for the laughter and perspective you put on this procedure. As awful as the prep is, you have to be able to laugh about it or just plain lose your mind. Your thoughts are still powerful and helpful to those of us experiencing this humiliating prep. The actual scope was nothing compared to this.
    A few tips, if I may. Adding lemon drink mix a little at a time to each glass helps. Mix well in a separate glass, pour over fresh ice, use a straw & suck it down quick. Also, bullion can help with the taste. Lick cube before drinking. Something about the salt helps offset the salt of the liquid. Have someone nearby who can keep you supplied with a fresh large glass of ice as needed. Vaseline applied liberally to any skin which can be exposed to the acid which will exit from your body may keep you from being bloody by the end. Buy the softest tissue out there and plenty of baby wipes, too. A paper towel wet w/ cold water can soothe as well; just sit on it for a minute, don't wipe, as that wiping action continues to irritate the delicate skin back there. Then use more Vaseline for next time. Or Desitin or diaper rash ointment, whatever you wish. I didn't manage to get down all of my prep, but it was okay. As long as what is leaving you is free of matter of any kind, color is not important. Yellowish is okay. As soon as I saw pink on my towel, along with mucho pain, I was done. Probably skipped at least 6, maybe 8, 8 oz. servings. Dr. told me I was fine. Thank goodness, nothing found.
    Anyhow, good luck to all and thanks so much for your post. HUGS!

  10. Well, nice post.. Thank you.. CSCS, Sydney( is best known colorectal cancer center providing quality treatment for bowel cancer.

  11. Kvetchin, tip #7 seems to make a great deal of sense, "find a dye-free flavor that you like". I hear the drink before a colonoscopie can be hard to swallow. If you can find the right flavor, it may make things a bit better. Getting a colonoscopie is so important, I'm glad there are people and doctors out there to help spread the word.