What is it like to have a Colonoscopy? A step by step chronology

A step by step account of my prepping for a colonoscopy

Image: Picture of a Colon. Read how to prep for a coloscopy
Image: Picture of a Colon. Read how to prep for a coloscopy

Worried about having a colonoscopy? I took the time to recount my colonoscopy procedure.  Prepping my body, medications, eating, how I felt, and the procedure itself.  Give it a read and you will be more prepared for the next 48 hours.


I wrote this post a few years ago and sit here laughing as I reread my words, not at what I wrote but the fact that I think I have lost count as to the number of times I have prepared for a colonoscopy.  If I hold the numbers noted in this post as accurate, I had my 7th scope in February 2017. What is even more humorous, is asking myself how can one forget about a tiny camera being snaked deep through your digestive tract? Then again, with a hint of sarcasm, not bad for a guy that is in his early 40’s? In comparison, I think my stepfather just had his first scope at the great age of seventy-four.

Putting all kidding aside, I hope you find this recount of my my preparing for and the colonoscopy procedure helpful and more importantly reassuring.  I would love to hear your comments so feel free to add any at the bottom of the page.  Truth be told, having a colonoscopy isn’t as bad as my opening paragraph made it out to be, promise!, we will make it through the next 48 hours together.

My Story …

Monday I am off to have my 5th Colonoscopy (circa 2011) as a check up from last years hospitalization and a recent flare-up of my Crohn’s Disease.  So why not recount the steps in preparing for a colonoscopy  and if nothing else, hopefully put some people’s minds to ease.

For Crohn’s sufferers, 5 Colon scopes is certainly not a record but for a guy that has yet to hit 40, it is still ahead of the curve.

So what is a Colonoscopy?

Borrowed from eMedicieHealth.com a Colonoscopy is:

a test to look at the inside of your colon. The colon is the large intestine and the last part of your digestive system. Its job is to dry, process, and eliminate the waste left after the small intestine has absorbed the nutrients in food. The colon is about 3-5 feet long. It travels from the lower right corner of your abdomen (where the small intestine ends) up to your liver, across your body to the spleen in the upper left corner and then down to form your rectum and anus.

The doctor will use an instrument called the colonoscope to perform a colonoscopy. It is a long (about 3 ft), thin (about 1 in), flexible fiberoptic camera that allows the doctor to visualize your entire colon.

A colonoscopy is the main way to check for diseases of the colon, such as crohns, colitis or colon cancer, and to identify or remove colon polyps.

  • A polyp is a mushroom-like growth on the inside wall of the colon or rectum.
  • Polyps grow slowly over many years.
  • Some polyps become cancerous, others do not

I actually found a fun video on YouTube of a healthy Colon as viewed through the colonoscope that you can take a look at:


Preparing for the Colonoscopy

I think most people would agree, the preparation for the colonoscopy or scope (cleaning and emptying your bowels) is far worse than the procedure itself.

Every Gastroenterologist is a bit different on the preparation procedure they would prescribe (follow your doctor’s directions), however in short, your doctor needs to clean/ empty out your colon, small bowel, and stomach to give him or her an unobstructed view of the colon’s and small intestine’s surface.  What that basically comes down to is cleaning or emptying the bowel with the help of over the counter medications and a mild laxative to get your body rolling.

Each of the colonoscopy procedures I have had (with two different doctors, although both sets of instructions were generally the same) involved being under a mild sedative, so basically you sleep through the colonoscopy procedure, and wake up in the hospital recovery room, overall pretty simple.   However, as the doctor fills your bowels with air to get a better view, you may feel a little “bloated” following the scope but otherwise, generally, the procedure is painless.

Preparing for the procedure on the other hand, my body has always put up a bit of a fight and I would consider this the worst part of having a Colonoscopy.

Although each doctor has a bit different procedure to prep for the scope, mine have typically followed the following three steps to prep for a colonoscopy

  • Step 1 – Mild Laxative (2 days before procedure) at 5 PM
  • Step 2 – Only clear fluids the day before the procedure; and through to the procedure (yes, no food however clear fluids, including soup broth)
  • Step 3 – An aggressive flush of the bowels which usually starts late afternoon the day before the procedure.

