My Colonoscopy Saga

Eleven years ago, I had my first colonoscopy. The gastroenterologist didn’t think it was necessary and, well, pooh poohed it, saying, “You don’t fit the profile. You’re thin, a runner.” I insisted. He snaked and removed a polyp.

Last week, I had colonoscopy number five. Yes, that’s right, number five.

A few weeks ago, I was in the office of another gastroenterologist, for a consult and to schedule the procedure. Dr. Z said that Fleet Phospho-Soda, the bowel cleanser I’d used four times, is no longer available, banned because it may cause permanent renal impairment.

“So, what’s the new and improved?” I asked.

Dr. Z left the room and returned with a large box, labeled MoviPrep. I thought he would open it and give me a small bottle. You know, a sample. Instead, he began to remove the contents, a plastic container and packages of whatever. Dr. Z told me instructions were included but launched into mixing this and that, filling the container to the 32 ounce line, and drinking 8 ounces every 15 minutes, followed by 16 ounces of clear liquids. About six hours later, REPEAT. In other words, I would have to drink a gallon of prep and loads of clear liquids. Yes, that’s right, a gallon.

I took the box home and shoved it in a cabinet so it wouldn’t be a reminder of binge-and-purge day. I did, however, Google MoviPrep for more information and found some interesting tidbits, especially user questions. I’ll get to these, later.

MoviPrep’s website is chock full of info.

At first, I thought the man and woman pictured were smiling. At least that’s what I concluded BEFORE drinking what I’m certain is the formula for Drano Max Clog Remover. Now, I’d testify that the two have shaken adult syndrome, their grey matter swirling in some sewage-treatment plant along with their colon, stomach, esophageal, and throat linings. Trust me.

I made a decision to be a gladiatress, though, to throw myself into the arena and spend the day before the day before on a fast, to force my body, rather than solid food, to battle with the active ingredients. I chose to eat a light breakfast of yogurt with maple syrup two days prior to the probe. I drank lots of water, some juice, and fat-free chicken broth. I referred to this as pre-prep day. On prep day, I had black coffee for breakfast. Then, I combined the two packages with water in the plastic container. Shake, shake, shake, and refrigerate. A few hours later, I poured eight ounces into a beautiful goblet. This is called psychology. I began to drink. “Yummy,” I told myself. But it wasn’t. Salty, sweet, and slightly thick, it tasted like something that could melt concrete or remove wallpaper paste and, well, the 5 to 10 lbs. of feces (FYI) in every foot of five to six feet of colon. Yes, that’s five to six feet.

Fifteen minutes later, I drank more—again and again until the container was empty. Then, I made the other batch and put it in the fridge, for later. Within an hour, my bowel howled, “Let the games begin.” I’m talking extreme sports, which, according to Wikipedia, “often involve speed, height, a high level of physical exertion, and highly specialized gear or spectacular stunts.” Had there been a panel of judges, I’d have received high scores in technical merit, required elements, and presentation.

Okay, this stuff is badass, and just when I’d drink something clear, anything to try and remove the flavor that would cling to my taste buds for several days, I’d experience a certain twitch, one heralding the onslaught of hydraulics. All I could think about during each and every medieval rampage was the other portion of liquid plunger chilling in the fridge. That and regretting there was no mud flap on the toilet.

Then, it was time to REPEAT. I listened to Jesse Hill’s inspiration. During this encouragement, I completed the second installment, gagging my way across the finish line.

Soon, I met the angel riding the whirlwind that directs the storm (John Page to Thomas Jefferson). But I wasn’t as productive this round. I felt nauseous, so I drank more water, hoping to put down my lendings (apologies to John Cheever). Even Jesse Hill could do nothing about the stasis. Finally, I turned off the lights and went to bed, yearning for the good ole days of Fleet Phospho-Soda. How sick is that?

Once at the center and with an IV drip plugged into my hand, I pondered life through the rear view. I think someone said, “Soon, this will be behind you.” An imaginary friend, a voice in my head?

At the closing ceremony, event images were presented. There, in color, was the dreaded polyp, along with a note that said: “Dear Ms. Beattie: Follow up with Dr. Z. Colonoscopy one year.”

“No thanks, Dr. Z, unless someone develops a better prep. I don’t care what the biopsy reveals.”

The prep is worse than imaginary bedbugs, so much scarier. Truth is MoviPrep is an invasion, not an occupation. Probably, Dick Cheney, George Bush, and Donald Rumsfeld created it in their torture laboratory where George keeps that fetus in a jar that Mommy Dearest showed him when he was a teen—you know, the mother/son bonding experience that made him pro-life. I can hear Dick, George, and Don, the evil trio. George must have said something like, “Damn right, this concoction will enhance waterboarding!”

Perhaps, they even referred to it as MoviPNAC.

Here are some of those questions I mentioned earlier, along with my answers.

1. I drank a lot of the solution and haven’t gone to the bathroom yet. What should I do? Call Ted Haggard.

2. I see yellow color in the toilet bowl and flecks. What should I do? No worries. The yellow is bile. The flecks are brain cells.

3. My bottom is sore. What should I do? If this is your only complaint, shut the f**k up.

4. I already have diarrhea. Do I still have to take the laxative? HAHAHAHA. You only THINK you have diarrhea. Just wait— and be sure your helmet is secure.

Addendum: Dr. Z just called. The red areas in my stomach—yes, I, also, had an esophagogastroduodenoscopy—are the result of gastritis. I asked about the polyp. “We lost the polyp. I thought I told you that. We couldn’t biopsy it, because we lost it.”

“We? What’s this ‘we’ shit?”

Again, I told him to come up with a different prep if he wants my business. And, then, I called my friends to tell them my polyp had gone missing. A sense of humor is a dangerous thing to waste.

MISSY BEATTIE lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her email address is


Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: