Preparing for a Colonoscopy

I was reminded of my intent to write this article by the amusing photo in Lesson #29.  Art as it relates to a colonoscopy; how revolutionary.  ; )

I, just recently, had to undergo a colonoscopy.  Anxious about what was about to happen to me, I found a great deal of information (and misinformation) about the procedure online.  Though slightly personal, I decided to write up this experience to answer any questions a reader may have as they’re about to go through the same.  I imagine, if you’ve come upon this article through a search, you’re about to undergo the procedure for the first time.  Shared below is a list of things I read, mixed with stories of what I went through.

Reoccurring Theme #1: “Preparing for a colonoscopy is the most awful thing you’ll go through in life…”.

Image link: http://the-healthy-diva.com

Author after author shared wild cautions, pleas for thoughts and prayers, slightly irrational fears and intense anxieties.  These people must live sheltered lives.  I can ensure you, folks, this really isn’t that bad.

The internet had me freaked out!  I found several doomsday stories of how bad the preparation is: anything from “the day before is far worse than anything that happens the day of the actual procedure” (which made me highly concerned, because I knew IV needles are no picnic; I expected the preparation to be pretty painful…) to one writer describing that one will “definitely need the moral support of a friend to get through the preparation – If you can not have a friend immediately with you, make sure you can communicate with them on a cell phone or via internet while in the bathroom for moral support,”.  I was left wondering just what was going to happen to me in the bathroom!?

Well, nothing bad happens in the bathroom at all.  It took about three to four hours for me to start “going” (I was drinking the MoviPrep preparation-solution slowly), and it was not painful, traumatic, bad, scary, or anything the like.  It’s what you’d expect from something of this sort; you drink a whole lot of liquid, the liquid clears your body, a lot of liquid that comes out.  That’s really all there is to say; it’s nothing painful, life-shattering or even upsetting. Rest assured.

Not-so-Helpful Tip #2: The Drinking Solution, Movi-Prep, Can Be Made Better By Adding Flavored Drink Mix

Having read much ado about just how bad the drink mix tastes, I went to four stores looking for Kool-Aid to add to the mix (apparently Kool-Aid packets don’t sell like they used to).  Websites like The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide and Colonoscopy-Preparation.com recommended that I do so.  Before even tasting the Movi-Prep, I poured in some lemon Kool-Aid, thinking I was oh-so-smart and feeling pretty pleased with my lemony concoction.

Well, it was disgusting.  The flavor and consistency of the mix really is terrible.  I read online that I should try to drink with a straw, moving the straw far down my throat to avoid the taste.  This helped a bit, but I found myself choking up the mix and absolutely unable to finish it at the pace supposedly required.

A phone call to the doctor proved incredibly helpful.  The instructions I was provided, asking that I drink a quarter of a very large container every 15 minutes, were mere “guidelines”.  In fact, I could drink the solution slowly, didn’t really need to follow the schedule at all and, as long as the solution was down by a certain time the in morning, I was good.  I highly urge you to talk to your doctor before beginning to see if this slower pace is okay for you, as well.

Also, as a petite female, I was given the same dose a football player would ingest; MoviPrep seems to come in only one size.  I am not recommending this, but I found that I didn’t need to drink the final 25% of the solution.  Consult with your doctor as to just how much you need to drink.

A nurse gave me some additional advice, (too little too late for me, but hopefully helpful to you), about an over-the-counter option far cheaper and easier to ingest.  She rattled off a shopping list of a type of oil, Miralax laxative and liquids that would have done the job.  Next time I’ll know and, if you’ve found me before purchasing your prescription, consult with your doctor about this option.

When on the second batch, I decided to taste the Movi-Prep without the Kool-Aid.  Though it was still gross (the slightest hint of lemon mixed with SALT like you’ve never tasted salt before), the Kool-Aid had, in fact, made it worse.  I also found that the instructions for the Movi-Prep specifically directed that one should “not add sugar, sweetening agents, flavoring agents, or other products”.  (You can read more at Drugs.com).  So… this is, apparently, not a good idea.

I watched the video below and found myself attempting to keep up with this girl.  She is a Rockstar; I’m not sure how she downs the mix so quickly.  (And I must tell you, some text messages to my boyfriend about how “I can’t keep up with the girl in the video while drinking the disgusting stuff” proved to be some very entertaining “that’s what she said” jokes).

Not-so-True Factoid #3: Drinking the Mix is the Worse Than Anything That Happens the Day Of  

Colonoscopy-Preparation.com calls drinking the “Total Bowel Clearing Mixture” the “most dreaded part of the entire colonoscopy preparation process”.  This may be true for many, but was not for me.  I had a strong feeling that the IV would be the worst part and, boy, was I right.  By the time one reaches the surgery center, one is amply dehydrated, having not been allowed to drink liquids for quite some time.  I am petite and have small veins, a fact that has always proven to be a problem for me when it comes to blood tests and IV’s.  Dehydration leaves them even harder to locate.  After struggling for quite some time with one hand, the nurse finally had to dig in to the other.  The original hand was left swollen and amply bruised for weeks.

This was terribly painful and left me quite shaken.  Then, just when I thought the pain was finally over, the Propofol they used to put me to sleep made me feel, as it was administered, like my hand was about to explode.  The burning became quite intense as it made its way up the arm, leading me to panic, again, and having my last memory of consciousness be quite unpleasant.  No one warned me of this ahead of time, and I was left feeling like something had gone wrong.  I understand, now, that this is quite normal.

