I’ll Never Forget My Doctor’s Words After I Woke Up from My Colonoscopy

September 2, 2020

After her colonoscopy, Denise talks about what her doctor said that changed her life.

By my fifth and final colonoscopy, I already knew what was coming.

But prior to that moment, I had stubbornly refused to get a colonoscopy for years. The doctors would set up the appointment and be very stern with me, but I would cancel. I even met with the gastroenterologist once and still canceled. Eventually, they didn't want to set up the appointment for me, but they persevered.

For several years I was sure nothing was wrong. I have lived a pretty healthy life. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink, except socially. And, I didn’t do drugs.

Plus, I could not get over the idea of someone inserting a camera into my butt. Besides, other than my mother’s breast cancer that never returned after a lumpectomy, there was no cancer history in my family. So, doing this colonoscopy was just one of those things they made me do just because I turned 55. And, I was fine.

Each time I would fill the prescriptions for the colonoscopy prep to drink the night before. But I would cancel the day before. In fact, I canceled four times over the course of three years. The doctors even sent me home with various ways to take a sample of my bowel movement and mail it in. I never did this simple procedure either.

I did not know it at the time, but something terrible was happening. I've had a hemorrhoid since my son was born decades earlier. Occasionally it bled. And by late 2018, I realized I was bleeding more heavily. In fact, I was bleeding with almost every bowel movement. But it wasn't until the fatigue set in that I took this seriously. I was tired all the time. And then I lost 10 pounds very quickly. I am a large woman and that never happens.

Despite this, I still found one more way to delay a colonoscopy. In late 2018 I told my husband I would wait until the new year because of insurance. I canceled the fourth appointment and rebooked it for January 9, 2019.

My gastroenterologist performed so many colonoscopies he didn't meet with some patients until the day of the procedure. Instead his nurses called, sent you a long application form to fill out and return, told you how to prepare and sent in the prescription of cherry flavored yuck to drink. As it turned out, this was my kind of doctor. Because if I canceled this time, I was canceling a surgical room and staff.

The night before my procedure, I drank all the gross cherry flavored liquid preps that friends had told me is the worst part. But I didn’t agree. I think sticking the IV in me and having it take three different nurses to finally get it done the next day was the worst part.

After the IV was set, I was given something intravenously and started to relax quite a bit. I was rolled into the room for the procedure and finally met the doctor. He was sitting and reading my written information I had sent in a few days earlier. He noted my meds and asked me about what I had eaten recently (nothing, and I was ready for an In-N-Out burger as soon as this was over) and if my bowel movements were clear (they were).

The night before my procedure, I had a deep cleansing of my bowels with an urge every hour or so to hit the bathroom. It was simple and I didn't understand why I kept canceling this.

Just before I was put completely under, I admitted out loud for the first time to my doctor, whose face I could not see behind his surgical mask, what my instinct was telling me. I was pretty sure he was going to find cancer and told him why. He told me if he found any, he would be waiting for me to wake up and let me know immediately. I didn't find that particularly reassuring, but OK.

There is too much mystery surrounding a colonoscopy and I'm here to tell you it's completely unwarranted. By the time I was in the room I was completely relaxed. They had me turn onto my left side with the doctor and nurse behind me along with TV screens. The anesthesiologist asked me about an upcoming planned trip to Europe and by the time I said “London and Tusc...” I was out.

I don't remember anything else. After the 30-minute procedure, I was gently awakened by a nurse. My husband was sitting there too. As I began to grasp my surroundings and remember what I was doing in the hospital, the gastroenterologist stuck his head around the curtain and said matter-of-factly, and I'll never forget it, “Denise, we did find cancer. It's five centimeters. We're taking you for a CAT scan now."

And then I began to cry.


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