Colonoscopy and Health Anxiety

‘I have inner beauty . . . and I have the video from my colonoscopy to prove it!’ – Anon

This is a bit of a different post to those I usually write, both in content and style, but I wanted to share my experiences in the hope that it helps someone else. As I write this introduction I am five days away from a colonoscopy but I’m going to write it as each stage occurs and post at the end so you can be on my journey with me (don’t worry, it’s not going to be too yukky I promise)! I’ll be posting it as soon as it’s all over rather than waiting until my usual Saturday blog slot so it doesn’t impact on my tiny tweaks posts!

31st May 2022

Phone call from the doctor to tell me I need further investigation, probably a colonoscopy, following a routine test. At this point, I go into panic mode. I’m wondering if I suffer with health anxiety because this tips me over the edge. I’m already having investigations for another issue which is causing mobility problems and I had literally just got home from having a brain scan in relation to that when I got the call.

9th June 2022

Results from the brain scan were all clear. Thank goodness! I have more tests and consultant visits booked in to try to find out what’s going on there.

By now I have begun to relax a bit about the colonoscopy. It was never the procedure which scared me, but the results. I’ve heard that most people get their results on the day so I’m hoping that’s the case for me. It’s the waiting that I really can’t deal with. Although I know if they do find something concerning they will send it off for more tests. But I’ve realised that worrying about what might or might not happen is a waste of time, I can’t change the outcome so all I can do is try to stay positive.

In the UK, there is no routine testing until the age of 60 so, if something concerning is found, then hopefully it has been caught early as I’m a few years off that. The test was part of a private health screening which I decided to do as a one off. It never crossed my mind that this bit of it would be a problem. I’ve also been thinking that the colonoscopy might show why I always seem to have a bloated stomach. I have a dairy intolerance but have often wondered if there might be something else going on. So I’m looking at this now as a positive thing, something to be grateful for.

13th June 2022

Phone appointment with the Gastroenterologist at the hospital who confirms that a colonoscopy is needed and books it in for 25th June. It’s later changed to 27th June which ironically would have been my 30th wedding anniversary if it wasn’t that we divorced 5 years ago!

21st June 2022

The pack arrives telling me what to do to prepare for the procedure. There are four sachets of Moviprep powder which you mix together, add water, and drink the night before and then again in the morning. Not particularly looking forward to that but it does suggest adding cordial and ice cubes to make it nicer and drinking it through a straw so I’ll try that. Alongside this you have to drink a lot of water so I think I’ll be spending most of the night on the toilet one way or another! The worst bit though is the restricted diet which starts three days before the procedure. Basically you can’t eat anything that’s good for you! No fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oats, lentils, or wholegrain flour. However, I can eat white bread and pasta, chocolate, jelly, coco pops, cake and sugar syrup! Fortunately I can also have fish, chicken, tofu and eggs. It’s going to be a challenge to come up with relatively healthy meals! Then 24 hours before the procedure, no more solid food. Now, I don’t know about you but I am very likely to faint if I don’t eat for that length of time. My friend who is coming with me has been warned!

22nd June 2022

I’ve been reading some blog posts about health anxiety and have decided I probably don’t have it after all, or at least not the full blown version. I wouldn’t say that I was a hypochondriac and it would seem that health anxiety is intrinsically linked with that. I’m not constantly thinking I might be ill or seeking reassurance from my doctor, google, friends and family about health symptoms. Equally I don’t avoid or delay routine health checks. I am capable of having a temperature or a cold without being convinced it’s something serious. I don’t always bother to read the leaflets that come with medication that tell you about the 1:50,000 side effects. But I am scared about cancer and other life limiting illnesses. I don’t want to die yet and I don’t want to leave my adult sons without a mum, or my mum without a daughter. That’s what scares me. I overthink and get myself in a panic if I think there could be something seriously wrong. Is that health anxiety or a normal reaction?

24th June 2022

Day one of the restricted diet – eek! So I had poached eggs on white toast for breakfast instead of my normal porridge or high fibre flakes. That was actually quite nice to be honest! I’m not a fan of white bread but toasted it’s OK. Lunch was a prawn sandwich made with white bread (not great), then a soya yoghurt and some dark chocolate. Dinner was white fish with white rice. It was OK but I really missed vegetables and some colour on my plate!

