A Colonoscopy Diary
Colonoscopies are some of the most detested medical procedures, and yet they are vital for everyone, especially those of us with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's. Though this test is invasive and has a detestable prep process, it helps visualize the colon to detect any abnormalities, inflammation, and even colon cancer.
Most of my friends and family have no idea what a colonoscopy entails until they themselves are scheduled to get one. I, having had multiple colonoscopies since my UC diagnosis, decided to note down my schedule from my recent colonoscopy to help others visualize what the process looks like.
Prepping for the colonoscopy prep
2 days before
10 AM: I review the instructions that my doctor sends along in my medical portal. Though I read them when they were first sent to me, I always find it important to refresh myself.
2 PM: Lately, I have been using a Dulcolax/Miralax split prep, which I find much gentler than other prescribed preps. A split prep means that I start it the night before the colonoscopy and finish it the morning of the procedure. Because the Dulcolax and Miralax are over the counter, I head to the pharmacy to buy them in the afternoon. I always do it the day before in case I can't find something and have to head to another store. In this case, I have to go to the grocery store to get the right size of Miralax.
9 PM: I have my last snack before I start prep the next morning.
Colonscopy prep: here comes the fun part
The day before
8 AM: I usually do my best to sleep in as much as possible on the day before my colonoscopy, because I want to minimize the amount of time I'm awake and fasting. Unfortunately, today I get up a little earlier than I would have liked, so I go ahead and organize my tasks for the day. I have things to do for work — I work from home — but I also list out other things I can do to make the day go faster. As someone who is not a fan of liquid diets, I really need to distract myself.
9 AM: I am not a big breakfast person, but I decide to have some white grape juice in the morning to simulate having some fruit. My husband mixes my 64 oz of Gatorade with some Miralax. We put it in a crockpot because that is the only thing big enough to act like a punch bowl.
10 AM: I decide to go for a half-hour walk. This is a new addition to my usual routine, but I am not sure I will repeat it going forward. I end up getting very tired because my body was lacking energy while fasting.
12:30 PM: I decide to simulate lunch. In this case, I end up going with some chicken broth and soda. The broth has a tiny bit of protein that makes me feel fuller.
4 PM: It is time for me to take my Dulcolax pills. Before this, I have been hydrating with Sprite, Ginger Ale, and water. I've also been eating a lot of Jell-O. I take the Dulcolax pills, but they don't take effect yet.
5 PM: At this point, it is time to drink half the Miralax and lemon-lime Gatorade mixture. I drink eight ounces every 15 minutes. I use a straw because it helps me skip out on the taste. I finish in about an hour. Once I have finished the Miralax, I have another bowl of broth.
6 PM – 10 PM: I get my first bowel movements quickly, and after that, I am hopping into the bathroom 15 minutes or so. This prep is much gentler than other preps — at least for me — so I am able to sit on the couch and watch TV with my husband until I feel a little gurgle in my stomach. Then I quickly head back into the bathroom to empty. I try to hydrate every time I go to the bathroom, usually with water, since I am starting to get a headache and want to avoid sugar. Finally, things wind down around 10, and I head to bed.
Time for the procedure
The day of
4:15 AM: I need to set an alarm to get up early the next morning so I can drink the second half of the Miralax mixture on time. Unfortunately, I have a hard time sleeping because I'm nervous about missing my alarm, so I toss and turn all night.
4:30 – 5:30 AM: I drink 8 ounces of Miralax mixture every 15 minutes until I have finished. I find it harder in the morning, but I push through, making sure to take more breaks and drink more water in between. I watch TV at this time too, so I can distract myself.
5:30 – 9:30 AM: I end up in the bathroom again, and by the time I am finished, I am "running clear," which means that whatever is coming out is clear liquid. (There is a yellow tint to it, but that's fine — it's just the bile from my gut.)
9:30 AM: I take a shower, which I always do prior to my procedures. It helps me feel clean and tidy prior to getting into the car to drive to the in-patient procedure office.
10:30 AM: My arrival time is 10:30 AM, and I make it a few minutes early. I check in and wait to be called in.
11 AM: I am called into the back where I give a urine sample to make sure I am not pregnant, get changed into my gown, get an IV in my hand, speak to the anesthesiologist and GI, and get set up to go into the back for the colonscopy.
12 PM: The procedure starts. I feel absolutely nothing since my anesthesia works perfectly.
12:30 PM: My doctor wakes me up and gives me a rundown of what happened during my colonoscopy. He lets me know I tolerated everything well, and that they took some biopsies. We will know more after those come back, but it does look like I still have inflammation in my colon, meaning we may have to discuss next steps regarding my medications.
1 PM: After having some graham crackers and soda and thanking the nurse for sustenance, I finally get to go home and eat a good meal.
Getting info on what's happening with my UC
Having a colonoscopy feels like a long process, but the procedure is a great tool to help figure out what is going on inside my body. After getting the results back from one, I always make sure to have an appointment with my doctor and discuss what we found and if we need to make any changes to my treatment regimen.
Over time I've become less nervous about colonoscopies. Instead, I lean into my routine and focus on all the good that will happen after the procedure: more information to help me and my doctor, and an amazing first meal after not eating for 36 hours!
How open are you about being diagnosed with IBD?