Need a Colonoscopy? Some Tips from a Busy Mama

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March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  

I turned 38 earlier this month. Sometime soon (when quarantine ends), I’ll be having my 3rd colonoscopy. Most women don’t need to start getting them until they’re 50. And if everything’s normal, they won’t need another until they’re 60. My normal, however, involves one every three years. 

My father died from colon cancer at the age of 69. I was 30 at the time. His cause of death, coupled with my own mild stomach issues as a teenager, meant one thing. I could not wait until age 50 to have my first colonoscopy. My gastroenterologist recommended that I schedule it within the next six months. (I had just had my first child, and while she wanted me to be proactive with my screening, she also wanted me to be emotionally ready).

I had my first colonoscopy at the age of 31. The results were normal. Still, my gastroenterologist cautiously advised that I have my next one in another 5 years. 

At 35, new stomach issues appeared. At first, I thought it was something related to my period or an intense flair up of IBS. When my gynecologist and general practitioner couldn’t find anything wrong and suggested I return to my gastroenterologist, panic started to set in. My mind automatically assumed the worst, with thoughts of how I would explain cancer to my then two children.

I needed my second colonoscopy, a year earlier than expected. A couple of small polyps were found and removed. With that added risk factor, I will be getting regular colonoscopies every 3 years. 

I hope that there aren’t too many readers who need to get colonoscopies as often as I do or in these younger years. If you do have to, however, here are my tips for navigating the process as a busy mama: 

1. Scheduling your colonoscopy:

Line up preliminary plans for childcare before you confirm your procedure. You will need someone to watch your kid(s) the hours of your prep (mid-afternoon through the evening) and the hour of your colonoscopy the following morning. If possible, try to do a Thursday prep and Friday colonoscopy. That way, you can enjoy a few extra hours of the weekend after your morning procedure. 

2. Gauge your Nausea:

If you’re prone to vomiting and had a hard time with the glucose test, tell your doctor. Ask about doing the Miralax in water option, instead of the prescription prep drink. Trust me, you don’t want to end up having to restart the process with Miralax after you couldn’t keep down the prescription.

3. The night before the prep:

Eat a massive dinner around 8 p.m. Eat until you literally cannot take another bite. When you have to fast tomorrow, you’ll physically still feel full. Mentally, you won’t think about food, because you’ll remember the satisfaction/gluttony of the previous night. (Please note: most doctors recommend that in the three days leading up to the colonoscopy prep, you begin to train yourself with more frequent small meals. You then can “allow” yourself a broth-based diet on the day of the prep. If you and your belly can handle those stipulations, you go, girl!).

4. Wake up through early afternoon on the day of prep:

Go about your regular plans with the kids. Keep yourself as busy as possible to not think about food. Tire yourself out, so your subsequent hours in the bathroom will seem marginally relaxing. 

5. The actual hours of prep (late afternoon-evening):

Hopefully, your childcare has arrived by the time you begin drinking the prep. Give your kid(s) a “goodnight” kiss and remind them that they can’t bother you until tomorrow morning. Go far enough away from wherever they are continuing their regular evening routine. Once you’re done with your drink, you’ll pretty much live in the bathroom. Wear loose-fitting pajama bottoms. This is one of the few times when leggings do NOT provide ultimate comfort. Damp washcloths will help if you get sweaty. The most important necessity, though? The softest toilet paper. 

6. After the colonoscopy:

Go to a favorite restaurant to enjoy breaking your fast! 

Good luck! I wish you normal results! 

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Maria F. is a high school English teacher who naturally finds herself reflecting upon the beautiful struggles that accompany the routine and randomness of each day as a working mommy. She relies upon humor and some sort of chocolate or frozen treat as survival tactics. She and her husband live in East Norwalk with their three kids, Abbie (born 2012), Charlie (born 2014), and Phoebe (born 2018). You can find Maria F. driving in her beloved dream car, a minivan, listening to audiobooks during her commute or singing along to Kidz Bop as she shuttles her little humans around town.

2 COMMENTS

  1. It’s good that you mentioned how you should eat a large dinner the night before the prep so that you aren’t hungry when you are required to stop eating. My wife is in the need of a colonoscopy, but she is worried that she might start to feel weak if she isn’t able to eat as she is preparing for the procedure. I’ll be sure to cook a big dinner so that she has plenty of food to eat before she needs to prepare.

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