25th June 2022

Day two and I had Sugar Puffs for breakfast today. I used to like them when I was a child but they tasted of nothing at all, have they changed the recipe?! I had scrambled eggs on toast for lunch which was nice. For dinner I had chicken cooked in a garlic and thyme stock pot with white rice. That was fine but again I missed the vegetables. I snacked on a couple of squares of dark chocolate and a soya yoghurt. Missing fruit today. And nuts. My stomach has been gurgling all day and is feeling quite bloated. I feel tired and lethargic. I don’t feel great at all and that’s after two days of eating this restricted diet. I’m quite surprised how quickly it’s made a difference.

26th June 2022

Only one meal allowed this morning so I waited as long as I could then had scrambled eggs on toast followed by a soya yoghurt and a couple of squares of dark chocolate. No more solid food until after the procedure now. Eek! Going to need to seriously distract myself for the rest of the day to avoid thinking about food! I have to start taking the drink at 7 pm.

7 pm – so I’ve mixed the two sachets with cold water to make up 1 litre of solution. It is already lemon flavoured so I add some lemon squash and ice cubes to my first glass and put the jug in the fridge. It says you should have one glass every 15 minutes along with some water. The first glass isn’t too bad. It’s very salty though. By the third glass I’m struggling and the fourth and final glass is really hard going. It’s the saltiness that’s the problem. The taste and texture are fine.

10 pm – my first visit to the bathroom! I’m not going into any details here but suffice it to say the next 14 hours are not pleasant! If you are going through this is the near future, kit out your bathroom in advance – magazines or a book (you’ll be spending a lot of time here!), wet wipes, spare underwear, the softest toilet roll you can find, sudocrem and a sick bowl. You might also want to cover any carpet just in case and definitely stay close to the bathroom!

27th June 2022

The day has arrived! I’m up early as I have to drink another litre of the solution first thing. Not surprisingly I didn’t sleep last night! I’m on the toilet again pretty much all morning but the stuff has definitely worked. I’m worried about travelling to the hospital but I sit on a towel in the car with a plastic bag under that. All is well though and I needn’t have worried. Surprisingly I’m not at all hungry, the solution fills you up.

We arrive 25 minutes early but am only waiting a few minutes before I am called in. They go through a consent form and check all my details then I have a cannula put in ready for the sedation. (Tip – if you go for a colonoscopy, have sedation). Next I have to put on ‘modesty shorts’. These are elasticated waist big baggy shorts with a slit in the back. I also have to wear two hospital gowns facing opposite directions. Once I get into the room where the procedure is to take place, I take off one of the hospital gowns and they take my blood pressure and attach an oxygen tube to my nose. Then I am given the sedation. The nurse tells me it will be as if I had drunk two glasses of wine!

Then I have to lay on my left side with my knees bent and the procedure begins. There is a big screen in front of me and I am able to watch the whole thing. It’s strangely fascinating and I ask a few questions about what certain things are. It takes about 45 minutes and the doctor talks me through my results there and then. I am so relieved to know that I don’t have cancer. He has taken a couple of biopsies as there was some inflammation. This is likely to be a digestive disorder if anything but I’ll have to wait 2-3 weeks for the result.

I’m wheeled on the bed back to the ward, given a drink and a biscuit and the cannula is removed. I am then able to get dressed and after about 25 minutes, taken to the waiting area where my friend is waiting. I am so relieved that I cry when I see her and she gives me a hug. Once home, she makes me a cup of coffee with soya milk and I enjoy every mouthful! I have takeaway in the evening as apparently cooking is a dangerous activity and shouldn’t be done for 24 hours!!! I also have an early night as I am exhausted.

28th June 2022

Feeling fine today apart from a headache and feeling a bit more wobbly than normal. I drink plenty of water, relax and thoroughly enjoy my meals. It’s so good to have fresh fruit and vegetables again!

I hope my description helps anyone preparing to have a colonoscopy for the first time to know what to expect. I can honestly say that the procedure itself (as long as you have sedation) is fine and really nothing to worry about. The three days of the restricted diet wasn’t as bad as I thought either and there was no feeling of hungriness or feeling faint at any time. By far the worst part for me was the effects of drinking the solution but not everyone reacts in the same way so just because it was like that for me, doesn’t mean it will be for you. We’re all different!

Back to my normal tiny tweaks on Saturday!

Until then xx

4 comments

  1. I loved this account of your experience; it did make me laugh! Sorry!! Everything in it reminded me of my colonoscopy experience and yes, there are many frequent trips to the toilet! But as you described; the actual procedure itself is not too bad and getting the results straightaway is helpful and reassuring.
    I really hope that your account helps anyone else who may be experiencing any unpleasant bowel issues and encourages them to seek medical support.

    Liked by 1 person

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