An Idiot’s Guide to Colonoscopy Prep

After coming up clean in my first colonoscopy, I’d like to take a minute to inform the masses regarding the truth about colonoscopy prep. First, if you’re over 45, get a colonoscopy! Colo-rectal cancer is called the silent killer. Just to start off the conversation in terms my fellow idiots will understand, I will refer to it as Silent But Deadly. (** I used to think the age was 50, but several have commented that you should get your first colonoscopy at 45, or even 40.)

Second, a colonoscopy is nothing to be afraid of. The prep, however, is something worth dreading. But it is massively important. You don’t want to waste a day of fasting and flatulation only to be rejected because you aren’t empty. Loosen up and do it right.

I want to be straightforward about this topic because online information is as twisted as my intestines evidently are. Of course, when you Google “colonoscopy prep,” a fine bowtie-clad doctor from the Mayo Clinic will tell you how important it is while somehow keeping a straight face. But this will be of absolutely no help when you’re in the middle of your fight and frantically type, “HOW LONG WILL THE SQUIRTS LAST?” into your browser. Google gave me a quote from the little sea turtle in Finding Nemo… which was oddly appropriate for that dark hour.

Finding Nemo 3D wallpaper

But I digress.


Here are some experiential thoughts regarding colonoscopy prep that I hope will help my fellow man.

  • Pre-prep is essential. You’re going to need to select a toilet and set up a bivouac sight nearby. I’ve compiled a list of things to have in close proximity to your camp. It is important that you collect these items prior to starting your prep – once you start, there’s no going back.
    1. Plenty of toilet paper. Do not scrimp here! I recommend the extra soft, cuddly, teddy bear, silky cotton variety with aloe. Man was not meant to wipe as much as you will over the next 24 hours.
    2. Diaper rash cream. See point 1.
    3. At least a pallet of disinfectant wipes. Things will happen that you don’t want to have to explain later. You might also want to keep a step ladder handy if you have high ceilings.
    4. 2-3 black garbage bags. There will be items to destroy or dispose of with impunity.
  • If you live on a septic tank, you might want to have it drained prior to your prep.
  • The fasting is very important. As you will experience, there are already things milling around inside of which you were unaware. I assure you – you don’t want to add the tiniest grain of rice to it.
  • Wear clothes that you don’t care about. It’s just not worth it.

I drank my first sulfate cocktail at 6 pm the night before. Results may vary, but it took about 50 minutes before I heard the first rumble. As I sauntered to the bathroom, I thought I felt my scapula drop toward my pelvis and picked up the pace. That was wise. In fact, you may want to be within a few steps of porcelain as soon as you imbibe. It all happens so fast.

I don’t want to be disgusting, but as a veteran, I’ve fired many automatic weapons, including a 50-caliber machine gun with a butterfly trigger, and nothing… NOTHING I’ve ever shot had the recoil I felt from the first salvo of the evening. Sticking with the munitions metaphor, this is full automatic, friends. And don’t get comfortable anywhere else because reload time is astoundingly brief.

There is no need to take a book or magazine in there because after a few sessions, you might not have a will to live, much less acquire knowledge.

As this goes on, I promise you will be searching the phase that netted me Squirt’s jump instructions. Here is my answer and I hope it will get to the front page of Google: This lasted a little over three hours for me – add 20 minutes until the tears stopped and another 10 for a meager attempt at clean-up and dignity retrieval.

As you tentatively retreat from the combat zone, leave the path clear because you may need to go back. Somehow, I was able to sleep that night. But it wasn’t a trusting slumber. I was very dubious of myself and the possibility of a recurrence. If you’re married, I would say this would be a good night to sleep alone. The stakes are high here, and unless your marriage is 100% bulletproof, you don’t want to risk it. Even the strongest relationship could falter should you soil your spouse.

This is my first (and maybe only) sound piece of advice: You might want to start your prep an hour earlier. As long as you can stick to the fast the next day, an earlier prep would make it easier to go to bed with some assurance. Rumor has it some preppers have been awake at 2 – 3 a.m. nervously trying to sing their rectum to sleep.

In the morning, I got up and drank my second cocktail. It wasn’t nearly as bad. Oh, there were more fireworks. But maybe my mind, body, and soul had just given up by then.

