My First Colonoscopy

I was a typical 50 year old male with a strong preference for ignoring personal medical issues. My philosophy has always been if I feel ok I am. If I have a headache I take something, if the headache persists I take more. If I get a sinus infection or strep throat I go to a clinic, pay cash, get some antibiotics, get well.

I had perfect cholesterol (never tested), a fine prostate (never checked) and was very content with relying upon the premise that ignorance is bliss.

Women are much more accepting of the poking, prodding and various tortures that are administered behind the closed doors of medical institutions, as it starts when they are teenagers and never ends. Men, on the other hand are low maintenance, which makes women envious while they make sure our life insurance premiums are paid and patiently wait for us to be struck down by something that was probably preventable.

Fifty is one of those special birthdays like 18, 21, 25, 30, 40 and 62 but the only thing positive about turning 50 is the alternative of never becoming 50. At 50 health and life insurance premiums increase. you get the annoying invitations to join AARP and the medical community says you are no longer on warranty.

My better half not only undergoes regular maintenance checkups but she is also a nurse and a respiratory therapist. She constantly harps about the consequences of my occasional cigar smoking but really cranked up the pressure when I turned 50 by bringing up the subject of a colonoscopy!

Three months into the colonoscopy harangue a younger, male in-law (a fireman no less) finally went to see a doctor about the red liquid that kept appearing in the toilet prior to flushing. Turned out he had colon cancer and ended up with a portable toilet in his pocket.

Knowing that he and I shared no genetic material I was prepared to dismiss this as a freak occurrence. Unfortunately, I am married to a pit bull who ultimately wrested a promise out of me that if I observed blood I would submit to the physical abuse inflicted by the appropriate specialist.

My promise was made in good faith but subject to interpretation. Everyone knows that ingesting a red food or drink item during the previous week could manifest itself in the toilet and should not be counted towards the promise.

All was well until I was sharing liquid libation with my brother-in-law and we were making drunken jokes about our perception of the invasive nature of the procedure. We agreed that occasional coloration was no big deal and that anything less than a pint was no cause for alarm. Unfortunately, our conversation was overheard and my life was permanently altered.

I couldn’t afford another divorce so an appointment was made with our family practioner who wanted to see me before I was referred to the actual perpetrator. As I still had hope the initial appointment might not result in a referral I brought a bag of tomatoes as a gift (read bribe).

The doctor thanked me for the tomatoes, advised me he had a recent colonoscopy and was clearly not sympathetic to my plight nor amused by my clever answers to his questions.

“How’s your cholesterol?”
“Perfect, ……’s never been checked.”
“Oh, Nurse Ratchett will take your blood after I’m done with you.”
“Have you had your prostate checked?”
“Only by attractive women, ha, ha.”
“Drop your pants, bend over, the further you bend over the less discomfort you’ll feel…… Feels ok to me.”

Well, that made one of us.

I found the back door examination of my prostate to be very unpleasant and it did nothing to improve my attitude about having a colonoscopy. After I gave a blood sample I went home and took a long shower.

I guess many potential victims change their minds. I base this on the speed in which I was scheduled. I was on the table within ten days.

The day before the “invasive procedure” I had to drink a gallon of “Go Lightly” (what a misnomer, Go Explosively would be more accurate) and avoid solid foods. During a six hour period I drank and discharged the gallon plus the contents of my gastrointestinal system. After the first half dozen bathroom visits (there were a total of 23) I would drink the evil potion within a few feet of the bathroom door. (Don’t plan on any other activities while drinking this stuff.)

I was emptied with twelve hours to go before my appointment at the hospital. Continuing the fast was no problem as my soreness had convinced me I never wanted to eat again.

No liquids after midnight. No coffee in the morning! Lost 8 pounds and had to be at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. The hospital requires you to bring an adult, ostensibly to drive you home, but I suspect it’s really so you’ll show up. My wife, happily, volunteered to accompany me.

Every nurse, receptionist, orderly, armed guard and doctor assured me the purging was much worse than the procedure. It might have been more convincing if one of the nurses had not asked my religious affiliation.

Sat around for an hour before changing into one of those stupid hospital gowns. An i.v. was stuck in my hand, an oxygen tube up my nose and sensors glued to my chest. The doctor walked in and talked to me for a minute or two. I opened my eyes and was in a different room.

That was it. It was over. I had no pain. I was a little groggy and had missed out on two hours of my life. I was told I sang a song or two during the procedure but I didn’t remember anything. They said they found a polyp and cut it out. (Polyps can become cancerous but mine was benign.) I got dressed, went home, watched part of a movie, then used the riding lawnmower for a couple of hours.

The only evidence I had that anything happened was my butt was greasy.

Because they found a polyp I had to go back three years later. Big deal. The worst part, other than that prostate exam, was cleaning out the day before.

Colon cancer is a life changer, assuming you survive. It’s a lot better to catch it early.

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