Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Doing an End Run: I Had My Colonoscopy Today

At home in Fort Worth...

If you’ve been keeping up with this rag, you know that Sandy and I have been trying to get our medical issues taken care of in anticipation of my imminent retirement and road-hitting.  After her two knee replacements, a rhinoplasty (nose job to open nasal passages) and one carpal tunnel hand surgery, she has only the other hand to be done and, oh yes…a colonoscopy.   I needed one of these as well and, as of today, mine is behind me, so to speak.  I know that writing a post on this subject may be a bit off topic in a travel blog, but I believe so strongly in the life-saving value of this procedure that I hope it influences anyone over 50 to take advantage of it and to repeat it every few years.

Now there are few medical procedures I dread more than a colonoscopy.  I must submit to these far more often than I wish, as I tend to develop polyps, an unwelcome little appendage that grows from the interior colon wall and which, if not removed, can become cancerous.  Sandy and I are at somewhat higher risk due to an incidence of this kind of cancer in our family.  Sandy’s father, a dear man, succumbed to the disease before his time, a loss that could probably have been prevented with a timely colonoscopy.

Those who decide to do the right thing and fulfill this obligation should be prepared for a few occurrences beforehand that are relatively unpleasant.  Dr. Mills (no known relation but probably a distant cousin anyway), knowing what a foodie I am, fiendishly prescribed eating exactly…nothing...for the entire day before the procedure.  I could have clearish liquids, he said, but nothing that would have any chance of being transformed through digestion into, shall we say, something that would need to be discarded from the body. 

The day of fasting made me highly respectful of our religious forbears whose participation in praying and fasting was undertaken with great deference to Biblical instruction.  On the other hand, when I try to do fasting, I become acutely cranky and even resentful of others who are eating.  Sandy, who waited as long as possible to eat something herself, surreptitiously slipped some sandwich makings out of the refrigerator. She sweetly ate it cold so as not to risk any cooking odors.  I discovered a few remnants of her meal and, obviously having forgotten how food tasted, I asked her if she enjoyed her custom-smoked turkey sandwich on an artisan baguette smeared with a decadent garlic-basil aloli and topped with fresh greens and garden tomatoes. 

“Disgusting,” she said with a scowl and sticking out her tongue.  (I don’t think I’ve ever loved her more.)

Alas, the fasting finally began to affect my mental state as my body weakened. While driving in Fort Worth later in the day, I passed a Dairy Queen and nearly lost control of the car as I hallucinated that our black Escalade was a chunk of Oreo cookie in a giant Dairy Queen Blizzard.  I decided this was a sign that I may not have fasting as a spiritual gift.

Having endured the entire day on this ridiculous fast, I was then faced with the necessity of taking a laxative and drinking within a couple of hours what appeared to be a 55-gallon drum of chemical-laced water that tasted oddly of a lubricant of some kind.  The “prep,” as the druggist called it, included little packets of flavoring that could be added to make the taste more palatable.  I added orange flavoring, which only made it taste something like mineral oil and bath salts into which someone had added a teaspoon of Tang.  It was beyond revolting.  Fortunately, my gag reflex had been suppressed by the shock, so I managed eventually to get it all down.  It wasn’t 55 gallons, of course, but it surely seemed like it.  I think I will never be thirsty again.

I won’t even mention what took place in the bathroom as a result of the ingestion of these materials.  But suffice it to say that, at the end (sorry), my alimentary canal was clear all the way to China.

The next morning’s procedure was a piece of cake compared to this.  Dr. Mills found only a very small tag that he clipped, saying it was nothing to worry about.  He also gave me a photo of the inside of my bowel, but so far no one asked to see it.  

Poor Sandy’s colonoscopy is scheduled for next week.  I hope I am as gracious and helpful as she has been for me.  Now, doesn't this make you want to go out there and get one for yourself?  

In all seriousness, please do this; it isn't as bad as I have made it out to be, and it could very well save your life.