‘I had a colonoscopy – this is what it’s really like’

Jonathan Ancer shares his colonoscopy experience – and it wasn't that bad.
Jonathan Ancer shares his colonoscopy experience – and it wasn't that bad.

I lay on the bed in the sterile white room, naked but for a thin cotton gown. I stared at the ceiling, then closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of suburbia outside – leaves rustling in the wind, a dog barking, the purr of a lawnmower.

“Is it going to hurt?” I asked the woman who had told me to undress five minutes earlier. “It might be a bit uncomfortable at first,” she said as she jabbed something cold and sharp into my arm.

Read more: Eat these common foods to cut your risk of colon cancer

I felt a piercing pain, and then a wave of drowsiness came over me… and the next thing I knew, I was rubbing my eyes as the blurry room slowly came back into focus. How long had I been knocked out, I wondered?

How it began

My ordeal had started a day earlier, when the same woman had handed me a bag of white powder, and instructed me to take three scoops every six hours. It was all part of The Cleanse – aka the “bowel prep”.

I drank the first dose, which tasted like a mix of chalk and your worst nightmare. And suddenly… nothing happened. Maybe I’ve done something wrong, I wondered. But a few minutes later, it hit me, like a Kagiso Rabada delivery to the bowels. The white powder was a laxative so strong, it would have removed the crap from a South African politician, in all three tiers of government.

Read more: Coffee consumption linked to lower risk of colon and rectal cancer

That night, I learnt three very important lessons, which you may find useful. Firstly, once you’ve swallowed the powder, don’t stray more than five steps from the toilet (and don’t even think about going out in public). Secondly, from five minutes after that, never trust a fart. And finally, if this substance ever gets into the hands of a terrorist, the free world is doomed.

I spent pretty much 24 hours in my bathroom, unleashing fury in the loo. Whenever I thought there was nothing left in my body to purge, a quake would rumble from deep within me, signalling an eruption of Mount Vesuvius-sized proportions. That was a nuclear-powered laxative. On steroids.

The worst movie ever

Let’s back up a bit. I’d been feeling out of sorts, so I had some blood tests done, which revealed that my iron levels were low. My GP suggested the double whammy of a colonoscopy and a gastroscopy to see if an ulcer was the culprit.

Read more: The advice from your mom you’ve been ignoring your whole life is actually key to avoiding cancer

So while I was knocked out, a tiny video camera went up my butt to make a movie of my colon; hence “colonoscopy”. Followed by a “gastroscopy”, in which a tiny camera went down my throat.

I really, really hope they didn’t use the same camera. In my semi-sedated state, as I waited to see the doctor after the procedure, I started to go down the colonoscopy rabbit hole, telling myself that a colonoscopy must be the crappest movie ever. If George Loocas was asked to direct it, he would call it Star Wars: Revenge of the Shit. No doubt Colon Firth would play the lead, and of course, Leonardo DiCraprio in a supporting role. The love interest would be Lucy Loo.

Fortunately the doctor came in just then, stopping me from plumbing the depths of colon humour.

Good news

My colon was clean as a whistle, the doctor told me, and ulcer-free; no sign of polyps, either. My low iron, he suggested, was because I’d stopped eating meat, wasn’t munching iron-rich veggies and had been donating blood.

The colonoscopy gets such a bad rap; but it’s an important cancer-screening measure – and it’s actually a painless procedure (well, besides the “bowel prep”).

Read more: Here’s how your waistline increases your risk of cancer

I left the hospital with a spring in my step, knowing that because I’ll keep my iron levels up, and there’s no history of colon cancer in my family, the next time I’ll have a camera up my butt will be when I’m on the other side of 50. And I made my way to the nearest steakhouse.

“Bring me your most expensive rack of ribs,” I told the waiter, “and keep them coming.”

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Of course!” I said.

“I’m claiming from medical aid.”

Read more: I had a vasectomy. This is what it’s really like

This article was originally published on www.mh.co.za

Image credit: iStock

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