No one (at least, no one that I know) wants or looks forward to getting a colonoscopy. I mean, who wants to go on a “low residue” diet three days prior and then fast for 24 hours before the procedure? On top of that, you have to get an IV, get knocked out (though that’s the best part) and let someone stick a three foot long probe with a camera mounted on top up your keister. Not me!
But, I now have two young children and want to make sure I’m around to raise them and, God willing, see them graduate college, get married and have children. So, while my health has always been a priority, it’s even more so now. I owe it to my kids.
On top of the prep and the procedure itself, there’s the cost of getting a colonoscopy. Unless your insurance covers the exam, it’s not cheap (about $4,000) to get one. Most insurance policies require patients to be 50 years of age but many doctors think that’s too late. I got one about 8 years ago in Erie, PA since my insurance wouldn’t cover it and it was a third of the price compared to my doctor in Los Angeles. Some people even travel internationally to get it done for less. In fact, one of my friends got a colonoscopy last week in Poland for $175.
I debated whether to share this TMI story about my routine colonoscopy experience but I decided to go ahead since it’s important to get them done, especially if you have a history of colon cancer in your family like me. Sadly, my amazing mother died of the disease 19 years ago and she would probably still be alive if she’d had one after she went to the doctor and complained of stomach pain. The doctor dismissed her pain and sent her home … but that’s a whole other story.
For me, the prep was the most difficult part of the colonoscopy so below, I’ve included the directions and diet my doctor’s office sent over when I scheduled the procedure. My wife picked the prep stuff up for me since she was at Target and they have a pharmacy. The pharmacist said that to save money, I could get the generic versions, which I did and they worked (the same, I assume, but thankfully I’m no colonoscopy prep expert).
I was supposed to have one 64oz bottle of Gatorade but Target only had 32oz so my wife bought me two lemon and lime flavored. It worked out well except I didn’t have a funnel and I spilled some of the Miralax all over the counter and floor while trying to mix it together.
How do I prepare for colonoscopy?
• 3 days prior to your procedure, eat a low residue diet.. A low residue diet limits high-fiber foods (see below for more details).
· Low residue diet: Please avoid the following high fiber foods:
-Whole-grain breads, oatmeal/cereals, granola
-Nuts, seeds, raw/dried vegetables or fruit (NO salads)
-Beverages with pulp
-Nutritional supplements that contain fiber
-Pepper, beans, corn/popcorn
· Foods you may eat include:
-Cream of wheat/grits, white rice, and refined pastas/noodles
-Cooked fresh/canned vegetables
-Vegetables without seeds including asparagus, beets, carrots, mushrooms, green beans, and potatoes without skin
-Bananas, soft cantaloupe, honeydew, avocado
-Chicken, fish, beef, pork, tofu, eggs
-Margarine, butters/oils, smooth sauces and dressings
-Cakes, cookies, pudding, ice cream without nuts or seeds, hard candy, popsicles, yogurt and cheese
• 1 day prior to your procedure, eat only a clear liquid diet. A clear liquid diet consists only of liquids that you would be able to read a newspaper through.
Clear liquid diet includes:
-Water, mineral water
-Clear fruit juices without pulp (apple, white grape, white cranberry, lemonade, etc.)
-Clear carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks or sports drinks
-Store-bought and >99% fat-free broth (chicken, beef, vegetable, or bone broth)
-Popsicles or gelatin (such as Jell-O)
-Coffee or tea (without milk or cream)
1 day prior to your procedure, you should also take the colon prep medication.
Purchase these items ahead of time (no prescriptions required):
-Four 5mg dulcolax tablets
-One 238 gram (8 oz.) bottle of miralax
-64 oz. of Gatorade (no red flavors)
-Desitin or Vaseline can be used to protect the anal area especially if you have hemorrhoids.
Preparing your bowel preparation:
-Two nights before your colonoscopy: Mix the bottle of Miralax in 64 oz. of Gatorade. Shake until the Miralax is dissolved and refrigerate.