HINT: Drinking plenty of clear liquids is important to ensure you do not get dehydrated, and I would highly recommend liquids high in electrolytes such as those found in many sports drinks or ginger ale.  Unfortunately, beer does not qualify as a clear liquid, however, the goal is to drink one cup per hour while up are awake after starting the liquid prep (i.e. Pure-oDan).

My 5th Colonoscopy Procedure – A journal of the next 48 hours.

Well I am not sure how to keep this section up to date but will give it a try to keep tabs on the “preparation for my colonscopy” with a bunch of edits to the post:

Saturday June 11, 2011

  • Mid-afternoon – Well I made my trip to the pharmacy to pick up my bag of goodies – one box Dulcolax (Stimulant Laxative) and a box of Purg-oDan (Oral Purgative) or Pico-Salax.
  • 5 PM – Took two Dulcolax, now let the fun begin.  Also had a nice steak dinner with BBQ vegetables to tied me through the next 48 hours.
  • Evening – Feel a little crampy and bloated.  Once I get the kids to bed I can relax a little.
  • 2 Bowel movements by bed time. Then again, as a Crohn’s survivor – a piece of cake.

Sunday June 12, 2011

  • Hardest part with today was making breakfast for everyone and not being able to eat it.
  • Consistent feelings of slight nausea and very bloated stomach – thank you laxatives
  • Overall, bowels have been quiet; just waiting until 5 pm when I need to start taking the Purg-oDan.I am not looking forward to that one as it is always a challenge for me to keep it down.  HINT: One thing I have learned over the past few scopes, “Follow the Instructions“.  As terrible as the stuff taste, it is NOT better to dilute it with more water – more water means, more to drink!  Use the 125 ml that it recommends and simply “get-er-done”.  Otherwise it is just pure torture.
  • 5:45 PM – A little late but otherwise on track however the verdict is in, this stuff “Purg-oDan” is pure torture and defiantly exemplifies why the preparation is the worse part of the entire procedure.
  • 6:30 PM – Similar to breakfast, it is hard to make dinner without eating or nibbling.  The BBQ Chicken turned out great – figures!
  • 9:00 PM – Still pretty quiet, but a general unwell feeling.  I thought I remembered the “Purg” taking a little less time to do it cleanse.  Just wasted a bit of time on the Play Station 3.
  • 10:00 PM – Ok, three tips to the bathroom in 10 minutes.  Just in time for my second does of “Purg-oDan”
  • 11:00 PM – Second does down, but certinally worse than the first — had to hold back a few sips from coming right back out.

Monday June 13, 2011

  • 3:25 AM – A night wakening and rush to the bathroom.  Somehow I managed NOT to step on the black dog sleeping on the floor as I rushed across the room.
  • 6:00 AM – Time to get up and start the day.  My procedure had been postponed from 9:30 am to this afternoon so the biggest decision of the day is if I am going to go into work for the morning
  • 6:30 AM – Three more trips to the bathroom this morning; think the office is out of the question.  It is amazing, not much left in my body as “things” are looking pretty clear.
  • 7:30 AM – Feeling a little dehydrated — remember, be sure to drink plenty of liquids.
  • 9:42 AM – Teleconference finished, time to get settled for the day.
  • 11:40 AM – Showered and dressed and just waiting for my ride to get here.  One thing to remember, you will be given a sedative for the procedure so you will need to arrange a ride to the hospital and someone to accompany you home.  My hospital will not let me have the procedure unless my ride home signs me in.
  • 12:55 PM – Arrived at the hospital and checked in.  Waited a few minutes in the lounge before a nurse called my name and brought me to a change room.  Shoes, socks and two hospital gowns (one open to the back and a second as a make-shift housecoat).
  • 1:05 PM – Interview with the nurse, medical history, medications, blood pressure (think my first one was 200 over 96; another arm much better at 120 over 80  didn’t think I was that nervous about today).  

