We all have landmarks in our lives. Birth, first day of school, first kiss, graduation, marriages and so on.
Since I recently crossed the half-century mark last month, I did the responsible thing as a 50-year-old adult: I actually made an appointment for a colonoscopy.
And I kept it.
It took place yesterday.
I had heard that it’s no big deal. Nowadays, they give you lots of nice drugs so that the procedure is not nearly as unpleasant as it used to be. I had read Dave Barry’s hilarious account of it, which you should too. A friend of mine recently had one and she said that you’re completely knocked out during the actual procedure.
Besides turning fifty, there's also a history of colon cancer in my family. I really should have had The Procedure done sooner.
So, I actually asked my primary care physician for a referral to have it done. He should have been impressed. I scheduled it for a Monday so that I could do all the “prep” work on a Sunday and only miss one day of work.
I’ll give you a step-by-step rundown of it so that you, dear readers, will see that it’s No Big Deal. Hopefully, this might alleviate any anxiety when you, yourself, have to undergo The Procedure.
I’ve heard others say that the prep work is the most unpleasant part of the procedure and I can wholeheartedly agree with that observation.
Let’s face some cold, hard facts here.
Your colon is basically . . .well . . . a sewer. Since the colon doctor will be examining the details of your colon, all its nooks and crannies really need to be squeaky clean.
The folks appointed with ensuring the squeaky-cleanliness of your sewage system obviously have never had to try it on themselves. If they had, they would have come up with something more efficient.
It all starts with mixing this powder into a four-liter jug of water and drinking eight ounces of it every ten-to-fifteen minutes. That comes out to seventeen doses of this stuff. If you take it every fifteen minutes, that comes out to over four hours that you’ll be consuming it. I was instructed to launch this activity at noon and eat nothing all day.
Oh my goodness, it tasted like camel spit. Oh, and they give you four teeny weeny packets of assorted flavorings (lemon, lime, orange or cherry – I imagine that ‘pomegranate’ will be coming out soon) You can mix in a little packet of flavoring so that it tastes like camel spit with a hint of lime. I’ll admit that after the first couple of doses, I just wanted to get it over with so I chugged ten ounces every ten minutes.
Very soon after the first dose, the fun begins. It’s a pretty rambunctious activity. How can I explain what it’s like. . .
. . . . Have you ever seen those photos of water being released at the Hoover Dam?
That is what you’ll be doing for the next four hours. A lot. I got so tired of getting up and scurrying to the bathroom every few minutes. I just about wore out the “pause” button on my Tivo.
Very soon after the first dose, the juices run clear, but you just have to keep taking the stuff over and over and over. Finally, after about four or five hours, the flooding subsides. A dove appears with an olive branch, there's a rainbow over your toilet, and you get to take a break.
But not for long.
At 7 pm, Round Two begins. You take four laxatives and, miraculously, your digestive tract comes up with more Hoover Dam activity.
But wait! There’s more!
At 11 pm, you drink a bottle of magnesium citrate which begins the fun all over again.
Of course, you’re not supposed to eat anything the entire day. My Last Supper was pasta puttanesca at an Italian restaurant on Saturday night. Its remnants were long gone soon after I began the cleansing process.
The worst part of this whole ordeal was that I was so incredibly hungry!!! On Sunday, I pretty much watch cooking shows all afternoon long which certainly didn’t help. I wanted to hurl a shoe at Paula Deen and her barbecued pork shoulder.
My appointment was for 7 am the next morning, so I only got about three hours of sleep. Actually, I was glad that it was so early – the earlier it was, the sooner I could EAT. I was one grumpy puppy, too. A friend of mine kindly pointed that out while we were on the phone the day before.
I was under the mistaken impression that I would actually be having the procedure at 7 am.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
One nurse took down lots of information at 7 am. She made sure that I had arranged for a "Responsible Person" to take me home afterward. (I had. I had procured Iwanski to be my Responsible Person and he was diligently waiting by the phone). Then the nurse disappeared and just left me there. After a long while and thinking that I’d been forgotten, I tracked someone down and reminded them I was actually there.
