What’s it really like to have a colonoscopy?

There’s defiantly a taboo around speaking about colonoscopies…the sheer mention of them can set a person sniggering (unless they’ve actually had one). I remember that after having my first one, I didn’t mention it to anyone for the fear that people would laugh in my face. I remember being absolutely terrified before having mine which resulted me ending up on Mums Net and becoming even more neurotic about it! If I’d written this post a year ago, it would’ve had the tone of I don’t see what’s too bad about having a colonoscopy…It hardly hurt at all when I had it and it was cool because I saw my insides!. Fast forward a year and I laugh in the face of my naive self. Because I’ve had two experiences, I’m going to tell you about both and then at the end I’ll explain why the two experiences were so polar opposite (because I asked the nurses why…what can I say, I was curious!)

Let’s go back to August 2013. I was in the stage of being diagnosed and the last step in that was a colonoscopy. I was handed the prep at my clinic appointment and then sent to the colonoscopy department with a sheet which said I needed an emergency one (which didn’t calm my nerves whatsoever) and I was booked in for 5 days later, mainly because I had to stop taking my iron tablets. I remember sitting in Aldi carpark whilst my mum went shopping (I was too tired) and going straight to the possible complications page of the booklet I was given and deciding whether or not I should have the sedative. What can I say, I’m a worse case scenario kinda girl!

Fast forward four days to the dreaded colonoscopy prep. There’s no sugar coating it, it’s pretty dire. I’m sorry. They say its lemon sherbet flavoured but it isn’t. I tried mixing it with orange squash which also didn’t help…it actually put me off orange squash for a while! It’s vile and (and theres no way of putting this nicely!) your bum will sting like mad after it’s worked, if you know what I mean. The hunger part wasn’t too bad…I drank bovrille and ate jelly all day. It sucked but it wasn’t like you can’t eat anything. I think the hardest part was not drinking tea because you couldn’t have milk!
Now, for the actual procedure. I decided to have the sedative but apparently I didn’t actually use much…I’m still hazy on everything that happened that day. It wasn’t painful but it was a bit uncomfortable. You lay on your side and a nurse will sit next to you and I think their main job is to take your mind off what’s actually happening. All I really remember is telling her that I was going to hogwarts the next day (I was actually going to the Harry Potter Studios but the fact that it was September 1st the next day, I probably did sound a bit crazy!). There’s a good few other people there too but they’re all behind you and you can just hear them talking. I vividly remember the point that they told me that we were currently behind my belly button. For some reason, I found this hilarious. It’s quite strange though because you can actually see it on the screen. It’s like been in a real life episode of House! Whilst they’re in there, they often take biopsies of the bowel which involves them nipping a bit off. I was terrified about the prospect of this but you can’t feel it, which is weird. Overall though, the experience wasn’t too bad and the toast I got afterwards was amazing. 

Fastforward a year and a half to April, two days before my operation (little to my knowledge then). Technically, I wasn’t having a colonoscopy and it was in fact a sigmoidoscopy which is half a colonoscopy (or something like that!). Anyways, this time I wasn’t given the option of a sedative, just gas and air which the nurse leading the sigmoidoscopy (who’s known me for two years) said that with my anxiety, which was at an all time high, I’d hate it. I had one go and she was right. This time it was really painful and they got about halfway up the left side of the bowel, which is nothing really, and I was saying how much it hurt and that I wanted it to stop. They got their biopsies but my doctor came in at about the same time and just told them to not go any further and that it was pretty evident how bad it was. 
So yeah, my second experience was no where near as nice as the first. When I asked the nurse she told me it was because the second time it was really really inflamed where as in my original colonoscopy there was only a small amount. Makes sense really. 
Share your experiences of colonoscopies in the comments below and if you’re due to have one and have any worries, write them in the comments and I’ll try to put your mind at rest (or some other lovely reader might!) 

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