    Another suggestion – bring a list of your medications, it is easier to remember.  I always have them stored in the notes section of my iPhone, and more recently under the Health Application.
  • 1:15 PM – Intravenous time (a piece of cake, even with my little veins).
  • 2:05 PM – Escorted to the procedure room.  After a few introductions, the nurse affixed a blood pressure cuff and some oxygen and my doctor gave me a needle.  Then seconds later ……….
  • 3:00 PM – Woke up in the recovery room to a smiling nurse and offered a juice and cookies.  On previous occasions my doctor was around to give you a quick rundown, today was simply a note to make a follow-up appointment with his office.
  • 4:15 PM – The chauffeured drive home was a little uncomfortable, with a consistent escape of air — the only comfort was that I knew my bowels were empty so it could “only” be air.  Once I arrived back at home I literally stumbled straight to bed and slept until dinner.
  • 8:25 PM – As I sit here at my desk, I think I probably overdid it with dinner but it was good to have food back into my body.  Total weight loss ~ 5 LBS but I am sure that will be back on by the weekend. At the same time, Congratulations!  You survived your Colonoscopy.

Now for Some Fun

A quick overview on  the lighter side is certainly needed.  Check out this little YouTube video by comedian Billy Connolly on his recent experiences with a Colonoscopy:

What are your experiences?

No matter the reason for the scope it’s never a fun experience to say the least. I would love to her your stories about preparing for a colonoscopy to help lighten the mood.

Do you have any hints or tips to survive the 48 hours? Feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message. I would love to hear your stories.

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  1. hi mark im going for a colonoscopy this week and what im worried about is that i have problems with my bowls and can not move them everyday i can go a week with out moving them do you think i will have a problem with this purg-odan thanks

    • Hi Joy: Unfortunately, much like yourself I am just a patient with a bit more experience. However from what I have experienced, the purge-odan works pretty well at flushing out most systems. It basically liquefies anything in your bowels. That being said, any gasses that are trying to work through can be a bit uncomfortable, of to be honest, a little painful if they are trying to work through any obstruction. Remember those old drain-o or 30-second plumber commercials. I picture my bowels the same way, all this pressure trying to push past a blockage and then woosh.

      If you have any huge concerns I would suggest quickly calling your family doctor or specialist that referred you for the colonoscopy. They may be able to suggest a way to help with your specific condition i.e. Start a liquid diet a day Earlier. One thing I always notice that helps with clearing my bowels during the preparation is overloading my body with liquids. Helps flush out the system.

  2. Hi Mark, first thanks so much for the rundown. It was awesome. Lol I couldn’t even get that much info out of my Dad who recently had a colonoscopy.

    I’m kinda hoping you’re around and know… Is a boatload of pain normal? The Brampton Endoscopy clinic told me to take 3 sachets of purg-odan. I’ve just had #2 about an hour ago. I hurt like you wouldn’t believe. Not normal abdo cramping like with other laxatives… Actually none of that at all. But my left side is in a word, “hellish”! I have a high pain tolerance but am ready to beg my husband to take me to the hospital. My searches on google are kind of coming up empty.


    • When I first read your message was a little worried — she didn’t take all three sachets at once? However, it was through my second read that caught the “just had #2″ so was certainly less worried. Hurting — never that I have experienced, as at least how you described, well with the exception of abdo feeling like it is being rung out like a sloppy wet towel. The pain however can be sever, but I could no say it that is associated with my Crohn’s gettign beat up in the process or the cleansing. I usually describe it as feeling like someone is scrapping my insides with a razer blade — but truth be told, I am just a guy with a website that tries to textualize my illnesses so that both I can come to reality with them and to a much larger extend – hope to help others in my journey.

      If you are worried — try telehealth (1-866-797-0000) — if you are really worried, hospital — worse case it is normal pains but they may be able to give you something for the pain.

      I will send this to your email just in case the reply post does not make it there.

      GOOD LUCK!


  3. Hi Mark , Thank-you for writing your about experience ,,it really helped me to understand about the prep and purg-odan.The taste is bitter but I kept it down.I’m glad you put how long it would take to work through..mine 4hrs.The video was interesting too .Thanks again Lori

    • Hi Lori:

      I am glad to hear you found my little rant of help. I suppose there are worse procedures in this world, but still does not make it a fun experience. Good luck with your procedure and I will keep my fingers crossed that your doctor does not turn up anything but a biopsy “just becuase we are here anyway” and a few pictures for good measure.


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