“If one has a routine colonoscopy at the age of 50 and then colonoscopies thereafter as the physician recommends, you could largely prevent colon cancer, you could detect it in its earliest stages and cure it.” — Laurie Glimcher
“This looks like a party in a bag!” I said to John, my husband, as I walked through the kitchen upon my return from the pharmacy and grocery.
“Why’s that?” he asked.
“Just take a look at all of these fine celebratory accoutrements.”
I had Dulcolax, Miralax, and Magnesium Citrate, but the real fun was in the 128-ounces worth of Gatorade with which I was to mix the Miralax powder. Talk about a real party-pooper! This was about to go down as one explosive event for sure!
Two days worth of low-residue/low-fiber foods as specifically described in doctor’s handout? Check.
Plenty of clear liquids stocked up for D, I mean, P-day? Check.
Comfy clothes with elastic waist waistband? An extra-heavy wrap in which to stay warm during the fast? Plenty of books, magazines, and/or other reading material available? Scented candle in bathroom? Hard candies and gum to quell nausea? Check, check, check, check, and check!
On your mark, get set, go!
The following four days of my Christmas vacation from work were focused on the before, during, and after of a colonoscopy. Why? There are numerous reasons, but the No. 1 driving factor is, while I know there is an end to all life, I’d rather not end mine early due to a genetic predisposition to colon cancer. At the very least, I will take all the precautions and preventive steps that are available to me.
You see, Dear Reader, I watched my beloved maternal grandmother and uncle both die from this horrific form of cancer. All types of cancer are deplorable, but the suffering I observed in their final days tore at my soul and left an impression that I have not forgotten. Because “People with a family history of colon cancer,” according to LoyolaMedicine.org, “have two to five times more risk of having colon cancer,” I’d rather not take my chances.
Despite my dramatic narrative, it is not necessary to miss four days of work for this screening. The first two days of colonoscopy preparation consists of eating a low-residue/low-fiber diet, which is quite manageable while at work as I have completed it in the past.
However, I do advise using a sick day for the third day of the “festivities,” aka bowel prep. In addition to the fact that you are bloated, and potentially a bit crampy and nauseated, you will most certainly spend a great deal of time in a bathroom. I’d rather spend that sort of “quality” time in my own bathroom.
Most certainly, though, a colonoscopy does require at least one day away from the worksite. This is because you are put under anesthesia for the procedure and you aren’t to drive the rest of the day. My own experience left me feeling a bit lightheaded and nauseated, and not ready to eat, much less work, for a few hours. However, I have known plenty of people, along with their designated driver, who go to their favorite eating establishment and plow through some serious piles of food, but I don’t recommend that for the sake of your system.
You may be wondering why do it at all — especially since there are several viable alternatives on the market. I researched numerous websites with that same question. Most valid medical websites point to the same conclusion: “Colonoscopy is the only test in which the entire colon can be visualized using a colonoscope and precancerous polyps can be removed. Cancer risk is reduced by 90% after colonoscopy and polyp removal,” according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
Nonetheless, before determining the best colon cancer preventative tool for you, it is best to talk with your healthcare provider. In fact, it was based upon a conversation with a healthcare provider that I had both a colonoscopy and endoscopy before the recommended age of 50. It was these initial assessments that led to the discovery that I had nothing wrong with my colon at the time (as I feared), but instead, I have a hiatal hernia and celiac disease — which are fairly easy fixes with diet. No more frequent diarrhea, painful stomach cramps/pain, and little to infrequent reflux thanks to diet adjustments — not to mention the elimination of several medicines — all due to what began with a conversation with my healthcare provider!
With that in mind, multiple websites encourage adopting healthy habits, along with regular healthcare screenings, in order to not only prevent occurrence of colon cancer but also to lower the risk of numerous other types of cancer. One such health promoting practice is to honor what most mothers tell their children, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid using tobacco products, and if you are currently using them, find ways to reduce, or better yet, eliminate these products from your lifestyle. Consider reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption. Regular physical activity is also recommended. Additionally, stress-reducing and/or mindfulness practices as well as maintaining a healthy weight are likewise considered positive steps.
In the end, personal health and well-being often comes down to personal decisions. I am by no means any health expert, but I do believe in personal responsibility and accountability toward one’s health — including routine, preventative screenings.
After all, if we are made in God’s image, then, as the saying goes, our body is HIS temple. Therefore, let our habits honor our God-given skin vessel. We only have one body, and life is a precious gift.
From my heart to yours, I encourage you, Dear Reader, to keep up with all health screenings, no matter how invasive — your life may depend on it!