Soon, another nurse handed me the dreaded hospital gown and instructed me to change into it, but to leave my socks and shoes on.
I really wish they would have told me about the socks and shoes ahead of time. I was wearing black socks and my winter boots. White socks and sneakers would have gone much better with my hospital gown ensemble. I looked even more like a dork with black socks and winter boots.
I was left alone to wait some more. My grumpy self finally asked another nurse to please get the show on the road.
I wanted pizza.
After another wait, I was placed on a rolling bed, wheeled into the examination room and hooked up to an I.V., a heart monitor and a blood pressure thingie.
Then, the nurses got word that the colon doctor had been called away on some sort of colon-related emergency. There must have been an exploding, run-away colon on the other side of the medical center.
I was un-hooked from everything and left to lay there for over an hour.
While I was lying there, I got to worrying that the colon doctor wouldn’t be able to do the procedure at all that day. I would be SO ANGRY if the nurse came in and told me to go home after I had gone through the tedious process the day before, taken time off work, and had asked Iwanski to be a Responsible Person.
I expressed this concern to the nurse and she assured me that they had never sent anyone home without having the procedure done.
During that hour, I got to thinking how fortunate I was to even have good health insurance; to have the opportunity of having someone stick a tube four feet inside me to make sure everything’s okay. So many people in this world die long before the age of fifty.
I got to thinking about my own mortality. I’ve had a happy and a very interesting, entertaining life so far. But yes, one day it will all end.
I was getting into some pretty heady thinking. Being in hospital, hooked up to lots of equipment that goes ‘beep’ will make you do that.
After over an hour, the elusive colon doctor appeared and things quickly got underway. “Alright! Let’s rock-n-roll,” I joyously exclaimed.
Normally, they give you enough happy-drugs to knock you out so that you’re pretty much unconscious during the procedure. I was actually very interested in it and really wanted to view it all on the monitor. I told that to the doctor and he said they could give me less of the joy-juice; enough to sedate me a little but enough so that I could be fully conscious.
Then I got to thinking, “What if we come across something really alarming during the examination? Like a weasel.”
The last thing you want is to hear your gastroenterologist exclaim, “Oh my god! Look at that!” while you’ve got four feet of tubing up your backside.
Boy, I have to tell you that those drugs sure make you feel fantaaaaastic. I really wish I could have just laid there and partied a good bit longer, but before I knew it we were looking at my insides on the monitor. It was like I had obtained a really good movie from Netflix.
The doctor was explaining where we were along the roadmap of my gut: Descending colon, round the corner, transverse colon, (no weasels so far), turn the corner to the ascending colon and down to where my appendix used to be. Then, we got to watch the whole thing in reverse. I have to admit that as we went along, I was admiring the cleanliness of my handiwork from the day before.
The nice doctor said my colon looked very healthy. As he finished, he said, “Okay. See you in ten years!”
Now, keep in mind that I was conscious during the procedure. Normally, you’re completely unaware of anything. Even conscious, there was very little discomfort – only a little crampy feeling on occasion.
I got dressed and a nurse deigned to supply me with apple juice which I greedily sucked down. Iwanski appeared right on cue very much like the Responsible Person he is, and we went home.
I procured a double cheeseburger and fries on the way.
As I began to eat my cheeseburger, it hit me: I had just obtained a clean bill of health, maybe due to the fact that I very rarely eat cheeseburgers. Or maybe I was just lucky. At any rate, most of it went down the trash chute. I had a garbanzo bean and spinach curry on brown rice instead. (I had prepared it the day before while having to fast.)
So, there you have it. The dreaded colonoscopy is really nothing to dread at all. It’s also a big relief to know that everything’s okay down there.
So, please, don’t put it off.
Get it done.
Now, I can look forward to happy and dependable service for years to come . . . for me, and my colon.