How to stop worrying about your upcoming colonoscopy

I drank this entire 4 liter jug of salt water!

Turning 50 is a fabulous milestone in any human’s life. That is, until you find out that 50 year olds are urged to have their first screening colonoscopy to rule out potential colon cancer.

After that news, no amount of fun pony parties and fanfare can make you feel festive about turning 50!

But fret not. I’ve been through the colonoscopy and pre-cleanse experiences and I lived to tell you all about it.

I’ve also found some great resources that can help with first-timer jitters.

Before I tell you about my experience, I have a confession to make. I, too, was a colonoscopy avoider. In fact, I put my 50-year colonoscopy screening off for an entire year.

I used Covid as my excuse – and my doc agreed that it was a legitimate reason to postpone. Really though, my reason was the same as anyone’s: I just didn’t want to deal with the awkward, embarrassing and scary reality of an invasive medical procedure.

Still, when my 51st birthday rolled around this year, I knew the clock was ticking.

When I saw my doc for my annual physical, she nudged me again about the screening and I promised her I’d get it scheduled. So don’t worry if you’ve been putting yours off – you’re not alone!

Colonscopy prep 101

After you make your appointment, you will likely get a packet of information in the mail with multiple steps to follow and instructions for one week out, two days out, one day out, the day of your procedure, etc. Honestly, it’s all a bit overwhelming.

Read through it all, of course – but I suggest you make yourself a simple post-it note with reminders about key dates, times and to do’s. That’s what I did and it seemed less overwhelming that way.

Bottom line, one week out you need to change your diet a bit (no seeds, nuts, popcorn, raw veggies or anything high in fiber). You also need to fill your prescription for colonoscopy prep solution and make sure you have Gas-X and Dulcolax in the house.

Two days before, you want to switch to an all clear liquid diet. Clear chicken broth, coffee or tea with no milk, soft drinks (but nothing with red or purple dye), etc. Also, hydrate lots! The prep solution and process is super dehydrating, so the more water you can get in your system before you start, the better.

The day before your procedure, and continuing on the morning of your colonoscopy, you will both fast AND start the legendary and dreaded colonoscopy prep. This involves drinking about a tanker-truck’s worth of lemon-lime seawater.

Yes, the colon cleanse prep solution is basically copious amounts of salt water. It pretty much makes your body turn itself inside out. This way, you completely evacuate your bowels and ensure your insides are squeaky-clean for your colonoscopy.

I don’t mind the idea of having squeaky-clean insides… but the process of getting there was interesting, to say the least. Do NOT read any further if you are squeamish about bathroom details! I am going to spill the tea, as they say. This is a totally candid recap of the journal/notes I wrote on my phone while doing my colonoscopy prep – with very little editing. I truly feel that being upfront and honest about this will help you to know what to expect.

My colonoscopy prep timeline

Day before colonoscopy

  • 4:15 pm or so on the day before my colonoscopy, I started drinking 8 oz of prep solution every 15 mins or so, sipping my water in between. The first few glasses weren’t too bad at all.
  • I celebrated a little bit when I made it through 4 glasses of lemon-lime saline💚💛😱
  • 5:45 pm got a rumble in my belly and then it started: super-aggressive butt-peeing. Tummy cramps. Really foul smelling poop water sporadically and repeatedly pouring out of my butt. Tummy’s making crazy sounds.
  • 6:25 pm drank 5th glass, butt-peed some more. Only three more glasses tonight! Mah poor borthole is cramping. Feeling very chilly/cold. Not hungry at all! A little light-headed, but not unpleasant.
  • 9:15 pm two more glasses in and I’m sitting on the pot again butt-peeing my brains out. It’s getting old. Just one more glass tonight! I feel like Dumbledore in the Deathly Hallows when Harry has to keep making him drink the cursed, neverending poison water😱
  • 9:30 pm I got it all down! It went straight through me. My poor borthole is on fire. But my butt water is clear and clean! Amazed I haven’t been hungry all day. Super happy to be done for the night. Hope I get some sleep.

Day two – the big day!

