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How I learned the difference between a colonoscopy and a sigmoidoscopy

If the title didn’t scare you away, but you don’t care to know how my doctor’s appointment went, please read no further. If you are interested, I promise I don’t get too disgusting. At least, I hope I don’t.

After seeing the GI specialist on Monday the 14th, he scheduled me to have blood work taken and an ultrasound done on my gallbladder. So after some running around, I had all of that taken care of by 2:30 on Monday afternoon. He scheduled both an endoscopy and a sigmoidoscopy for Thursday, the 17th, giving me a helpful little “prep guide” that gave me heart palpitations just reading it. I obsessed, but tried to keep it in perspective that we were going to figure out what was going on with me.

On Wednesday I went to the pharmacy and bought myself cherry flavored magnesium citrate and two two-packs of enemas. The cashier looked at me with pity.  “Colonoscopy?” she asked when I joked “there is gonna be a party in my tummy tonight!”

“Um, no, it is a sigmoidoscopy…which is….well, I do not quite know what it is, but apparently it is different than a colonoscopy. Same end, but not as bad?” I say, unsure.

I now know that if I am ever required to do a bowel prep again, I will chill the magnesium citrate and probably mix it with ginger ale or sprite, thanks to everyone’s helpful advice when I complained how awful it tasted. Unfortunately I didn’t get the replies until AFTER I had finished, but the info was still appreciated and has been filed away for future reference. Also? Giving yourself an enema sucks. Giving yourself THREE enemas, one after another, is an experience I hope I never have to experience again. I will leave it at that, except to say the box says giving yourself more than one enema in 24 hours could be harmful. The doctors should tell you to disregard that terrifying piece of information that you read when you are partway through the SECOND enema. I finally shrugged and said “I AM going to the hospital” and went about finishing the job I was given.

I decided not to google any of the terms and just went to the hospital on Thursday morning, bright and early, Bill & the girls in tow. It was an outpatient procedure, but I was going to need him to drive me home, so they told him they would call when I was done. It worked out perfectly because the girls weren’t required to stay in the waiting room and Bill treated them to the breakfast of their choice (donuts). I checked in right before 7 a.m. and was home and in my bed by 10:30 a.m.

While I was getting prepped, the nurse explained to me the difference between a sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy. The easy answer is they only go one to one and a half feet inside for a sigmoidoscopy. With a colonoscopy they go as far as 4-6 feet. So it isn’t as invasive, but once they are in, does it really matter? All of my bowel prepping will lead me to answer: it does not.

The nurse also informed me that they use the same tube for the endoscopy as they do the sigmoidoscopy. Yes, you read that right. They use the same tube. Luckily, they do the endoscopy first, but I suppose they do clean and disinfect before they put it up my ass. I do not remember the procedure so I can’t say if I asked or not. It’s pretty crazy how I can remember seeing the camera, lying on the bed and I remember seeing the fibers of the sheets being magnified, remembered joking with the nurses and saying hello to the doctor. After that I remember having some pretty insane dreams that felt real as I was in the recovery room. A lot of them involved twitter and I kept thinking “no, that’s impossible, I do not have a computer, I am in a hospital.”

The worst part of the experience were the preparations. The hospital had warm blankets. I had drugs. I felt nice. I would go back and do it again if I had to, for my health, not for fun (though, the drugs were REALLY nice). I also slept on and off for the majority of the day once I got home. I was sore and didn’t have much of an appetite, but didn’t feel particularly bad.

As of right now I have not heard the results of the ultrasound, but the doctor gave me information to let me know how the procedure went when I was released. I have Gastritis and they took a biopsy to test for the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, as the other causes do not fit my lifestyle. Although it can be caused by stress, so there is that. I have to wait for the pathology results (1-2 weeks) and I go see my doctor for a follow-up on April 4th. They are also concerned that I may have Duodenitis which is an inflammation of the duodenum (the upper part of your small intestine). So biopsies were taken of that area as well. Now it is a waiting game.The good news is that it is not cancer or anything of major concern to the GI specialist, which makes me happy, even if I am still in pain.The sigmoidoscopy showed that my entire examined colon is normal. Which is AWESOME. Once they have the results they will be able to treat me and hopefully this will go away with preventative measures and medication.

So really, there is no change in my symptoms, except for now I have a lovely sore throat/achy body/stuffy ears to contend with on top of what is going on with my GI tract. Some would call it a cold. But, I refuse to give it that satisfaction. Yet. I’m sucking down zinc lozenges and cough drops, trying to rest as much as possible and hoping to kick whatever this is in the butt before Saturday. I do NOT want to be sick on my birthday….not again.  Although at this point, I’m sensing a higher conspiracy against me and my birthdays. I swear it isn’t mental. I’m actually happy about turning 30.



9 comments to How I learned the difference between a colonoscopy and a sigmoidoscopy

  • I just had an endoscopy back in February and they most certainly did NOT tell me that they use the same tube for other procedures. I guess it’s best that I didn’t know. Of course, as you know, they could have stolen my kidneys or sold me to a Russian mobster & I’d never have known a thing until I woke up (those drugs work FAST).

    I’d never heard of a sigmoidoscopy, so that was an interesting piece of info. Sorry that you had to learn it in a not so fun way. I hope they figure out how to help you feel better, because feeling yucky without knowing why always sucks. And not being able to eat properly, well that’s even worse.


    natalie Reply:

    I’m hopeful that the camera has a cover or something and they throw it out after each patient. Kind of like those thermometer covers the doctor’s office has? Maybe not green, but it would make me feel a heck of a lot better.

    The drugs DO work fast, I have no memory of the procedure, but remember most everything else before and after. Which is crazy, but I guess I am glad because it would have been weird to be awake for.

    I’m hopeful we will get it all sorted soon. It’s just a pain in the everywhere right now ;o)


  • I hope you get some answers and feel better soon. Medical mysteries can be frustrating.


    natalie Reply:

    Thanks, I’m positive we’ll figure something out, eventually.


  • Ugh. I will just get colon cancer. (Not really, but I’m seriously NOT looking forward to colonoscopies or a damn mammogram.)


    natalie Reply:

    Honestly, it was the anticipation that was the WORST. True, the night-long diarrhea & enema party at 5 a.m. was no fun, BUT now that I know, I know what to expect and my anxiety level will be better. That said, I’m not going to be lining up anytime soon for voluntarily colonoscopies.


  • Oh, and I hope you stop being in pain soon. PAIN SUX.


    natalie Reply:

    Thanks. Luckily (ha!) this week I have been so preoccupied with the cold that I DON’T HAVE that the other pain is not as bad.


  • I am with you google is such a useful resource


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