Colonoscopy #4

I had my fourth colonoscopy this morning. That's a lot of colonoscopies for a 51-year-old. Normally, these screenings begin at age 50. But it was recommended to me that I start having them in my late thirties because my mother died of colon cancer very young (she was 48 when diagnosed and barely 49 when she passed away).

Some people avoid the dreaded colonoscopy because it sounds so unpleasant. But if you have ever watched someone die from colon cancer (like I have: on a daily basis - up close and personal - for seven months), the colonoscopy isn't scary. I don't even dread it. Oh, I don't enjoy the prep day. I doubt that anyone does. But it's a small inconvenience in comparison to the possibility of not discovering something deadly until it's quite advanced. Colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers when diagnosed early and one of the deadliest when it's not.

I got another clean report today. My colon is healthy and clear. So far, not even a polyp has shown up. Perhaps I did not inherit a genetic tendency. But I will still follow my doctor's advice and have the screening more often than the average person. Something will eventually get me, but it won't be colon cancer. Because colon cancer is so easy to avoid if you just don't avoid the screening.

I didn't have any anxiety or worries about today's procedure. I fully expected a clear report. But it's still nice to hear the doctor say, "Everything looks great. See you in five years."

Getting a colonoscopy is no big deal. The procedure itself is a breeze. You get over the inhibition part after the first one. I am so comfortable with my doctor at this point that I don't give it a second thought. I felt nothing. It didn't seem like I was completely out because I could hear the conversation between the doctor and nurses. However, I must have slept through most of it because I am fascinated by watching the monitor and seeing what the doctor is seeing. If my eyes had been open, I know I would have looked at it. But I have no recollection of doing so. The only time I remember watching the monitor was during my very first scope for only a minute or two.

For anyone in the Nashville area, I recommend Dr. Michael Santi SO highly. He is a colorectal specialist with a wonderful bedside manner. I have been in his care since 1997. Yes, I could get my colonoscopies right here in Murfreesboro. We have plenty of great doctors here. But I don't mind the drive. I'm already comfortable with him and if I ever needed any kind of colon surgery, I can't imagine going to anyone else. He is that good. Of course, convenience has never been my highest priority when selecting a doctor.

Anyone who has done it will tell you that the worst part of a colonoscopy is the day before; the prep. You are restricted to clear liquids. And your colon has to be completely cleansed (this is the ladylike way of describing it.) But this time even that seemed easier than in the past. I took two little pills at 10:00 am, two more little pills at noon, then at 4:00 I began drinking eight 8-ounce-glasses of Colyte solution every ten minutes until half the jug was gone. In the past, I had to drink the WHOLE jug. I hated that.

The intense "cleansing" period lasted only about two and a half hours (not all day). And drinking the liquid every ten minutes -- what I hate the most -- was just a little over an hour. By 7:00 pm I was soaking in a hot bath, contemplating a cheeseburger from Five Guys once I could eat again.

Funny thing is, after the colonoscopy, I didn't even want a cheeseburger. In fact, I couldn't imagine putting a greasy cheeseburger into my freshly cleansed colon. It just seemed like a bad idea. I had a little Sprite after the procedure. Then I had John drive me through Starbucks for a nonfat latte on the way home. We went to Publix to pick up a few things and I bought everything I thought I might want. But then I got home and really only wanted a piece of sourdough toast and coffee ... for now. I think it was wise not to eat a big meal right away. My stomach is rumbling like crazy after just eating toast.

The little Dulcolax pills prior to the liquid seemed to make the cleansing process faster and easier. I never even had a stomach cramp. The absolute worst part was drinking the Colyte. It makes me feel bloated and just a tiny bit queasy. But even that was no big deal. It's a little salty and kind of weird-tasting. But not awful. And drinking it fast, with a straw, helped.

Several friends told me their doctor let them drink sixty-four ounces of Gatorade with a bottle of Miralax in it. So I asked Dr. Santi about doing that next time, since it sounds like it would taste better than Colyte. He said that I could if I wanted to, but in his experience, the Colyte does a more efficient job of thoroughly cleansing the colon and added: "The only thing worse than going through the prep once is being sent home to do it a second time." Apparently this has happened. I said, "Oh, forget I asked."

I'm getting all my medical evaluations this month and next. I went to my GYN for an annual physical this month. I've had my mammogram and now my colonoscopy. And next month I will have my lipids and hormone levels checked.  I'm not sure my GYN included a CBC on her orders, but I will request that from my regular doctor if she hasn't because CLL is also a part of my family history. I don't worry about being diagnosed with it. But if I ever am, it won't be a shock to me (like it is to most people). I know I have a slightly greater chance because my dad has it.

I don't really worry about my health. I believe with all my heart that God has ordained the number of my days and whatever is in my future is a part of His plan. The closest I ever come to worrying is when I think about being elderly and unable to take care of myself.

I hate the thought of my kids having to take care of me physically in old age. I don't want them to ever have to prioritize their lives around me or my needs. I only want to enhance their lives, not add stress to their lives. I don't like the word "burden" because I know they would never view me that way. But I like being a parent who isn't needy, who doesn't lay guilt, and who makes no emotional demands. I have always been determined to have a life of my own and not live through my kids. And when I do spend time with them, I want it to be about doing something for them, not them doing for me. When I spend time with my grandsons, nieces or nephews, my desire is to make them feel special -- not for them to make me feel special. I think this is an even bigger deal to me because I've witnessed the reverse and it's the last thing I would ever want to be. And that is probably why I sometimes fear getting old and dependent. It isn't about losing MY independence. It's the thought of my needs being imposed on others. And that is just another reason why I really do try to take good care of my health and get those screenings.

On the other hand, I know there is a cycle of life that God has put in place. And if it is His will for me to one day be physically dependent, His grace will be sufficient for me AND my caregivers. I have made a lot of friends online who are battling chronic incurable illness, and I know one of their biggest emotional struggles is needing to be cared for when they want to be giving instead of receiving. And most of us will experience both sides of the equation at some point in our lives.

I probably think about my elderly years a little more than the average 51-year-old. I'm not sure why I do. I just do. Rebecca sometimes teases me that I'm way too young to be thinking about my nursing home years. And she's probably right. It just doesn't seem that far off to me. Life is going fast.

I'm not exactly sure how I got from my colonoscopy to my declining years. After all, I did get a very good report and I'm feeling great.

I guess I'll bring this one to a close before I segue into my funeral arrangements. LOL.


Anonymous said…
Hi Shari,
My name is Kim Small. Lillian turned me on to your blog. You see, Lillian was married to my Uncle Bennie. Although I never met Lillian, we became close through emails and a few phone calls. We shared some laughs and found out we were quite a bit alike. Anyway, I haven't been to your blog in quite awhile and this morning I saw your Colonoscopy blurb. I, too, started having colonoscopies early. In my mid-twenties, as a matter of fact. My mother died at age 50 from colon cancer. I was 14. I go every 3 years for a check and everytime they clip out 5 to 6 polyps. I am convinced that I would be dead by now or at least suffering if I hadn't done this. My doc says they are slow growing tumors so if I had waited until age 50 I would not be here now. I'm 51 now. They clipped out 4 polyps when I was 26 and that was before they gave you twlight sleep. Let me tell you, I dreaded it everytime. So painful. But now, I would go every year if need be. There's no pain or anything. Oh well, I don't know what compelled me to write this. Crazy,I guess. My email is if........well, I don't know......