What is a Colonoscopy – My First Experience

Colonoscopies are an important part of the care plan for people with Lynch syndrome. The NHS in the UK  screens carriers every 18 months, other countries operate on different timescales. My first colonoscopy wasn’t exactly a soaring success. The doctor had to abandon the procedure thanks to some complications.

What Is a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy allows the doctor to look inside the colon and detect any abnormalities. During colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a small flexible tube through the anus and all the way round your colon. As the tube goes round the colon, a camera transmits pictures. As well as checking for any abnormalities, the doctor can also take biopsies and remove polyps during the procedure. You can find out more from the NHS website. A colonoscopy detects abnormalities.

Preparing For A Colonoscopy

The preparation for my morning colonoscopy started the day before when I could eat nothing after 13:00. A nurse from the Royal Marsden gave me a list of foods I could and couldn’t eat. Anything high in fibre including fruit, vegetables and nuts were off the menu. My last meal for 24 hours was poached salmon  and mashed potatoes. Both of which I like, but I missed having a salad or some vegetables on the side.

I had to start drinking Moviprep at 17:00. You mix the powder into a litre of water and drink it between 1-2 hours. Then you do another litre from 20:00. The drink is disgusting. It smells like lemon sherberts and tastes like shit (pardon the French). It is really sweet and sickly. Perhaps they have attempted to make it taste nice, but if you ask me, they have failed miserably. That, or the people who tested it, have very different taste buds to me.

The mixture works quickly and there was no pain or discomfort – that comes with the actual procedure. Around 23:00 I felt I had finished needing the toilet and could get to bed. I expected to need the toilet several times in the night, but this only happened once, so I actually got a decent night’s sleep. A positive surprise.

Appointment Day

My colonoscopy was at the Cromwell Hospital rather than the Royal Marsden, since their endoscopy department is still closed. The staff at Cromwell were equally amazing, so upbeat and doing everything they could to make the experience more comfortable.

For the colonoscopy, I had to change into some sexy blue shorts with a handy opening at the back for easy access. Then, the nurse put the cannula in because I had opted for intravenous sedatives. Since my chemotherapy, my veins have been tricky, but for once, they cooperated and the nurse was able to get the cannula in the first time. When I last had a cannula for the CT scan, they had to try three times because my veins kept collapsing. But I can’t exactly complain about collapsing veins as chemo and radiotherapy can leave people with lot more severe long-term effects.

In The Operation Room

Once the cannula was safely in place, the nurse took me to the operation room and I took my position on the bed. She gave me the sedatives and the doctor began to the procedure. We soon ran into problems and the doctor swapped for a smaller tube, usually used with children. That went in a bit further, but still not all the way round. In normal circumstances he might have been able to manoeuvre the tube round the bend, but he stopped because of my platelet count.

Platelets are part of your blood’s makeup and they help it clot. Too low platelet count can cause bruises and bleeding and be life-threatening. Chemotherapy can lower the levels of platelets in your blood. My platelet count is now back within the normal range, but only just. So, because of this, there was a higher risk of bruising and bleeding and the doctor didn’t want to push it.

Before the procedure, I was told that I might need to pass wind during it. This happens because they pump air into your colon to allow for a better a view. They weren’t kidding about the need to fart. You know how normally you can hold them in when you are in an inappropriate place to let one out? Well, with a tube up your bum, you can’t. You just have to let it blow. And it makes you feel (a little) more comfortable.

What Happens Next?

In normal circumstances for Lynch syndrome carriers, they would now leave my colon alone for 18 months. In my case, however, the next steps are different.

First, I will have a scan so the doctor can have a look at the twists and bends before the next attempt. I will also get stronger sedatives next time to reduce the discomfort further. So let’s hope for a more successful second and future colonoscopies!

Until next time.

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