My third colonoscopy was on January 27th, 2012. Anyone wondering why I remember the exact date of my third colonoscopy? Because it is also the day I got married! So romantic, I know. Today, for my third wedding anniversary (luckily with no colonoscopy) I decided it would be fun to share the story with you all. If you enjoy reading about colonoscopies you can check out my first colonoscopy experience here.
I had been dating my husband for about a year when I was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease. I was so sick for most of our relationship that I often struggled to understand why he even wanted to be with me. I was always tired, afraid to leave the house and cried myself to sleep almost every night. He supported me and helped me through the worst of my illness with gentle humor. My wedding day colonoscopy was yet another moment in which we were reminded that my illness was a non-negotiable part of the life we were starting together. Thankfully, as we celebrate our third wedding anniversary my illness, while still present, is no longer an overwhelming stress to our daily life. I am happy, healthy, and strong. I’m pretty sure if we have made it through this together, we can make it through anything.
For the first two years I spent in Brazil my treatment was entirely through SUS (Sistema Universal de Saude) which is the free, public health care that every Brazilian citizen is born with the right to use. I wasn’t even a Brazilian legal resident at this point and all of my doctor visits, blood tests, hospitalization (including medications) and even colonoscopy were free. 100% free… as in I was never charged a dime and no enormous bill showed up in my mailbox. When everyone has the right to free healthcare, exams can be hard to schedule. My doctor called the endoscopy clinic and asked if they could fit me in- they obliged. “Your appointment is at 7:00 AM on January 27th, is that OK?” My doctor asked, with the phone to her ear. I felt like that date sounded familiar for some reason…but I wasn’t about to say no and wait for 3 more months to get another appointment, “Yes,” I responded “sounds great.” It wasn’t until much later that I realized I had another important commitment on the same day. My wedding. Re-scheduling the wedding was out of the picture….if I didn’t get married I risked deportation. I had gone to Brazil on a tourist visa that would expire after six months. We were planning on getting married anyway, but the process was sped up because we wouldn’t be able to get married in Brazil if my visa expired before the big day. We were supposed to be at the courthouse at 3:00 PM… the colonoscopy was at 7:00 AM. Going to both was possible (while not ideal)… and ended up being exactly what I did.
I was already quite familiar with the process, so I already knew exactly what to do. I was already following a whole foods diet at this point… I avoided wheat, corn, and processed food, but hadn’t yet discovered the autoimmune protocol. So instead of sandwich meat and top ramen I ate bone broth and chicken breast. I made my own jello that was way more delicious than the hospital kind! When it came time for the prep (basically the cleaning of anything that might remain in the intestine) I made my own strained limeade to mix with the evil liquid (you have to strain out the pulp or it can cause problems with visibility during the colonoscopy). This time drinking the liquid was even worse. The first round went OK. But when it came time for round two each sip became a battle. I decided to try and chug the liquid to just get it over with. I victoriously finished it all….but shortly thereafter my stomach sent it all back out again. We lived in a one room apartment and the bathroom was outside. Luckily I spewed all the pre-colonoscopy liquid and limeade all over the porch instead of our floor. I was so disoriented and weak from not eating that threw a bucket of water on the mess and went back to bed. In the morning the liquid had dried into flaky white spots all over the porch making me terrified about what it was probably doing inside of me. I prayed that I was done eliminating everything and climbed on the back of the motorcycle (our main mode of transportation) and we were off to the colonoscopy clinic.
After a forty minute ride weaving through traffic we arrived and were lucky to be first in the line. There is this strange practice in public healthcare in Brazil: Instead of scheduling each person for their own time, they schedule all of the morning colonoscopies for 7:00. There is only one doctor , so all of the colonoscopies can’t happen at the same time. Of the 6 people who arrived for their 7:00 colonoscopies, I was the first to arrive… which meant I was the first to be examined. If I had arrived later, my colonoscopy probably wouldn’t have happened until 12:00 which would have made for a very groggy bride. They called me by my name and took me into a cold bare waiting room where they gave me an IV and I sat and waited for a while. I was then taken into the examination room, where I met the doctor who would be performing the colonoscopy. She was the definition of petite. Tiny hands and feet… and so short that I she had to lower the hospital bed to take my vitals. The only thing that made it clear that she was over 12 years of age was the wisdom in her eyes. One thing about her wasn’t tiny…her belly. She was VERY pregnant. I later learned that she was 7 months pregnant with twins. She asked me a few questions and mentioned that the nurse had told her it was my wedding day! “This is my first wedding day colonoscopy…. I guess we better take it easy on the anesthesia so that you remember saying I do!” I quickly responded that I wanted all of the anesthesia (if you read part 1 you know why) “As long as I am standing up on my own two feet by 3:00 it will be fine!” I assured her. The nurse injected the anesthesia through my IV and I began to feel drowsy. I didn’t lose consciousness, and was aware of the quiet voices of the doctor and two nurses but wasn’t awake enough to understand them or feel pain. After the procedure was over I was taken back to the small recovery room and my fiance came to walk me out. We then got on the motorcycle to head home and get ready for our big day! I was so drowsy on the ride home that he actually stopped a couple of times to wake me up (riding a motorcycle while under the effects of anesthesia = A TERRIBLE IDEA!).
When we arrived home it was already noon and I was already a half an hour late for my appointment at the salon. I grabbed my dress and purse and headed off to the salon where I spent the next couple hours getting my hair and makeup done. I was too nervous to eat, which normally wouldn’t be a big deal… but considering I had been basically not eating for three days I probably felt even more giddy and light headed than most brides. The salon was two blocks from the courthouse, so once I was all pretty I walked over on my own. Everything went perfectly and after the short and sweet ceremony we went to the beach to take pictures. Because neither of our parents were able to attend we didn’t have a fancy ceremony or reception but decided to have a simple barbeque for family and friends the next day. I was so glad that we had decided to have the BBQ the next day (instead of on our actual wedding day), because I was dizzy and exhausted.
The colonoscopy results showed far less inflammation than my previous colonoscopy in the USA, but the inflammation that was more severe was scattered in different sections of my colon (not the typical generalized inflammation found in Ulcerative Colitis. That, combined with the biopsy results, and the fact that I had been having other symptoms “outside of the intestine” like joint pain and sores in my mouth, made my doctor believe that my original diagnosis was wrong and that I actually had Crohn’s disease.
All things considered my wedding day colonoscopy went quite well: no fainting, pounding headache from starvation, or falling asleep and I remember the whole ceremony!
Take home Colonoscopy notes:
Check your calendar twice before scheduling your colonoscopy
Clear your schedule the day before and after your colonoscopy for resting and recovering
Don’t go to or from your colonoscopy on a motorcycle…you might fall off!