Before entering the world of inflammatory bowel disease I had always thought that colonoscopies were reserved for the older generation, a much needed test to ensure that nothing sinister was going on in your colon. Within a few days of being told I had IBD I was advised I’d need to have a colonoscopy and this was terrifying.
I want to give an honest account of my colonoscopy experience and as a disclaimer I do want to put here that everybody is different. I myself have had 2 abdominal surgeries so have lots of adhesions in my pelvic area. My consultant told me that because of this it was likely to be more painful so please do not take my experience as what will happen to you.
I waited just under 8 weeks from being told I’d need the test to having it, during this time I had mixed emotions about wanting it done to get a full 100% diagnosis but also worrying because I myself had heard horror stories about the preparation before hand. I finally got the call to book it about a week before the actual appointment which was great because I didn’t have weeks to drive myself into a blind panic.
No matter who you ask, where you read or what you watch on YouTube people will always say that the prep is the worst. What it involved for me was firstly reducing down what I could eat for 3 days before the colonoscopy. I couldn’t have vegetables, fruit, processed food, anything red or basically anything other than white bread, rice, chicken and eggs. To be completely honest my anxiety was really high so I didn’t eat that much anyway but I am one of those people if you tell me I can’t have something its all I think about, seeing cheese on the list of avoid foods was very sad for me. About 24 hours before the test you have to stop eating altogether other than clear liquids which can include soft drinks and tea / coffee without milk. This is where it started to get a bit rough for me as I am a grazer so eat at least a snack every 2 hours including a midnight Frosties habit I have developed since being on a low fibre diet.
For me I had an afternoon appointment meaning I started the main part of the prep, the bowel cleanse as such at 8pm. I had to mix the Moviprep powder with a litre of water and drink this in the space of an hour. The mixture itself didn’t taste awful, kind of like a salty lemon squash but within about halfway through the first 500ml it did start making me feel pretty nauseous so it was tough to get the full litre down.
Pre warning the next part gets a bit TMI so proceed with caution. I finished the salty lemon prep liquid by 9pm and waited, about 9.30pm the cramps started and in all honesty it was really really f**king painful. By about 9.45pm I was shaking and crying as it was like when my flare up was bad so it freaked me out as well as just being ridiculously uncomfortable. Luckily about 2 minutes after I started to freak out the prep did exactly what it was supposed to do and cleaned out my bowels. This lasted about 2 hours, about 20 trips to the bathroom and by the end I felt like a hollow shell of a person. Not the worst feeling in the world as all of the cramps and pain had gone but I was ridiculously hungry. Top tip – take your laptop and a glass of orange squash or non red soft drink of choice in the bathroom and just wait it out. I had thought that I wouldn’t sleep and was worried that this combined with no food would make me in the worst mood ever but I managed a good 6.5 hours impressively!
Next morning I did the second round of prep which was just a repeat of last night. Similar experience minus the bad stomach cramps and with slightly less trips to the bathroom. The needing to go lasted all the way to the hospital though and I still went twice when I got there, no accidents in the car though hallelujah!
Now for the actual colonoscopy; its a different experience to what I have had in a hospital before, they take you into a room with a small table and chairs, give you a gown and some very sexy shorts with a nice split in the back for easy access and then you wait. A nurse came in and asked if I wanted sedation to which I did and they put a cannula in my hand and then a Dr came in got me to sign a consent form and off we went. It was all very quick and organised. No disrespect to the NHS as they have been great on so many things to me but organisation and timing is never normally their strong suit.
To have the actual colonoscopy you go into a theatre type room, they lie you on a bed, check that your happy to go ahead and then ask you to lie on your side with your knees up and straight. Once they had done this they administered the sedation and pain relief which I did not feel at all, I was quite looking forward to this bit but sadly I felt exactly the same. They put the camera in and spent the next hour looking around my colon, taking photos and taking biopsies. I would love to reassure everybody and say I didn’t feel a thing and it was great but that just isn’t the case, it was painful at times and the pain was in the areas where I have active Crohn’s inflammation. What I can say though is that this was handled very well by the Dr doing the test and by the nurses who did everything they could to reduce the pain by moving my position and adjusting how they were using the camera. I did expect the procedure to only take 20 minutes but I had several areas of inflammation and lots of biopsies taken so it did take an hour.
When they had finished I was wheeled off into the recovery room on the bed. Once they realised I was in no way sedated and completely functional I was allowed to get dressed and eat. I had a mini roll and a packet of McCoy’s even though everyone said take it easy because I’m an idiot like that. Luckily no harm came my way and I was fine! I left about 15 minutes later and came home, ate a pizza and did unfortunately regret that a bit as my stomach did start kicking off but no regrets, I think after starving myself for 24 hours I deserved something nice to eat. If you don’t want to be in pain though I do recommend something lighter and maybe less drowned in cheese.
I hope this has been informative as to what having a colonoscopy is like. I did speak to a lot of people on instagram, twitter and Facebook beforehand so had a really good idea what to expect. I actually found that the people who were the most honest about how it was were the most helpful as I did expect some pain and the prep to be bad so I wasn’t overly shocked when this turned out to be correct.