Drinking your bowel preparation:
Between 3-6 PM the night before your procedure:
-Take 4 Dulcolax tablets (a total of 20mg) by mouth with at least 8 oz. of water and then wait one hour.
-Drink 8 oz. of Gatorade-Miralax solution every 10-15 minutes until half the solution is gone. Refrigerate the remaining half of the prep solution.
-Drink an additional 16 oz. of any clear liquid (without Miralax) over the next 1-2 hours.
6-8 hours before your procedure:
-Drink the remaining half of the prep as above until the container is empty.. Then drink an additional 16 oz.. of clear liquids.
What to expect:
-You will develop significant diarrhea after drinking the preparation.. Plan to be near a bathroom.. This is normal as it means the medication is working to clear stool from your colon.
-Most people feel mild bloating and mild abdominal cramps.. This is normal.. Drinking the prep medication more slowly and over a longer period of time can help alleviate these symptoms.
-A successful colon prep will cause you to have clear yellow (“tea-colored”) liquid stools.
-Please finish your preparation regardless of your stool color.
• Stay hydrated with at least 12 tall glasses (about 8-10 ounces each) of clear liquids throughout the day in addition to what you drink with your bowel prep medication to prevent dehydration.
* What wasn’t clear but should be was to not eat anything red like Jell-O. When I think of Jell-O I think of red Jell-O so they should spell it out on these instructions.
My procedure was at 9am on a Tuesday. I ate my last solid food around 7pm on Sunday. I should have eaten something before midnight just to fill my belly but I didn’t. Note to self: Next time, eat something before midnight.
On Monday, the day before my colonoscopy, I took 3 laxative tablets at 3:09pm (15mg total). I was supposed to take 20MG but the box said to take 1-3. I don’t like taking medicine so I tend to err on the side of caution.
I waited an hour as instructed and nothing happened so I started to get worried. Then I drank the first 32oz bottle of Gatorade that had the generic Miralax in it. Nothing happened until I finished the whole thing, which took about an hour. Then my stomach started to gurgle and the flood gates opened up.
It wasn’t that bad but it does clean you out. I fell asleep around 10:15pm and woke up on my own just after midnight with my stomach rumbling. FYI: I flushed the toilet about 10 times before second bottle.
I started drinking the second dose at 12:31am, which was about 90 minutes earlier than I was instructed to but I was already up and didn’t feel like being awake all night. I drank 90% of it over the course of an hour and there weren’t as many, ahem, “fireworks” as the first dose. That’s probably because I was already cleaned out. Not to be graphic, but towards the end it was just clear liquid.
I arrived at the doctor’s office at 8:10am(10 minutes late). The nurses were all very kind and gave me some socks and a gown to change into. Once I had the IV inserted and was hooked up to a heart monitor and blood pressure cuff, I met separately with the anesthesiologist and then the doctor. Both were great.
They wheeled me into a sterilized room where there were two nurses and we chatted for a few minutes. They had me lay on my left side and bend my knees a little. The anesthesiologist put the Propofol drug in my IV and said it might burn. It didn’t burn via the IV but I felt it in my chest, then things started to get blurry and I just shut my eyes.
The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room with my wife rubbing my back. I couldn’t believe it was over so quickly and that I didn’t feel them transfer me to the recovery room.
The actual procedure was a piece of cake and it was the best sleep I’ve had in a long time, even though it was only 30 minutes.
After giving me some time to rest and wake up, the doctor came in to brief me. They found a polyp but he didn’t think it was cancerous and told me not to worry. He removed it, tested it and thankfully, it came back negative. The doctor said I’m good to go and “I recommend repeating the colonoscopy in 5 years, or sooner if you have new symptoms related to the colon.”
Colonoscopies aren’t fun, especially the prep but they are much easier than the alternative so do yourself a favor and get it done when the time comes.
Have you had a colonoscopy before? Any tips to share? Leave a comment below!