Some advice I have for getting through the day of:  It is at this point that one should have a friend or family member in with them.  If you’re a baby like me (Yeah – I’ll admit it…), the needle can be a bit intense.  Also, ask the nurse to administer a numbing agent before the IV.  This will, at least, reduce the pain of the larger needle.  My nurse sort of scoffed this off, but I was insistent.  Be insistent.

Beyond that, you remember nothing, wake up with no pain, and head straight out for a meal with your driver.  Recovery is easy – Aside from a terrible tasting liquid and an IV, there’s really nothing to fear.

This is an interactive blog; if anyone reading is about to undergo the procedure and has further questions about my experience, feel free to write or comment.  Best of luck to you, and thanks for reading!

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16 thoughts on “Preparing for a Colonoscopy

  1. Hey—thank you. You write really well and I needed the info about how exactly to time the Moviprep! I am glad there is flexibility as long as you down it hours before the test (which I am so looking forward to.)

  2. Ohh thank you so much for this article! I am going to drink this Moviprep today and the colonoscopy tomorrow. I was very anxious but you have eased my mind thanks!

  3. Okay for all of you (LOL this includes myself) who have had to under go the dreaded consumption of MOVIPREP he is what I found helpful for myself. I sought to consume that foul tasting solution just like everyone else that has begun the preparation for the colonoscopy. You are given a box with the container to mix the 2 one liter solutions and two sets of A and B bags so that you can clear your system. That first liter that I had to consume convinced me that I had to find another way in which to insure that I was able to withstand the destructive force of this vile solution. So for that second liter that I had to consume I racked the ole brain cells and then came up with this far out whacky idea. I had obtained jello packets and with some small sixed ice cube trays I made close to 200 jello shots filled with the MOVIPREP inside. Ohhh yeah and it was a combo of lemon and lime jello. The trick is first to make sure that the MOVIPREP is really chilled and then fill the scooped out jello mold with enough MOVIPREP to just below the top of the jello mold. Then make a jello capping and let set. After that well just begin popping them MOVIPREP jello shots into the ole mouth and hope that none of them break….I had about 15 of them break causing me to moan with dread as again that foul solution hit my taste buds. All in all though this neat little tricked WORK…..I wish I had thought about it for that first liter……..BUT hey what is the mother of all inventions……..NECISSITY and that is what it was…..I needed to consume that evil concoction and fell back on an idea that I first saw when out partying with friends when I was younger…….

    So for all of you out there getting ready to have to deal with this procedure give this idea a try……just make sure that you provide any further feedback and also get a good number of them trays for it is a bit tedious work when all you have is 4 trays……..ohhh and find a squirt bottle which I think would be easier than using a basting syringe which is what I used……

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience. I was kind of worried because my husband had one a while back and keeps telling me how terrible it was. I was happy to read that it’s not all that bad. I just got through the first jug of stuff. It’s awful, and I thought about adding KoolAid or sugar to it. Glad I read this first! You would think they could make something that tastes a little better. I hope I can get through the second jug without gagging!!!

    1. I’m currently trying to consume this disgusting drink & I added ginger ale. (per dr.) Although this helps
      .lol..I’m still holding my nose to get it down!

      1. I am currently taking It sip by sip and chasing it with Apple juice and CapriSun.
        Though the solution is worse than tequila and I hate tequila I’d much rather be drinking that. I am gagin at every sip and I already almost threw up

  5. Thanks very much. I am definitely having trouble getting the second 32 ounces down, and now at least I know I can work on it for another hour or two!

  6. Realize this is ancient history for you now, but new for me… thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve read the good, the bad and the ugly and am as ready as I can be. i was actually searching for whether or not it is a good idea to flavor the stuff with kool-aid, as I have read many people do. I keep thinking, adding sugar to saltwater is not going to necessarily be an improvement. I’m not a fan of kool-aid anyway. If i have to add a sugary flavor though, my choices would be red– or purple, which obviously is a big no-no. So I bought some orange, but am now seeing that orange isn’t a good choice either. Lime or lemon — ick. My husband had this done about a month ago, and assures me I cannot do this without the kool-aid, but I’m not so sure, and am glad to read you found it to be not as horrible as the doomsayers assure me it will be. Thanks again, was very glad to find this.

  7. This is by far the best blog about colonoscopy I’ve come across. Good work! Even though I’ve don’t multiple times, I am always anxious and this blog put everything in perspective.

    Thank you

  8. Ugh… For me, the prep was terrible. I had to drink the whole gallon, even though I’m only a tall, skinny 14 year old girl, and the enema was DREADFUL! I’m getting the actual procedure tomorrow, but for me it was a bad bad day. I hope the needle isnt that bad:(

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. Enema? That wasn’t part of it for me… I wonder if that is typical? I wish you all the best tomorrow! Just insist on a numbing agent, and take someone in with you – That will make it go *much* better than mine did!

  9. I’m glad it wasn’t as bad as your expectations… As a sufferer of diverticulosis, a bowel disorder that was diagnosed when I was 40, I’ve had four of these, and usually get one every five years as a cancer screen… for me, the purgative liquid is the worst part; my body just hates it. After four, I’ve learned some of the good tips you discovered, like, if it works, you don’t have to drink it all, or as fast as the instructions…..I’m sensitive to the stuff, so it works fast, and painfully, to empty my bowel… the procedure itself I don’t mind as much, as I have good veins, and spend the time in la-la land… but I’d give anything to find an easier way to get the bowel clean enough for the test, without having to use what they now use…..this was a good post to remove some of the common misconceptions and fears most folks will have… good job….

  10. I was freaked out by the internet too!!! But the prep was nothing earth shattering like you said. Not eating the day before made me really grumpy though!! Thanks for the link back to my site 🙂

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