  • Slept well – up just once, around 1 am, for more butt-peeing. Woke up salty-mouthed and feeling puffy and bloated from too much salt.
  • Up at 8 am for more solution-chugging and butt-peeing, but alas I’m back to brown water with poop shards in it. Where did THAT come from?! Two glasses down.
  • Haven’t eaten in 36 hours. Still not hungry. A little grumbly in my tummy but that could be the vast amounts of mild poison I keep chugging. 
  • 9:40 am. Three glasses in. Clearwater isn’t just a town in Florida – it’s also how I poop now! Embracing my new normal.
  • Just when you think you’re empty, another gallon of butt-pee pours out of you. How?! From where?! It’s amazing.
  • 10:32 am you’ve heard of a Sodastream 2000? Well I’m a buttstream 2000. Going strong after glass #4. Clean and clear. We leave for my appt in two hours!
  • 11 am choked down glass #5. Can’t believe I have three more to go. Blechhh. Butt is peeing away. Took my Gas-X yummy chewable – tasted like the best thing ever after all this seawater! Trying to drink water to stay hydrated, too. SO MUCH DRINKING.
  • 11:15 glass #6 whoa. Something new: my butt pee is now neon yellow! Crazytown. I’m pretty sure it smells like lemon-lime, but I’m not checking. Also, I never want to taste anything lemon-lime again as long as I live.
  • 11:30 glass #7 literally just chugging this glass of solution in the bathroom. I live here now. Also, it’s time to break out the butt cream. I just hollered for a family member to bring me Aquaphor, Vaseline, butt paste, something. My poor borthole is sore and stinging from all this butt-peeing and wiping.
  • 11:45 am glass #8 and DONE!!!!! Phew, I am so relieved! There is definitely NOTHING inside of me. I’m clear and clean and ready for my colonoscopy! Boy, am I glad that’s over – but it wasn’t all that horrible. It’s definitely do-able.

My colonoscopy itself

As you might have heard from friends or family members, you don’t remember much of the colonoscopy itself. They give you really lovely drugs so you float far, far away to the candy mountain. But I do remember a few things.

I remember checking in at the gastroenterology clinic. When the nurse came to take me back for my procedure, I was utterly horrified. Imagine the nurse you’d like for a vulnerable, butt-probing procedure like this one: someone maternal, maybe even grandmotherly right? That’s the total opposite of the nurse I got.

The nurse who came to take me back for my procedure was very young, very handsome and looked like he just walked off the set of Baywatch. He had long surfer-dude hair and was tall, well-built and basically a TOTAL NIGHTMARE for someone about to have a colonoscopy! It was like a bad joke. He had to ask me all these super detailed questions about my colonoscopy prep. It was excruciating. Why couldn’t I have had a grandma nurse!?

That’s why writing this blog post and spilling the details here feels like no big deal. Because I’ve basically already told it all to a male model in scrubs. Good times!

Anyway, after I got into a gown and covered myself up with a sheet, the male surfer-nurse came back and got my IV set up. He was VERY good at his job. Don’t let my disparaging remarks about his male model appearance fool you – he’s a terrific nurse.

Then, a lovely grandma-type nurse came to take me back for the actual procedure. She’s the one who put the drugs in my IV. She put Fentanyl in first, then Versed. And then it was lights out for yours truly. I don’t remember much else at all!

I’m sure E came in to help me get dressed after the procedure. I’m sure he drove me home. But I don’t remember ANY of the rest of that day.

I was in lala land. I don’t even know if I went to bed or just snoozed on the couch when I got home? I was totally out of it. Hopefully I wasn’t parenting or Facebooking or, god forbid, trying to do work. I might want to check on some of those details, huh? (Update: I actually made an Instagram story about my colonoscopy. It’s in my saved stories on my profile!)

But anyway – that’s my colonoscopy tale. I didn’t have any soreness or side effects from the procedure. I dove back into eating regularly. It did take a few days for things to sort of settle down in the bathroom department, but all was well within a few days to a week, I’d say.

And I got a clean bill of health! It feels good to know that everything inside is looking good and healthy. I don’t have to go for another colonoscopy screening for ten years and that feels GREAT.

So my advice to you is to go for it. It’s worth it to protect your health and longevity. Preparing for, and undergoing, a colonscopy isn’t hard. You know what IS hard? Cancer and cancer treatment. That is way more difficult, painful and awful. So get yourself screened when it’s your time.

Bottom (haha, get it) line: getting your first screening colonoscopy may not be glamorous or pretty, but it can save your life – and best of all, you won’t remember much at all.

Just remember to watch out for those smoking hot colonoscopy nurses.

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.
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