March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colonoscopy, used to screen for colon cancer, is also used to diagnose inflammatory bowel diseases. Individuals who have IBD are at risk for colon cancer. Young IBD patients have to undergo colonoscopy, usually considered an adult procedure. Guest blogger, Shayna Penn, shares what it’s like to have a colonoscopy as a young adult.
You might say I’m mature for my age. As a child I always asked to sit at the “Big Kid” table and stood with the adults at birthday parties and gatherings. I enjoyed having conversations and acting like a grown-up. Eventually this habit bit me in the butt. Literally.
This feature photo shoot was not the highlight of my final days as a semi-dependent young adult. To prepare for the procedure, I received a chart from the doctor’s office outlining the quantity and timing of my clear liquids intake. At 4’11, weighing only 100 pounds, and bearing the physical resemblance of the middle school kids I once babysat, my stomach couldn’t handle this large quantity of liquids the way a full-sized grown up could. Halfway through drinking the chalky Miralax mixture, I felt like a buoy bobbing wildly in the ocean waves.
The bobbing sensation began at 4pm. Four hours later I started throwing up. I’ll spare all of the details. Just imagine the geiser, Old Faithful’s occasional spewing.
The next morning when I arrived at the doctor’s office, I’d gone over 24 hours consuming only Miralax and water mock-tails. In the waiting area I noticed I was surrounded by people whom I wanted to set up on mahjong dates with my grandparents. I held my head and ignored my stomach’s painful warbles. When the nurse called my name and saw me struggling to walk, she promptly slapped a ‘Fall Risk’ bracelet around my wrist and hooked me up to an IV with nutrients.
Upon waking up, I learned that I passed the test with flying…clear liquids. In the recovery room, the nurse gave me graham crackers and apple juice, an appropriate post-nap time snack!
As my Mom mocked my inability to get dressed without getting nauseous, the gastroenterologist entered with news of the hardest test I’d taken since the AP US History exam. She found a few small ulcers in my lower intestines.
“Probably nothing serious,” she insisted. As a precaution, she sent them for pathology. The visual results of the colonoscopy proved for a fourth time that I did not have Celiac disease. However, I’d spent the past six months with worsening stomach pains after eating, decreased appetite, and my intestines developed their own unique approach to processing food. After three years of feeling ill and undergoing various diagnostic tests, it was time to grow up. This colonoscopy would hopefully provide conclusive results.
A few weeks later, as I began my 3rd year of college, I received a phone call from the GI’s office confirming a mild case of Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract.
Although receiving this diagnosis confirmed I was chronically ill, I’m grateful that I underwent a colonoscopy because it made me grow up. Despite the painful prep and unfortunate results, an experience I’ve dubbed Old Faithful, Young Crohny, I’d much rather age into good health than not feel well enough to sit with the “Big Kids” for dinner.