Woman overcomes fear to face her first colonoscopy

“I heard everyone complain that the prep was the worst part."

Filling up a glass with drinking water from kitchen tap

Cindy Whitmore had her first colonoscopy at age 60 — a decade past when the American Cancer Society recommends people have their first examination.

The Colgate, North Dakota, woman said fear played a large part in why she put it off.

“I was petrified to have a colonoscopy,” she said.

She feared being put to sleep, and she had heard punctures were a risk factor with older patients.

And of course, the horror stories about the prep didn’t help either.

“I heard everyone complain that the prep was the worst part. I wasn’t as scared of that but more fearful of the procedure,” she said.

Putting fear aside

After talking with the gastroenterology team at Sanford Fargo, Whitmore made her appointment.

“I decided to put my fear behind me and go for it. I just decided if I hadn’t gotten screened, and I could have prevented something, I would regret it,” she said.

Learn more: How to prepare for colonoscopy

Before a colonoscopy, your doctor will give you specific ways to prepare for the test such as drinking a special fluid that helps clean out your bowel. You will be asked to fast for eight hours before the procedure.

You may get additional instructions about a special diet for one to two days prior to the procedure.

“The prep was not fun, but that really was the worst part,” Whitmore said.

The colonoscopy

The day of her colonoscopy, the team at Sanford Health eased her apprehensions and nerves, Whitmore said.

“They were great. They calmed me down, explained everything and made me feel comfortable,” she said. “Dr. (Erik) Fetner was excellent. He was so professional and so kind. He took time to listen to my concerns.”

Whitmore said she never felt better when the procedure was done. She even ran errands with her husband later that same day after her discharge from the hospital.

Sanford Health recently ranked in the top 50 hospitals nationally for its work in gastroenterology and GI surgery, according to U.S. News & World Report. The ranking, part of the U.S. News Best Hospitals analysis, looked at patient safety, staffing and technology when determining excellence.

Encouraging others

With the procedure completed and a good report, she can’t believe she waited so long.

“I was really kind of embarrassed with myself that I put it off for 10 years,” Whitmore said. “The whole procedure couldn’t have gone better for me.”

Given an all-clear, she won’t need to be screened again for 10 years. She has encouraged her friends who haven’t had the procedure to talk to their doctor.

“The fears we create about it are much worse than what it’s actually like,” Whitmore said. “Just do it and put it behind you. Do it sooner than later. Talk to your doctor.

“For someone so fearful of the medical field and fearful of being put to sleep, I just had a very good experience.”

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Posted In Cancer, Health Information, Healthy Living