Gloved hands wrangling a serpent-like colonoscope with a glowing eye.

Colonoscopy: A Necessary Evil

The liquid diet. The hunger. The downing of glasses of laxative. The lead-up to a colonoscopy is not a pretty picture. Unfortunately, though, colonoscopies are now a regular part of my life. I've done the prep multiple ways and read all the tips and tricks online, and yet, nothing can make those 2 days anything less than unpleasant.

The first colonoscopy is the worst

When I had my first colonoscopy that led to my ulcerative colitis diagnosis, I was in the middle of a flare and looking for answers. I knew a colonoscopy was the way to get them, but being in my mid-20s, I never imagined I would have been having a colonoscopy so soon.

That first prep was easily the worst. I was so hungry as I sipped on chicken broth and jealously watched my partner eating a delicious dinner. I can remember gagging that night as I tried drinking the gallon of liquid laxative mixture that tasted like sweat. Making a rookie mistake, I had not chilled the preparation beforehand, a lesson I very quickly learned.

In the times since that first colonoscopy, I have certainly learned the tips and tricks that can make the prep a bit less miserable – thank you, internet IBD community! I have also learned what works for me and what doesn't.

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Becoming a colonoscopy expert with UC

Given that I get migraines when dehydrated or when I skip meals, I try to make sure I have plenty of liquids during the day so that I'm as hydrated as possible. Though not the healthiest option, having sodas helps me to also get some needed calories. As awful as any of the prep is, I have learned that I much prefer using the over-the-counter laxatives mixed with Gatorade.

After checking in at the hospital, I make sure to look away as the IV is placed and try to distract myself with the knowledge that it will all be over soon. Although I know I am not alone in believing that the prep is the hardest part of a colonoscopy, being in a hospital setting and getting an IV is no fun either.

If there is 1 thing that keeps me going, it's that first post-colonoscopy meal. It may seem like torture, but after spending hours on the toilet, planning what I will be eating in less than 24 hours is a needed respite.

One of UC's necessary evils

As much as I may complain leading up to a colonoscopy, I am also well aware of how important they are for me. Having ulcerative colitis, I have realized that I often have to do things that are unpleasant (i.e., frequent blood draws, providing stool samples, and discussing my poop with more people than I would like) in order to take care of myself. Colonoscopies certainly fall into this category.

It might not happen as often as I'd like, but on the occasions that those colonoscopies come back clear and I see those perfectly normal pictures of my colon, the relief is truly palpable. When the pictures are less than ideal, there's still something validating about having this normally invisible illness made visible. I wish there was a better way, but as my personal mantra goes: I can do hard things.

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