My Choice in Colorectal Cancer Screening
By: Cari Herington, NCC Executive Director
Working my way towards that big 5-0 birthday in 2018, I knew darn well that a colonoscopy was in my future. I had been diligent about mammograms, so why not a colonoscopy? Most of us don't talk about our colons as readily as we might about other body parts...and we tend to make lots of silly excuses to avoid this particular type of cancer screening, even though we know it is really important.
So now I'm 51. March, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, was fast approaching. I'd run out of excuses. Friends were willing to drive me to and from an appointment. I could easily make the time. And guess what? Everyone IS getting colonoscopies! Most health insurance covers colorectal cancer screenings since it is a preventive service. During a colonoscopy, polyps can be found and removed right then and there – often preventing cancer all together.
Gosh darn it, colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and it’s one of the most treatable, especially if found early! I know this!
Why a colonoscopy? Well, other test options are for screening only, like the one you do at home where you take a sample of your stool and mail it to a lab. The thing is, if you receive a positive result, you then would be required to have a colonoscopy. So why not just get it done all at once? I decided. I made an appointment with GI Consultants for a colonoscopy. I chose the Gatorade™ prep to go right along with it – more on that later!
GI Consultants were wonderful and answered my long list of questions. And I have never received so many reminders for any other medical appointment, ever. From phone calls, to texts, to emails, GI Consultants even "prepped" me for the prep - how to get it, when to start it, even instructions with pictures. Just to clarify, you are required to prep or "clean out" your colon before the procedure using laxatives so that the doc can get a really good look and find any of those pesky polyps.
The week of my appointment started off like any other, although I spent much of it Googling the "prep" for colonoscopy. This I would not recommend! I tried to eat low-fiber foods that week leading up to my appointment on Friday. Then, boom, it was the day before my procedure. Time to begin the prep that you hear so much about! No solid foods on this day. Clear liquids only, which was a bit rough, as I do love food. I wanted to start the prep two hours earlier than recommended so that I could get a decent night's sleep. Of course, I had a meeting to run at 2:00 PM that day, which would start just AFTER I would need to start the prep, which began with taking two Dulcolax tablets with a big drink of water.
Thankfully, the meeting went well with no issues taking place. I made it home in time to begin the "drinking of the laxative," which was Miralax mixed with Gatorade™. That is actually when the fun starts! My prep was split, which meant I had 32 ounces of the Miralax/Gatorade™ mixture to drink the day before, then another 32 ounces to drink early the day of. I filled up my large Hydroflask with the very cold concoction and got to work! (This was an important tip that I learned from Google – it’s easier if the drink is really cold and you drink it through a straw!)
Stay close to a bathroom and get yourself something to read, crossword puzzles to do, or a hat to knit! I chose reading, made it through the “cleaning process,” and then tried to get to bed at a decent hour as I had to get up early to finish the remaining prep 6 hours prior to my procedure at 11:00 AM.
Up early on Friday to finish the prep and I was ready to go! My sweet friend dropped me off at my appointment. She just had to stay within a 20-minute range so that they could reach her when the procedure was finished. The worst part for me was the wait. You’re told to be there an hour ahead of your appointment. That hour-plus wait was the most difficult part of all as I was just ready to get it done. I hadn't had my coffee yet, and I was very hungry. Ugh, the wait!
Finally, they called my name! The excitement, the anticipation – I could almost smell the coffee and food in my near future. The procedure itself only takes about 15-20 minutes. I got changed and ready. Dr. Timothy Halterman talked to me about the procedure and was willing to answer any questions.
Finally, they rolled me in and hooked me up to the sedative. I told Dr. Halterman, "This better be good, as I've got to write a blog on it!" He said, "Really, why?" And then I proceeded to tell him about my job and the inflatable colon which his organization is helping sponsor, and all the work we are doing to promote colorectal cancer screenings in March. He said something to the effect of "that is so great"! I began to say something else, but I cannot remember what I was saying nor frankly anything after that point.
The next thing I do remember is Dr. Halterman telling me that all went well, he had removed a polyp, results would be sent, and who knows what else, as I closed my eyes again. And then there she was, my sweet friend, ready to take me home. So out the door and home we went! GI Consultants sent me home with a party favor – a page of photos and information about the procedure.
Well, GI Consultants called a few days later to check in. I will say that the prep wasn’t that bad overall. I won’t be drinking Gatorade™ any time soon, but that’s just because I don’t enjoy Gatorade™. My results were mailed to me in less than a week. Evidently my polyp had the potential to degenerate into colon cancer if it had not been removed, and patients with this type of polyp may be more likely to develop them in the future, therefore I am on the 5-year plan for colonoscopies now. The finding and removal of that polyp prevented what could have developed into cancer for me. This was the best part of all!