A Colonoscopy Journey
By Andrea Williams
When I decided to get a colonoscopy, it wasn’t because I was at the suggested age, which is 45 for African Americans or because my dad passed away with Stage IV Colorectal Cancer when I was only 22. It was because I had a fear of dying and leaving the ones I love most behind to grieve my death. My fear led me to research every aspect of the procedure because I saw firsthand the effects of the disease and witnessed the impact that the disease has on families and individuals.
The Weekend Before My Colonoscopy
I scheduled my procedure on a Monday so that I could have the weekend to prepare without any distractions. The Friday before my colonoscopy I went to the grocery store and purchased Jell-O, chicken broth and Gatorade as outlined on the prep sheet, which was provided by my doctor. On Saturday morning, I was no longer able to eat nuts, fruits, red meats, brown rice, raw vegetables or anything purple because it could impact the results of the colonoscopy. Saturday night I made it a point to stay out late and have a fifth meal to hold me over, I am vicious when hungry, I went to Waffle House. After my fifth meal, I was feeling confident that I would be able to survive the one day fast on Sunday.
Sunday arrived, the day that I COULD NOT eat any solid foods, only clear liquids and broth. I woke up had two cups of black coffee, which was suggested on my prep sheet. By noon I was feeling hungry pains, I watched tons of movies and stayed in bed most of the day sleeping. My husband, James, would bring me broth and Gatorade, but made sure to steer clear of our room because I was feeling the effects of not being able to eat.
Fast forward to 6:00 pm Sunday evening, I took my first dose of the prep mixture. I downed the prep within 10 minutes, it tasted like diluted white chalk with a touch of sodium. Within 30 minutes I was prisoner of our bathroom for the next 3 hours, each time I thought I was freed from the porcelain throne I would have to do a mad dash back to the bathroom. I made sure to have plenty of reading material, i.e. magazines and books on tape. I think I even made a grocery list and a bucket list while trapped in the bathroom.
Morning of the Colonoscopy
I woke up at 5:45 am to take my second dose of the prep at 6:00 am as mandated by my doctor. This time it only took me five minutes to down the solution. About two minutes later I threw up the prep. This is common as most patients can’t keep the second dose of the prep down. Before leaving for my appointment I made myself a sandwich to have for when I was out of the procedure, I was not playing any games about eating. We left for my appointment, you must have a driver because you will be a little fuzzy after the procedure and unable to drive. Upon arrival, I was asked a series of questions about my family history and current state of mind. The procedure lasted about 30 minutes, I didn’t feel a thing during or after. All I remember is counting backwards from 100 and waking up to a smiling nurse asking if I wanted her to get my husband, of course I said YES and tell him to bring the sandwich!
I’m happy to report, I didn’t have any polyps, but I have to get a colonoscopy every five years because of my family history. The entire experience was emotional, a million thoughts raced through my mind the day of the procedure, like what if I have polyps? We don’t have kids yet, we haven’t been to South Africa, I don’t think I finalized all my stock options at work. James assured me that everything would be okay, that even if polyps were found that we were getting ahead of the game by having this procedure done early. Ultimately, getting screened for colorectal cancer put my mind at ease and allowed me to keep living without the fear of being sick.