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I live with Ulcerative Colitis, greatly eased by daily medication.
I maintain a pretty normal healthy life thankfully and have no choice but to take care of myself with a clean diet and regular colonoscopies.
To date, I’ve had six colonoscopies, and, maybe, it’s the drugs, but I’ve learned to appreciate the lessons that have come from being in such a vulnerable state, time and time again.
1. Let it go.
During the colonoscopy prep, our body has no choice but to clear everything out. While it’s not exactly a pleasant experience, there is something cathartic about releasing whatever our body no longer needs and starting with a clean slate. I have learned to apply this to many things outside the bathroom: emotions, clutter, negative energy, toxic people.
2. A long, deep rest can work wonders.
Going under for a colonoscopy is one of the best naps I’ve ever taken. It is actually pretty hard to come back when it’s time to wake up. Being forced to give my body a good, proper, deep sleep is always a bonus. Who couldn’t use a long nap? The right amount of rest can greatly improve our outlook on life and help our body heal.
3. It’s better to deal with a problem early than pretend it doesn’t exist until it’s too late.
The reason for my frequent colonoscopies is to remove and test any polyps. Polyps, if left untouched, can turn into cancer. Polyps can be easily removed before they have a chance to turn into anything. It’s always better to face the truth head-on while we can still do something proactive about it.
I now pay extra close attention when I have a gnawing feeling in my gut that something is wrong or I didn’t answer an important email or it’s time to initiate a difficult conversation with a loved one. Rather than put it off and waste precious energy letting it fester, I just do it. Cut off the “polyp” before it has a chance to grow and have the conversation before it’s too late.
4. Life is better with a sense of humor.
There is nothing glamorous about a colonoscopy prep. I had my first one when my husband and I had only been dating for six months. To say it made us closer is an understatement. We have since approached many other obstacles with the same lightness and laughter.
Now, with two little boys of our own, they have a great time talking about “mommy having a test where they put a camera up her butt” and eagerly look forward to the jello we have in the fridge during my prep. The fact that they are laughing rather than worrying is music to my ears. Life is going to happen, and it is a whole lot more entertaining if we can find the humor and light in everything.
5. Angels are everywhere.
When I go in for a colonoscopy, I am usually feeling a little weak from not having eaten in 24 hours and not having slept much due to the prep. Most of the other patients in the place look like they feel the same, and the nurses and doctors have to care for all of us.
At my last procedure, I had to wait a little longer once I was changed and in my gown because the appointment before mine had gone over. As I was in my own room, hooked up to an IV, trying to gracefully stop my body from shaking, a nurse passed by the room on her way to another patient. She walked by, smiled, and then turned back around, entered my room and said, “You look like you could use a blanket.”
I accepted gratefully, and she covered me in a soft, cozy blanket. I felt like a baby who just got swaddled, and the warmth immediately calmed my nervous system and warmed my heart. Whether it has been a chatty nurse who helps keep my mind off the test, a compassionate doctor who gently assures me I’m a pro by now, or the anesthesiologist who tells me the tears falling from my eyes are completely normal, angels are everywhere.
I am often reminded of this in all places from the grocery store to the airport to my kids’ schools. I also find myself eagerly accepting the chances I have to be an angel to someone else. Especially if you are open to it, the angels and chances are everywhere.
While everyone will most likely need a colonoscopy at a certain age, I started young and just accept it as part of my life now, which is a lesson in itself. Even with no need, it’s never too early to start living life like a colonoscopy—no prep necessary.