Some people throw parties on their birthdays, or go out to dinner. This year I went with a butt camera.
It’s not that “colonoscopy prep” was high up on my birthday bucket list, but rather that the appointment was the first one I could get.
Lucky for me that the appointment wasn’t first thing on Nov. 30, when we had a nice big earthquake. According to a staffer at the doctor’s office, they’d just finished one procedure and were beginning to sedate another patient when the 7.0 temblor hit. That poor guy had to reschedule – which meant having to re-do the colonoscopy prep.
For the uninitiated, colonoscopy prep is a full-scale cleanout of your colon: a combination of light diet, then liquids only and finally a seriously effective cleansing solution. Apparently you can also get it in a tablet form, but the doctor I visited won’t prescribe it; he says the results aren’t always optimal.
This time around I was offered the option of a relatively new product called Plenvu. It’s so new, in fact, that my insurance would not have covered it. However, the doctor’s office had some samples to give and I accepted one upon hearing the regimen: two 16-ounce doses of solution over two days, each dose followed by 16 ounces of your clear liquid of choice. (Mine was iced tea.)
Previous preps had required two 32-ounce doses of solution followed by two 16-ounce glasses of clear liquid. No wonder Plenvu’s slogan is “success with less.”
And successful it was, thanks in part to my true and simple rules for colonoscopy prep.
1. Don’t wear any pants that day.
On either day, actually. You’re gonna be in the bathroom a lot, right up until it’s time to leave for the doctor’s office. That’s why my dad advised this rule to me before I had my first procedure.
If you must wear pants – and here in chilly Alaska, I really must – make sure they’re the easy-to-take-down variety. Personally, I recommend really old sweatpants with a waistband whose elasticity is a distant memory.
2. Go shopping before the colonoscopy prep.
Stock up on broth, tea, Powerade/Gatorade, ice pops, Jello and whatever other liquidy foods float your boat (so to speak). Your doctor will give you an “eat this, not that” list. Certain colors will be off-limits; for example, you can’t have red Jello or orange Powerade. (My two preferred varieties, naturally.)
DF suggested banana popsicles, which could be bought in a box all by themselves vs. a mixed box of ice pops that featured several verboten hues. I was a bit skeptical, and indeed the flavor was a bit sweet and almost cloying. But boy oh boy, did they come in handy when I was sipping the prep mixture.
The Plenvu was fruit-flavored – mango the first day, passion fruit the second – and actually wasn’t that bad. But no tropical flavoring could mask the underlying flavor of salty salty salt. Three of Plenvu’s five ingredients contain the word “sodium.”
So I’d take four swallows through a straw, then put a banana popsicle in my mouth to take away the bouquet de sel. A few minutes later, more sips and more popsicle.
You’re supposed to drink it slowly; otherwise I would have chugged it just to get it over with. Those popsicles saved the day. But I may never eat another one until my next colonoscopy, five years down the road.
Speaking of food…
3. Stay off Facebook.
Every other post seems to be about food! What someone cooked. What someone ate in a restaurant. What someone wishes s/he could eat. (At that point, what I wished I could eat was…pretty much anything that wasn’t a clear liquid.)
Way too many instructional videos, too, especially as regards cake. Ultimately I had to sign out because it was tulip cake and sunflower cake and daisy cake and flag cake and it all looked so good.
By mid-morning my mind was chanting cake! cake! cake! cake! cake! just like the character in Hyperbole and a Half’s “The God of Cake.” Didn’t help a bit that it was my birthday.
4. Pre-hydrate, even if you don’t wanna.
The colonoscopy prep solution works osmotically, i.e., it draws water into the bowel. This leaves you as dry as a freshman essay, so you’ll need to keep drinking in between bathroom breaks.
Two hours before the procedure, you have to stop drinking. That doesn’t mean the laxative effect stops, however. You could be losing liquid right up until you hop onto the table, but you won’t be allowed to replace it until afterward.
So keep sipping right up until the two-hour cutoff, even if you already feel a bit sloshy. You’ll thank me later.
5. Keep reading material in the bathroom.
See “you’re gonna be in there a lot,” above. A friend had lent me the “Midnight” trilogy by Charlaine Harris. I went through (as it were) the first book, “Midnight Crossroad,” during the two-dose colonoscopy prep regimen. Just left it within reach on the bathroom rug, ready to pick up as needed.
(Hint: It was needed. A lot.)
Those Harris novels form the basis of an NBC series called “Midnight, Texas.” Both the books and the TV show are fun if you like stories featuring vampires, angels and other non-traditional protagonists.
6. Campbell’s chicken soup RULES.
We make our own soup here. Because it’s so good, most commercial potages seem insipid to me.
But any time I’ve been sick, or when I’m doing colonoscopy prep, Campbell’s chicken noodle soup tastes ambrosial. I feel sorry for vegetarians who can’t sip this salty, chickeny goodness.
I had to strain out the noodles, of course, but DF ate those quite happily. Or you could save them up to make the next can of soup the noodliest ever.
7. Have a heat source ready.
Two common side effects of colonoscopy prep are abdominal cramping and chills. Luckily I’ve never experienced those. But I always have a rice sock (aka the frugal heating pad) on hand, just in case.
This time around my hands were very cold, though, probably due to all the iced tea I was drinking. I took to heating the rice sock and wrapping it around my hands as I sipped.
Here’s hoping you don’t get cramps or chills. But if it happens, have a heating pad – frugal or Sunbeam – ready to go.
8. Don’t put off getting tested.
Of cancers that affect both sexes, colon cancer is the second deadliest. Colonoscopy is just one testing option; talk to your health care provider about what’s right for you.
The general rule is to start at age 50. Your doctor might want you to start earlier, though, depending on factors such as inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colorectal cancer.
I started screening in my 40s because of a family history. Even if you don’t have one, please get the conversation going with your doc once you hit the big 5-0. And if you wind up needing colonoscopy prep, I really do suggest the Plenvu. Just have some popsicles ready.
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