Note: If frank discussions of medical procedures upset you, you may want to skip this post.
Admitting that we’re aging can be a difficult confession, but there are some potential problems in the anatomy that can strike viciously with increasing years, like colon cancer. If your doctor is on his game, he will suggest a preventative screening, likely a colonoscopy.
So what is a colonoscopy? Break the word into its parts and we cringe at the discovery that some doctor will insert a flexible tube into the rectum and further into the colon all the way to the appendix. At this point many people run screaming into the night with a determined shout, “Not my colon! No thank you!”
I just graduated to Colonoscopy Ace having completed my fifth procedure, and I can tell you the worst part of the colonoscopy is the preparation. For the colonoscopy to be effective the colon must be emptied and cleaned. Given the colon’s purpose we can surmise the method. A seismic event of great magnitude must be generated to force expulsion of debris and scrub the walls clean. And all of this must happen in the comfort of one’s own home.
The people who researched the need for this colon-scouring mechanism (and can you imagine the product ideas, development, and testing that went into this work?) give their triggers special names to hide the diabolical nature. This treatise will assign the inclusive title, Super Nova, to the collection of turbo-charged laxative products.
My recent colonoscopy prep involved ingesting sixteen ounces of Super Nova mixed with water. That was followed by two sixteen ounce glasses of water for a total of forty-eight ounces of liquid within one hour. Slosh. Slosh.
I will not lie and tell you that Super Nova tastes good though I have had medicine that tastes far worse. If you’ve siphoned gasoline to use in the lawnmower and kept the hose in your mouth too long, the taste of Super Nova should be familiar.
The instructions warn, “Stay near a toilet!” Reserve the room ahead and command others in the house to use a different facility. This is not the familiar #1 versus #2 contest. Colon prep has its own scale which overrides the normal laws of bathroom priority.
And the stuff is stealthy with no ominous gurglings like one might expect before a major bowel event. As the minutes ticked by I wondered if anything would happen. When that urgency strikes the nether regions run, do not walk, to the toilet. The Apollo engineers designed the Saturn V rocket used on the moon missions with 7.6 million foot-pounds of thrust. Super Nova generates a bit less but the effect is the same. Hold on for the ride of your life, and be prepared for several encores. Every morsel of food lounging in your digestive system will fight to be next out the escape hatch.
My procedure was scheduled for the Monday morning 8 a.m. slot, the doctor’s first of the day. the prep regime called for round one of Super Nova at 6 p.m. on Sunday with a second round at 3 a.m. Remember mom’s admonition about changing underwear in case one had an accident that ended in the hospital? Mom would have been proud of my squeaky clean colon. That rascal was waxed, pressed and neatly folded.
The colonoscopy is a “get naked except for your socks” medical procedure. Clothing is the first thing confiscated to prevent second thoughts. If one chooses to run it will be the streak. And the hallways, turns and doorways in the facility all look the same so the likely result of an escape attempt will be recapture accompanied by the tittering laughs of the medical staff. Imagine the receptionist telling her husband, “We had this guy try a runner today. Naked as a jay bird. Trapped him in the hallway by x-ray…”
The colon is prepped. The hard part is over. Don’t wimp out now.
Once I donned the backless gown my nurse returned. She covered me with a blanket, adjusted the bed, arranged the pillow, and expertly plumbed in an IV. I’ve had a mixed collection of experiences here, and this nurse was definitely on the high end of the comforting/calming spectrum. Smile. Be polite. Ask how her day is going. I might be just another butt in for a colonoscopy, but that does not give me the right to be a butt.
The prep space was next door to the workshop so travel time in the wheeled bed was short though I did have to pull my feet in to avoid a couple of door frames and counter tops. In the workshop at least four people scurried into position. One instructed me to roll onto my left side, and she took great care to position the target for the doctor’s benefit while keeping the rest of me covered. The pillow was re-adjusted to assure my comfort. I now had a BP cuff with its cable, at least three adhesive pads stuck to my chest with their cables, and a cannula for oxygen.
While this transpired the doctor stood beside me with one hand on my shoulder and another holding my wrist as he told me a story to help relieve my anxiety and get us all in the mood. It was a good Monday morning judging by the cheeriness in the voices around me. I felt that I was in good hands and closed my eyes.
But wait! There’s more. The anesthesiologist injected some kind of anti-nausea serum into the IV, and I felt a little tingle. Then he dropped the hammer on the Joy Juice. Oh, sweet moment of bliss. I recall saying “wow!” twice while thinking that when I woke up I would be looking at either Shawn’s face or the face of Jesus. Either way I was OK.
My role in the colonoscopy was over. I’d brought the parts but someone else was responsible for the labor. Stuff happened in that crowded little room while I butterflied through dreamland but, frankly, I did not care.
Next thing I knew I heard the angelic voice of my wife as she summoned me back to the light. And I was happy. Very happy. I think I kissed her. Well, I kissed somebody.
The nurse disconnected whatever was hooked to me, raised the head of the bed, and gave me an ice cold Coke to sip. She returned my bag of clothes and gave permission for me to get dressed. I found and installed my underwear and was ready to leave. I don’t recall much of the next minutes, but Shawn managed to get the rest of me dressed and shod.
At some point the doctor returned to give us a report. In the short three years since my last colonoscopy I had five new polyps. Colon cancer starts slowly and without obvious symptoms. I will have to stay ahead of it.
The American Cancer Society estimates 97,220 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2018. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in this country. It’s expected to cause about 50,630 deaths during 2018. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 22 (4.49%) for men and 1 in 24 (4.15%) for women. And the saddest part of all? Colon cancer can be prevented or at least detected early with proper screening.
My dad never had a colonoscopy. He ignored signs of obvious dysfunctionality in the nether regions. And he died. At the ripe old age of forty-four. Dad missed out on meeting my wife, bouncing his granddaughters on his knee, and hugging the sweetest great-granddaughter any man could have. Yes, I think about him, and that gives me the courage to put aside any discomfort and get the job done.
Men, we can wait too long, and then it’s too late. Don’t wimp out. Get checked out.
I have two beautiful daughters, a precious granddaughter, and the loveliest Wife/Mom/Grandma on the planet. To enjoy their company, I can put up with a little explosive colon evacuation and allow the doctor and his entourage to inspect the plumbing. It’s a short term inconvenience for a long-term benefit.
What about you?