Why My Husband’s Colonoscopy Scared the Crap Out of Me Too

In our house, this year has been a season of firsts, though none of them are things we’d want to post about on Facebook: receiving AARP invites, getting comfortable saying the “F” word in public (“I’m Fifty”) and having mandatory medical exams below the waist.

My husband had his first colon cancer screening a few weeks ago and because he has type 1 diabetes, when I shopped for his pre-exam prep day groceries I bought all the foods he could eat in sugar-free form. Popsicles, Jell-O… actually that was it. Popsicles and Jell-O were the only solid foods on the list. But I bought so many different flavors of popsicles and so many different colors of Jell-O, I made it look like the biggest feast I could.

The day before his exam he ate only the popsicles and Jell-O and managed just fine. He came home from work, checked his blood sugars (80), mixed up the pre-exam cocktail (aka medicated beverage that works like an enema) and settled in on the couch to wait.

After about an hour, the prep kicked in. But as soon as it started “working” my husband’s CGM sounded off and his blood sugars began dropping. Fast.

His typical low blood sugar treats are gummy bears, but he couldn’t eat them because of the pre-exam food restrictions, and we also weren’t sure if glucose tabs would be okay. The only sugar-filled clear liquids we had in the house were apple juice and Sprite, so he downed a couple bottles of each. His numbers went from 40 to 55, but he was only partway through the prep.

This continued on for another hour or so – continuously chasing dropping blood sugars with more apple juice and Sprite. But he was so full from chugging the prep, more juice was the last thing he wanted.

We scrambled through the house trying to find something sugary he was allowed to eat, but we were limited to clear liquids, popsicles and Jell-O. I know I could have run out to the store for regular popsicles but everything happened so fast, and I was nervous to leave the house. I eyeballed the glucagon that’s been in our cabinet for 12 years and wondered if it was still good, and if it was time to use it.

He was still fully alert, so instead we broke out a box of granulated sugar and he started downing it by the spoonful. I prayed it would do the trick, but part of my brain was already imagining fire trucks and ambulances with sirens blaring speeding up to the house. After about six tablespoons of straight sugar his numbers crept up from the 50s to the 90s and he made it through the night (and the procedure the next day) with no other issues.

There are many things my husband has no problem asking about (how do you turn a refrigerator into a kegerator…what’s the biggest TV I can buy at Costco…why are people still eating Jell-O) but I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to be the guy who asked too many questions at the doctor’s office. In hindsight he (or even me) probably should have checked to see if there were any special considerations for people with diabetes for this type of procedure.

It was dicey there for a moment, but we did learn a few things:

  • Even if you are having what might seem like a routine procedure, if it’s new to you, ask your medical team if there’s anything special you need to know about or anything that should be handled differently because of your diabetes.
  • Don’t forget about the DOC (the Diabetes Online Community) like we did. Check to see if anyone who’s had the procedure before has any advice or tips.
  • It’s also a good idea to have non-expired glucagon in the house and know how (and when) to use it. In this month’s Dose of Dr. E, Dr. Edelman shows us how it’s done.
  • After years of living with diabetes there’s still a lot to learn, and that’s okay. It helps to share experiences with one another, offer advice, tips, laugh, cry, maybe even throw things against the wall occasionally, and most importantly remember we’re all doing the best we can.

So onward to the next adventures our over-50 life will entail…installing a kegerator, getting screaming discounts at Denny’s and watching Survivor on 85 inches of HD.


Do you have a personal story you want to share with TCOYD? We’d love to hear it! Email lynne@tcoyd.org if you’re interested.


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    what is a CGM–some sort of glucose meter?

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    Thank you so much for this. The writing of it was great and the info beyond helpful.We assume,too, because the doctor has reams of info she must know everything about us. However, we forget how many people are being seen. We need to remind them and ask questions or ask them what I should know that i haven’t asked.Trouble is, for some of us, being with the doctor is a bit like test anxiety…brain freeze.

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    One of our newsletter subscribers shared the following from her experience:

    One thing not mentioned was the importance of protein in helping to stabilize BG. Broth is allowed as well as jello and popsicles but what’s not mentioned in the clear diet you get from the doctor is bone broth. Bone broth has 10g of protein in one cup vs standard canned broth at 1g. A type 1 prone to lows, I drank bone broth on the clear diet and it helped. My gastroenterolgist said it was fine. Many people don’t realize not all broths are created equal as far as protein.

  4. Steve:

    I’m at my desk at work with a “to-do” list next to me — and first on that list is to call and schedule my first (EEEEK!) colonoscopy. Now I’m freaked out about this — I’d never EVER thought about not being able to rebound from a low using food like I’ve done for years.

    Do you have any other insight for us as what to do during a colonoscopy prep? I’d rather spend a day a bit high with my blood glucose than dip into the 40’s and 50’s like Lynne’s husband did.

    Thanks! (And thanks, Lynne, for sharing this story!)


    • Hi Kevin,
      It’s okay to tolerate slightly higher blood sugars the day of the prep, and you can also cut back on your basal insulin (whether you’re on a pump or injectable). And if you do happen to get low, there’s no problem with drinking liquids.

      • Hi Dr E
        I am a type one diabetic with a colonoscopy scheduled next week. I use Humalog in my tea slim pump.
        What is your recommendation for reducing dosing?
        Does the Cavite induce hypoglycemia??
        Should I be asking for a different type of prep?
        Should my clear liquids be all sugar-free, and if not, what percentage?
        Janet King

        • I would simply put your pump in exercise mode and let it shoot for 150 while you’re fasting and getting the procedure. Works great.

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    I am a type 2 and when I did my colonoscopy I started to bottom out also and called our on call services for Kaiser Hospital and they were able to give all the same information that Lynne’s husband got and I was able to bring my BG back up to a safe level.

    • I’m sorry you had that experience too – glad it worked out ok and good thinking to call the on-call services at Kaiser!

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    Lynne, the experience I had with my last and I mean LAST oscopy was a real nightmare. We were approaching our 50th wedding anniversary so you know my age 70. Have Type 2 for 10 yrs then am functionally Type 1 for another 10 yrs. complications of abdominal adhesions create constipation. Anyway, using insulin short and long acting, on libre 2 monitor. Needed a 2 day prep due to insufficient prep in a prior study. I ended up in hospiital after falling (losing consciousness) three times. Blood sugars bottomed out………….prep completed in hosp and was told if needing another oscopy I would need to be hospitalized. Changed over to Dexcom CGM and better control now. Also changed endocrinologist. Self advocacy is key…….keep well. Geri Spencer

    • Oh my goodness Geri, what a frightening experience! I don’t know why there isn’t more guidance given beforehand on these procedures for people with diabetes. Glad you are hooked up with the Dexcom and a new endo and hope that combo continues to do well for you. Take good care!

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