Yes, you read that right. “Gamers need colonoscopies, too!” And as my dad used to often say: “I’m serious as a heart attack!”
Well, I had my first colonoscopy three days ago on Thursday, January 13, 2022 at 11:45 am.
I’m officially hitting mid-life at this point, I guess, which I’m perfectly OK with. It’s funny to say, but the colonoscopy itself was not bad at all. The procedure itself was over within about 25-30 minutes and was smooth as silk, but the 24 hours leading up to the colonoscopy was insane. I’m writing this journal to those out there who may be scared of colonoscopies or not even know what it is. Well, read on if you’re curious!
A colonoscopy is performed on those (usually) 45 and older in order to help put an early end to colon cancer. A gastrologist basically puts a long slinky black thin apparatus up inside your anus and looks around for polyps and other issues which could ultimately cause colon cancer or be pre-cancerous and need to be dealt with. That’s what a colonoscopy is in a nutshell. For more information (of a more scientific nature), please visit the Mayo Clinic website.
In order to prepare yourself for a colonoscopy, one should confer with their primary care doctor to see if one needs to be performed. I did this a few months ago, in October 2021, and was put on a list to schedule my surgery; that was done within a few days and my appointment was set months ago for my day surgery. Usually, when someone hits their mid 40’s, it’s recommended that they get a colonoscopy as soon as possible in order to eliminate any of these potential cancer issues within the colon or the gastro-intestinal areas. Furthermore, I found an old video of Katie Couric going to get her first colonoscopy after she lost her husband to colon cancer. You can check out that helpful video here, too.
As I said, the procedure itself was super painless, they knock you out or give you medicine that keeps you awake but calm, which is what most patients do, I was told. It’s also cheaper, and I recommend doing that as the procedure is actually quite painless done that way.
So, yeah, leading up to the procedure… My doctor’s office put in a prescription for me at my local Walgreens. This consisted of a huge 2 gallon or something ‘jug’ that was empty, save for some powder in the bottom. This is known as ‘GoLightly,’ to most people, which is essentially electrolytes, according to Wikipedia, “PEG (polyethylene glycol) with electrolyte is used to clean out the intestines before certain bowel exam procedures such as colonoscopy or barium enema X-rays.” That may sound quite kosher, but once you mix it with water and taste it and realize it tastes like watered down chalk dust, it goes downhill from there. You have to drink the entire contents of that container by splitting it up over a roughly 24-hour period. You’re put on a liquid diet (of water, sprite, broth, lighter colored Jellos, and the like.) They also recommend adding Crystal Light or another substance to the GoLightly stuff in order for it to taste better, but when I did this, I puked it up immediately.
Yes… so… the night before. I started ‘starving myself’ Wednesday morning, over 24 hours before my procedure. I had some black coffee for breakfast along with a bowl of oatmeal, which would be my last ‘full meal’ before not eating solids the rest of the day. By mid-day at work, I began to feel light-headed, and while I had the next day off, I decided to go ahead and go home to finish working the rest of the day there. “I feel crazy,” I told my boss, “And I’m a little scared, to be honest!” “I can’t even imagine!” my young boss said. “Go home and be safe! You’ll do just fine! Keep us informed!”
A few hours after being home, I felt a huge migraine begin to creep into my head, and around 3 pm, I began mixing the GoLightly with water and began my first of about 6 other coffee cups full of this stuff that I had to drink completely once every 15 minutes. About an hour into that, I began having ‘the runs,’ which isn’t what you think, but rather, it’s your body expunging all the contents of your bowels and, over time, becoming a clear substance like what you’ve been consuming. As if that isn’t gross enough, around midnight, I began throwing up after a nice hot bath, and the stuff began coming out of both ends of my body (if you know what i mean.) It was disgusting, humiliating and eye-opening. As I laid in bed after throwing up for the third time, and after being egregiously awaken to ‘go potty’ a bunch of liquid for the 10th time, I felt that it was going to be a super long night. And it was.
I kept waking up to go use the restroom every couple of hours, but thankfully, despite the migraine (you can’t take any aspirin or vitamins when you’re doing this detox, either), I found a sleeping spot on my bed where my head wasn’t pulsating. I ended up opening the window upstairs to let some of the 30-degree air into my stuffy, hot bedroom upstairs. I closed the window and put on some classical. Thankfully, I was able to drift off to sleep. When I woke up at 5:30 am to begin drinking the other half of the GoLightly, I noticed I had made a small mess in my underwear, which was a clear liquid, too. I felt like an alien or a dried, washed-up old man. I felt completely parched and dehydrated, which I was, because I realized I couldn’t use the bathroom anymore. I had stopped consuming any liquid at all because it kept coming up as throw up or pure gas when I’d go to the bathroom. That was a horrible time, for sure.
However, I’m telling you this story because just a few short hours later, I was up at the gastro clinic (thanks to a Lyft ride and my friend Adam for making arrangements to pick me up after). I waited about an hour before being called into the back, where I was asked to disrobe and put on a hospital gown with the back open. “Don’t tie the back,” the nurse smiled. They were completely cognizant to my personal space and let me change in a nearby bathroom, and my little bed was right there, with a curtain closed shut. A different nurse with an Australian accent took my vitals and started an IV in my hand (to help give me liquids as I was dehydrated) and I was wheeled back by a sprightly young nurse named April. They changed my doctor which was a little scary for me, but the guy was super nice and comforting, seemed to be in his 30’s and of middle eastern descent, and was completely professional and nice.
