My GI Journey & First Colonoscopy at 30 Years Old
I have suffered from “stomach issues” for as long as I can remember, although I was never medically diagnosed with anything and certainly had no idea what the word gastroenterology even meant or let alone how to pronounce it.
I distinctly remember going to the pediatrician when I was just a toddler and having to drink that awful clear drink (mineral oil) to help with said “issues.” Stool samples and a trip to see a GI specialist were also recommended.
I grew up knowing that I better not eat anything before the big ball game or a night out with friends in case I would get a stomachache.
I was scared to eat, scared to do what is necessary to fuel you.
I wouldn’t eat at family get togethers but instead would sneak in the kitchen when everything was put away because that felt safer to me than having to constantly get up in the middle of the meal to use the bathroom. As I got older, I was able to figure out what foods would trigger my symptoms. Yes, a spicy chicken sandwich is tasty, but is it really worth the stomach cramps and bathroom trips? Spicy, fried, greasy foods, none of it was worth it. It even became a running joke that “everything made my stomach hurt” or “you always have a stomachache.”
I felt defeated.
Fast forward to present day and I have had 2 upper endoscopies (EGDs) since I started seeing Dr. Challa and the KMC Gastroenterology team, having my first colonoscopy at just 30 years old. My procedure was done specifically to diagnose me with a separate GI disease, diverticulosis. Diverticulosis is a condition that occurs in the wall of your colon when small pouches form. When the pouches become infected or inflamed, that is called diverticulitis.
So that’s what I’m here to really talk about, what a colonoscopy entails and how you shouldn’t dismiss it just because you’re afraid of the stigma behind it (pun-intended).
Step 1: The pre-prep
Make sure you are prepared for your prep. Tip: keep your instructions sheet that’s provided by the doctor’s office and follow all the guidelines regarding the stop of medications and when/what to eat.
Keeping it simple was how I approached my liquid diet. Vanilla Ensure kept me nourished and broth gave me that extra umph. I didn’t want to complicate anything and accidentally eat something that I shouldn’t have because there was no way I was going to re-do my prep.
Step 2: The prep
Like people, preps come in all different types: Magnesium Citrate, CoLyte/GoLytely, Dulcolax, MOVIPREP, MiraLAX, SUPREP.
Luckily for me, my prep required all over-the-counter items – Dulcolax laxative tablets and MiraLAX powder mixed with Gatorade. Sounds simple, right?
My procedure was on Tuesday morning, so I began prep on Sunday afternoon with the Dulcolax tablets. Surprisingly, the tablets were harder on me then the MiraLAX was – quite the silver lining. Other than loose stools, I also experienced cramping, nausea, and overall ickiness (very medically technical, I know).
I couldn’t believe when I read the instructions more closely on Monday that I was required to mix SEVEN capfuls of the powder MiraLAX per 32 oz. Gatorade, times two! I felt like I was stirring up the biggest cocktail. Tip: pour the mixture into a large cup and drink it from a straw. It helped me suck it down faster and with no gagging.
Overall, I didn’t experience any major issues (besides the obvious), other than a little sickness on Monday night after all the prep was complete. Tip: make sure to keep yourself hydrated throughout this whole process. If liquids are coming out, you need to replenish your fluids by drinking as much water as physically possible. Just keep in mind the timeframe of your prep so you don’t drink anything past midnight the night before your procedure.
Step 3: The procedure
FINALLY, to the easy part. It’s true what they say, the prep really is the “worst” part of getting a colonoscopy. Just remember that through the pain and all the bathroom runs; you are getting checked for a reason. Isn’t two nights of bowel movements worth possibly finding a polyp or catching cancer early? For me, it was beyond worth it to have peace of mind knowing what was actually wrong with me.
Once you are checked in and into a gown, the wonderful nursing staff and anesthesiologist will get you hooked up to everything and put an IV in (which was my second least favorite part – not the scope – the needle). You will receive a sedative through your IV and boom, you’ve slept through your entire procedure, which on average only takes 15-30 minutes.
Step 5: The recovery
When you wake up from your procedure, your doctor will discuss any immediate findings with you – keep in mind that you may still feel a little drowsy from the sedative, so it’s important to have someone drive you home. You also will most likely be STARVING due to your prep and liquid diet. EAT, but make sure to stay away from anything spicy, fried, or greasy. I personally was very bloated and gassy afterwards, but both of those symptoms went away by the next day.
The important thing to remember from all this is no, no one wants to have a video endoscope inserted into their behind BUT think of all the other things you may have to endure if you wait and end up having cancerous polyps.
Historically colon cancer screenings have begun at the age of 50, but more recently the American Cancer Society has recommended people age 45 and over to now be screened. Like myself and so many others, you may also need to have a colonoscopy if you have a family history of colon cancer, rectal cancer, polyps, or any symptoms.
Now that I’ve been screened at the age of 30, I won’t need to have a colonoscopy done for another 10 years. I can also sleep a little better at night knowing that I’m a-okay and what I can do to control my symptoms.
Schedule your screening colonoscopy today! Same week appointments available. 785-354-8518
Written by Taylor Cowen, Events & Marketing Coordinator, KMC