Warning: A warm shower might feel tempting, but it also may lull you into a state of relaxation from which you cannot recover unspoiled. Wet tile is hard to navigate quickly, and I can almost promise that you will have disposed of your bathmat in a black trash bag the night before, so it will offer no traction. You’ve been warned.

The colonoscopy itself went off without a hitch. Once you get over the fact that the other three people in the room are involved in inserting a large tube in your anus, it really just feels like a picnic with friends. There’s Propofol and then you wake up rested. Your friends are gone. The picnic is over.

It is odd to have a nice-looking young lady command you to fart before you can go home. I never went on a date like that as a young man, but it worked out.

You might be tempted to think that this will jumpstart a weight-loss regimen. After all, I lost five pounds during the process. But it’s not going to happen because your body hates you now. The body is designed to minimize loss and what you just did makes it feel like you are undermining its mission. So it will hold onto that cheeseburger and large fries you grabbed on the way home for months. In fact, your body is going to slow down it’s metabolic process like a bear in hibernation.

The problem is that you’ll keep eating simply because your prep is done and you can. If things go okay, you don’t have to do it again for five years. Of course, the memory, and possibly some of the destruction, will linger…

18 thoughts on “An Idiot’s Guide to Colonoscopy Prep

  1. Thank u for getting your colonoscopy … they should be done much earlier and are now approved at 45 but should be by 40… fastest growing cancer for our demographic … and it is absolutely silent 💙 I am so grateful for meredith! She bears much fruit 💖

    And I know u don’t know me well enough but this is not sent as a correction … I ahve had one and thought this was hysterical and accurate and love ur writings!! I enjoyed it just can’t help myself responding bc people need to get one and sooner the better

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. I had no idea it was something that should be done before 50. I had trouble with self-care after losing Kylie and am trying to do better now. I appreciate that information, Jennifer. And Meredith think a lot of you and your boys. I assure you!

  2. I am in tears!!!😂 The best advice I have for everyone is Charmin wet wipes for prep! I’ve had my share of these preps since colon cancer is in the family history. Proud of you for taking care of you!

  3. Glad all went well Mark and yes, everyone told me the prep was the worse part and I agree. But I had my first colonoscopy in 2004 b/c of some issues and my second in 2014 as I was over 50 and it had been 10 years. No nodules w/ either, thanks God. So do you have to get your next in 5 years? B/c 10 is the standard if no polyps. I’ve always read that the patient only needs to get their next one in 5 yrs if they have at least 1 polyp and it is begin. If the than 1 is found, if it is larger or if it is malignant, then I have always read that the patient has to return sooner, usually 2 yrs max. Also, the ACS changed their recommendations from age 50 for first routine colonoscopy to 45 in Sept 2017 I believe. This is a good thing as colon cancer is on the rise, especially in those younger than 50. I hope they lower it to 40 one day soon. I tell folks that going thru the colonoscopy prep for a day is tons easier than going thru treatmt for colon cancer, especially if it has metasized. After childhood cancer awareness, colon cancer awareness is my 2nd passion! And it’s SO much easier to catch if only people get their colonoscopies per the recomended schedule! Except for those that are under 45, since they are not considered high risk. I know 2 young ladies who died from colon cancer. One was pregnant and 28 when it was discovered and the other was 23. So sad as many physicians don’t think about younger people having colon cancer. Just like many pedis don’t think about their patients having a childhood cancer. I would LOVE to figure out a way to implement a country-wide education of pedis regarding the childhood cancers. In particular, the more rare ones including the beast that took our precious girls. Hugs, Kay

  4. Being “blessed” with IBS has meant I’ve had more than one colonoscopy, and so I can honestly say this post is brilliant, Mark.
    I’ve found the prep to be worse than the actual procedure.
    Then again, I was unconscious the last time so what do I know?

  5. LOL. Thank you. No, I mean it. You answered all of my questions. I was just in an accident where I had to have a CAT scan and besides the soft tisue damage from a drunk driver plunging into my rearend at 80 mph, the scan discovered gallstones and some other issues. So I will finally have to go in and succumb to this test. I love your comedic timing. 😀

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