“I’m Doctor Vittal,” he said. “I’ll be taking care of you. I just want you to relax and trust me when I say, you won’t feel a thing!” Those words comforted me beyond belief!
They gave me an option, as I said earlier, of being put out completely or taking medication that would allow me to be fully awake during the procedure but would also minimize any pain, was covered by insurance and was cheaper, and “that’s what 80% of our patients decide to do, and it’s just fine. You won’t feel a thing.” “OK,” I said. The most pain I was ever going to feel was the intense migraine I had (which was slowly going away now, with the liquids they’d given me), the intense throwing up I had gone through hours earlier and the night before, and whatever pain this was going to feel like.
Well, I’m happy to report, there was no pain at all. After they put a breathing apparatus up my nose (“This’ll smell like plastic, big time,” April joked, and it did.) But twenty minutes later, I had woken up and they were already pulling out of my colon on the TV screen in front of me. Before I could even focus my eyes on that, he was done, the TV was off, and they were asking me to turn over on my back and prepare to sit up.
“That’s it?,” I asked.
“That’s it!,” Doctor Vittal said. “We did find two polyps and we took a part of one out to examine it for cancer, although it looks fine, and another one was completely removed,” he said. He said that in a completely scientific way, but my mind couldn’t even comprehend it, so my quote above is basically what was said! “Sorry if that sounds so scientific. Just know that we will let you know ASAP when we get the rest results back. It’ll post on your My Chart online.”
“Great!,” I said. “Thank you, Doctor. I’m just glad this is over with!”
He smiled. “You were a trooper!”
I asked the nurse for some food since I was so dehydrated and starving, and she brought me a small paper plate with two crackers smeared with peanut butter. “This’ll do the trick,” she said. and it did. That peanut butter and cracker tasted so good, after not eating for the better half of 24 hours.
“This is so good! It tastes like a nice steak,” I laughed. My migraine was mostly gone already.
As I dressed back into my clothes, I was amazed that I was already up and running. As they don’t allow you to drive yourself home (since you’re under pain medication) my friend Adam had agreed to pick me up. He showed up in the waiting room to collect me and he and his wife took me home.
It was the smoothest operation I’d ever had, but as I said, the prep going into it was a little hellish. I’m so thankful to have great friends to help me get back home, too, since I live alone in a city hundreds of miles away from where my family lives. Being a pretty antisocial gamer, that is important to me to have great friends who will help me out when I need it most. (And of course, I’ll be there for them, too, should they ever need it!)
So, a few hours later at home, I felt about 80% normal already. I heated up a frozen breakfast sandwich from the freezer and that tasted as good as a piping hot steak, too. It was so great to be able to eat solids again! I was literally buzzing inside with happiness that it was now all over and things were getting back to normal.
Fast forward to yesterday morning, Friday. I checked the MyChart page that my insurance company, Presbyterian, has for members to check their medical information. On there, a report was posted (as my phone had alerted me to) which let me know that two polyps were found, one was completely removed during the procedure, and there was a note saying doctors additional comments were forthcoming. I’m guessing this meant the test results! My phone dinged me about three hours later. My Doctor had added additional information! I went online and read the Doctor’s notes, and this is what he said: “Two polyps were found… one 6mm one was removed via cold snare which is known to be pre-cancerous, but once taken out, the risk for cancer no longer exists. I’m glad I was able to take that out and help you! Otherwise, you should be fine, just eat more fiber and get another colonoscopy in 5 years.”
I was so relieved! Had I not gone, I could have gone months or years with a possibly pre-cancerous polyp inside of me. I’m telling you this story because I feel, as gamers, as anyone of a certain age (45 and older) that getting a colonoscopy is not as bad as you think. It’s not the operation that you should be scared of, it’s just the liquid diet leading up to it that is a little rough. However, it’s doable and if they can eliminate your risk of colon cancer or find something early and remove it, as they did for me, your life can be extended and your loved ones will thank you for it.
This message isn’t just going out to gamers, but to everyone of a certain age or within certain at-risk groups. Don’t be afraid to get a colonoscopy. It’s painless, and it’s only 24 hours of a liquid diet that can essentially end up saving your life, as it did for me. Two days later, and I’m feeling 100% better.
There was one geeky shining light of joy in all of this, beyond realizing they removed a pre-cancerous polyp. Halfway through the day when I was hugging the toilet and felt like complete garbage, I got a notification on my phone that I had won a free vintage game in a social media drawing I’d entered the week before: Mario Party 10 for the Wii U and Bowser Amiibo box set! A $100 value. From Video Games Monthly. That just made my day, of course because I’m a vintage gaming geek, but a vintage gaming geek now who feels a little bit safer and who is cancer-free, which is the biggest gift of all. And who also is lucky to have a friend as great as Adam who was able to help me get home safely afterwards.
Have a good one 😉