Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Undergoing that most dreaded of screening tests October 29, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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Two of six photos of my colon given to me after the procedure.

Two of six photos of my colon given to me after the procedure.

SHE CALLED ME a Colon Virgin.

And, at eight years past fifty, I was and shouldn’t have been.

I had my first colonoscopy on Friday.

That title bestowed upon me by the nurse taking my health history prior to the colon cancer screening made me laugh. That was her intention along with praise for the young family doctor who made sure I didn’t leave the clinic after my annual physical in July without scheduling a colonoscopy. Smart doctor.

So there I was, 3 ½ months later, lying on my back in a hospital gown, thin sheet covering me, answering health questions and dreading the procedure that would begin within the hour.

I was assured that I would not be aware nor would I remember anything while under conscious sedation. I thought to myself, they don’t know me.

The two nurses continued prepping me– inserting an IV, wrapping a blood pressure cuff around my left arm, snapping a heart rate monitor on a right finger and then clipping tubes into my nose because “sometimes you forget to breathe.” Probably not the best thing to say to me.

I could feel my rapid heart rate, the tenseness that held my body. I didn’t want to be here. But, I reminded myself, I’d just endured a challenging cleansing process and I’d been through much worse than this medically. Why would I back out now?

So I tried to relax, told the two healthcare workers that I needed something to distract me. “That’s why we have music,” said the nurse with the sense of humor. For the first time, I heard the music as the two headed out the door to find the doctor.

I laid there for a really long time, or so it seemed, listening to the music, wishing it was the uplifting and prayerful Christian music I listen to daily on Twin Cities radio station KTIS. I willed my body and mind to relax and chuckled to myself when a singer crooned something about waking up when it’s done. Quite appropriate.

At the exact appointed time of 8:30, the surgeon entered the room. “I’m really cold,” I complained and was promptly layered in a heated blanket. Yes, I should have been more welcoming to this man who delivered my first daughter nearly 29 years ago by emergency Caesarean section. But at that moment on that morning, I was not particularly happy to see him again.

I told him I was nervous, made him promise that I wouldn’t remember anything. He reassured me. Last thing I remember was his request that I roll onto my left side and my wondering aloud where to comfortably place my blood pressure cuff wrapped left arm.

And that was it until I saw changing images of my colon on the computer screen.

Remember that part about not being aware or remembering? Despite my alertness, I was not anxious. The “happy juice” was still working its magic.

In the end, I made it through just fine. I survived the cleansing of my bowels, semi-fasting (liquid diet), lack of sleep and a resulting headache and lower back (kidney) pain and then the actual procedure.

The good doctor removed two non-cancerous polyps. And even though I remembered part of the colonoscopy, I wasn’t traumatized. In five years, I’ll be back because, you know, dealing with colon cancer would be a lot worse than having another colonoscopy.


COLONOSCOPIES HAVE BEEN IN THE NEWS this week as Cologuard, a new non-invasive procedure to screen for colon cancer, is now on the market. The screening involves submitting a stool sample, which is then analyzed using “advanced stool DNA technology to find DNA from abnormal cells and hemoglobin from red blood cells” according to information on the Cologuard website. The lining of the colon naturally sheds cells.

Early reviews on this screening method are mixed. That’s to be expected.

You can learn more about Cologuard by clicking here.

Whatever you decide, if you’re age 50 or older and/or have a family history of colon cancer, don’t just do nothing. Doing nothing could cost you your life. Take that from a former Colon Virgin.

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling






31 Responses to “Undergoing that most dreaded of screening tests”

  1. Dan Traun Says:

    I have not been through this yet, but reading your account of your experience puts me at ease…at least until I am lying there.

  2. Lanae Says:

    The hardest part is drinking the “mix” to clean you out. My husband did the new one. After I nagged him like crazy. Better to get it done than deal with cancer.

  3. Thread crazy Says:

    So glad your test went well and results were good! I too heard read this weekend in newspaper about the new test from Cologuard. I’ve said all along there has to be a better way of doing this test!! I think it’s a great alternative and I’m not surprised that a lot of reviews are still speculative. Anything new has to be proven. Glad your results were good!

  4. I had my first one at 28 and the prepping was the worse for me and I get really cranky when hungry. It is good to get checked and establish a baseline, so in five years time they can see if there have been any significant changes. I got an early birthday present last month with receiving a mammogram screening sheet. Fun times people, fun times! Happy Hump Day:)

  5. Don Singsaas Says:

    I totally agree with you Audrey “the prep is really the worst part”. The taste of that cleansing liquid is something I will never forget. I think the recipe is something like 10 parts salt to 1 part water mix and enjoy, ew…………….

  6. Jackie Says:

    You will probably die when you hear that I CHOSE NOT to have sedation….none. I’ll have to say it wasn’t fun, but it was
    do-able. I just didn’t want to be “tied” down all day, not being able to drive, besides me and sedation don’t mix… I always get sick, so I’d rather forgo it if I can, and I did. I’m glad you had yours and all was well. I have to tell you I’m one of those people who take care of young adults (35 – 55) who are going through chemo for colon Ca…. believe me, it’s not worth not getting the colonoscopy, It’s a sad sad deal!

  7. I’m so glad you did this. I blogged about mine two years ago…and can hardly stand that it means I have to get my third one three years from now! The dreadful salty liquid is enough to make me wince at the very thought of it. BUT…it’s the simplest way in the world to stop colon cancer so why on earth not do it?

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    I haven’t had one but I’m getting to that age where one will probably be scheduled. I’m so glad you weren’t awake for any of the procedure – nobody needs to have memories of that kind of an event. I think I would hate the prep of dining on that liquid worse than the actual procedure xx

  9. Marilyn Says:

    Ha! I’m one up on you! I have the complete dvd of my procedure and 3 now of my hubby’s. We need a new category division in our library collections. I do wish they had included audio with the video, however.

    • Oh, my, a dvd. That might be a bit much for me to watch. Audio could be interesting, though.

      My second daughter texted me last evening that the pix I posted of my colon were “kind of gross.” My response: “Well, it’s nearly Halloween.”

  10. Vivian Says:

    Congratulations, Audrey, for getting this done. Your colon looks very clean; I’m sure the doctor was pleased you had followed the ‘cleansing’ instructions.

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