Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Scoping Things Out

As you can see from the chart above, Wisconsinites are pretty good about getting screened for colon cancer.  It’s a stupid thing to die from, and like a lot of other cancers, if caught early enough, the docs can cut it right out of you.  The key is to get screened.

I had my second colonoscopy yesterday at age 63.  I had one at 50, and then dragged my feet a few years about getting it done again, because the one 13 years ago showed no issues at all, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody in my family on either side has had colon issues.  They told me I should have it done again when I’m 73.

Never afraid to share too much information, the images above are from my procedure yesterday.  Clean as a whistle.

The bowel prep is never fun.  You have to drink a solution containing, in one form or another, Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) and electrolytes.   As I understand it, the PEG induces diarrhea and the electrolytes are there to keep your body chemistry cool after your colon is empty and you start getting dehydrated.

I had my procedure done, again, at UW Hospital.  My wife was my designated driver; you have to have one, because they do sedate you pretty heavily.  Within 2 minutes of registering at “G I Outpatient Procedures” (“go left until you see the big cow, and then take another left”), we were taken to the “ready-room”, I was gowned, ran the gauntlet of questions from Nurse Penny  (a pleasant lass who took all my good-natured crap and gave it right back), they had my vitals, had me wired for the EKG, and punched a hole in my hand for the IV.

A few minutes later, Dr. Robertson, the anesthesiologist, questioned me about my long history of being put under by his colleagues at UW-Hospital (7 operations under general anesthesia in the past decade), poked and prodded a bit, and said I was good to go, as far as he was concerned.  Shortly thereafter Dr. Foley, the man who would actually do the procedure, joined us, explained what was going to happen, and then traded a few jokes with us.

After this short session, Nurse Penny and a couple of her cohorts said “let’s roll”, and they pushed my bed from the prep room to the operating room.  The procedure was scheduled for 1:18 PM and we were 38 minutes AHEAD of schedule.

In the OR, they asked me to lay on my left side, and that’s the last thing I remember until I woke up back in the recovery room, understanding why Michael Jackson became addicted to propofol.  Man, that stuff knocks you out RIGHT NOW!  Dr. Robertson told me he used propofol and one other anesthesiology agent, but I can’t remember the name of it.  I have absolutely no memory of anything that happened after they asked me to roll on my left side.

After Nurse Penny was satisfied that I was good to go, she took one more set of vital signs, told me to get dressed, and that Dr. Foley would be by shortly to deliver the verdict.  He said everything was fine, and that I had no polyps and nothing at all that concerned him.  Dr. Robertson popped back in, there was a bit more lighthearted banter, and they sent me home, a full hour ahead of the time they told me to expect it would be all over.

Recovery was a breeze; I had no after-effects from the anesthesia, had no problem eating again, and when they made a follow-up call this morning to make sure everything was OK, I was happy to tell them that as far as I was concerned, the whole thing was first-class from start to finish.

The small discomfort of “bowel prep” is nothing, compared to the peace of mind that everything’s OK. I know far too many men over 50 who simply refuse to have this simple procedure done.   To me, it’s just not worth the gamble.

Thanks to the UW-Hospital and all the excellent health care workers there, who took such good care of me – again.


  1. No question that the prep is worse than the procedure, and the prep isn't as awful as it used to be, either. I wouldn't recommend having it just for kicks, but if the doctor says you need one, have one.

    Bonus: it requires your wife to be extra-nice to you for a period of hours before, during, and after.

  2. Hi Tim,
    I loved reading this piece! Well written!

    Merlen Hogg

  3. Thanks for the info about the bowel prep, I am a bit scared about the Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) and electrolytes drinking. I am easily dehydrated and feel weak when having loss bowel movements.

    By the way thanks for the detailed info.

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