OK, so admittedly this is all getting very anal, but how else can you describe a procedure involving a bendy length of tubing and your derriere? Yes, a camera is involved (oh, the glamour of it all) and the medical term is undergoing a ‘colonoscopy’.
Since the devil is always in the detail I Googled everything I could on the procedure in advance and probably could have gone on and won Mastermind, with the specialist subject of “All matters anal!”
What could go wrong? Will it hurt? I was really getting myself quite worked up, and not helping by yet again reading ‘horror’ stories on Mums Net about this going wrong and that, of course no one ever says, ‘I had a colonoscopy and everything was great!’.
Prior to a colonoscopy there is preparation required in the form of a laxative, my appointment was at 8:30am so all the information below is based on a morning appointment. Remember to check your timings because this is something you don’t want to get wrong and you don’t want to do again!
This time around instead of going for Moviprep like I had when I had the Capsule Endoscopy I requested a different laxative called Picolax. This was purely because with Moviprep you must drink 1 litre of water in one sitting and with Picolax, just 150ml – I’m not a person that drinks a lot of water, so drinking 1 litre is overwhelming enough for my stomach let alone with what was about to happen.
I stopped eating solid food from 2pm on the Sunday (my appointment was 8:30am on Tuesday), although this was my choice as I could have had some rice for dinner that evening, but I was travelling back to London and I just didn’t see the point.
I mixed the first sachet into a glass with 150ml water and mixed, the liquid does heat up so I added in some ice cubes and let it cool. I lifted the glass up and, to my surprise it didn’t taste horrible, it tasted like Lucozade orange – this wasn’t going to be so bad?! Of course, 150ml of water is gone in no time at all and so I was left in the kitchen thinking what now?
I decided to do boring household bits like laundry etc. and then within the hour I had the ‘urge’ to go to the bathroom, so off I went and it’s just like with any other laxative, or any other colitis ridden day– diarrhoea. I then got into bed and watched Netflix, drank copious amounts of Lucozade and at around lunchtime I dissolved a stock cube in hot water and had that, it was about 10 minutes of heaven, so soothing.
I dissolved another sachet of Picolax with some ice cubes and drank that, as well as the Lucozade I was trying to drink water every hour to keep my hydration up – this is very important because as well as losing water from your body you are losing electrolytes.
By around midnight I didn’t need to go to the bathroom anymore and I was feeling extremely tired. The hospital is about a 45-minute drive so we were up at 7:30 to set off!
So, my overall experience on Picolax? Is a positive one, it did the job and I preferred it to Moviprep. If, sorry when, I have this procedure again in the future I will request this laxative.
As this was my first colonoscopy my boyfriend’s mum Caroline, came with me, (Tom was up in Newcastle and my mum was out of the country). My God am I grateful she was there. Personally, I think anyone having this procedure should not be going alone, firstly they won’t administer the sedative if someone can’t physically pick you up, so make sure someone is available, and secondly just for some sort of support I think it really helped me having someone there. I could not imagine doing this on my own, nor will I ever. Sorry folks!
We arrived promptly to a very quiet hospital, I sat in the waiting room and filled out the forms and waited… at around 9am I was taken into a small room with a bed where I would be until I went through for the procedure. It was a small but private room and thankfully an ensuite. I lay down and a nurse or two came in to give me the hospital gown and fancy shorts with an opening at the back, literally a flap that gets velcroed, I wish I had taken photos but it is only in hindsight that I am giggling at this image. Anyway, next they had to put in the cannula – I bloody hate needles, and this was either going in the back of my hand or my arm. I was desperate for it to go into my arm and not hand – as again I had read the hand can be painful.
Because I was dehydrated, finding a vein was becoming difficult and I was becoming more and more stressed, but eventually they found one in my right arm and it went in seamlessly. Just because it is a cannula and it looks bigger and scarier than a blood test needle – don’t worry, it feels the same!
It isn’t any worse. I waited 5 or so minutes and then I was walked through to the procedure room, this is where I became quite emotional, seeing all the tubes and machines it just really freaked me out. The nurse in the room was lovely though, as was the gastroenrologist and the other nurse, so I wasn’t alone.
I was positioned on the bed on my left-hand side and had my knees brought up, the oxygen mask went over my head and I was breathing normally, the next thing was the sedative, I was told this was being administered, and I felt it. The sensation is the most bizarre sensation, just don’t fight it, breathe into it and relax.
Much easier said in hindsight but honestly, I tried to resist it because I didn’t like the initial feeling, I felt drunk – anyway I was staring at a word on the screen and that was the last thing I remember. I wish I could share with you more information but quite honestly, I remember nothing, nada, zero. Now, I personally think this is because I received the maximum sedation level which may have been a tad too much for my body. But what followed next was much worse, and really ruined the overall experience for me.
As I started to come around I became nauseous and was physically being sick. As you will be aware I had an empty stomach and so all I could retch up was bile which caused a vile burning sensation in my throat. I slowly started to drink a cup of tea, but that didn’t work, water wasn’t working and neither was water with added peppermint.
I had a lot of trapped wind as well which was causing me pain. This is where Caroline was incredibly helpful to have, she was soothing me and being comforting, and most importantly holding my hair back when I was being sick!
It was extremely important to have someone there because I was in no fit state to hear anything, I wouldn’t have remembered. The doctors were able to explain everything to Caroline and confirm my Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis, they also confirmed that they took 15 biopsies. We eventually left the hospital at around 2pm, so I had been there for a while, and the fresh air immediately perked me up and I was only sick once more in the car home, which for a 45-minute drive was pretty good going. Once home I napped, drank water and had boiled rice for dinner. Safe to say the next day I worked from home.
The Day After
As if the colonoscopy wasn’t enough to scare me, but I was also scared about eating afterwards would it all just come straight back out? Would I have cramping, well actually no, none of the above. My body graciously accepted some fresh sushi and loved it. I had heard rumours that going to the toilet afterwards can be odd, but I had no issues and blood can sometimes be expected along with loose stools. But the only way my body reacted was to let me know I Am Woman, so can you believe that I had just been through all of that and now I had to deal with my period, the cramping and cravings to go alongside that, I mean come on give me a break!?
So, because of the adverse reaction to the sedative, I think my story is a little skewed, but for next time I won’t be as scared, just a little cautious of the sedation – I think at some stage I should have been weighed, but at this point it is neither here nor there. I have a diagnosis, and I am on my way to remission.