Let’s be honest: No one wants a camera and a hose shoved up his rear end.
And the very idea is why so many people are resistant to getting a colonoscopy, a procedure in which a doctor snakes a tube up inside you to see what business you have going on down there. Or up there, I guess.
The idea gave me the willies.
Turns out I was just being stubborn, ignorant and childish. If you’re worried about it too, don’t be. Here’s why.
When I was 49, the doctor brought up the topic as a suggestion.
No, I don’t think I will, I said.
When I was 50, he brought it up again.
Eh, I said.
Then last fall I had some sudden, severe abdominal pain. Frighteningly severe.
The pain passed, but the doctor now had allies in my wife and every relative. I lost the ability to choose. The colonoscopy was on the calendar.
I had to reschedule once. I hoped I would again.
Last Monday, I went to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription liquid you have to drink to clean your system out, which means exactly what you think it does. The pharmacist talked to me about the process and what to do and said the box had not just instructions but IKEA-like picture instructions.
Then, as I was about to leave, she said, “I hope everything comes out OK.”
Of all the pharmacists in the world, I get Lenoir’s answer to Henny Youngman.
As I walked away, she said, “Have fun.”
You stop eating solid food about two days before your procedure. My instructions said that I could have breakfast and lunch, but after that, for the rest of the day and the entire next day, I could have only certain liquids. The most satisfying of these was broth.
Surprisingly, though, broth is pretty tasty as long as you don’t get the low-sodium kind. You can keep your stomach full and stave off hunger pangs, and it tastes really, really good.
But even if you feel “full,” you won’t feel full. A belly full of broth, water, 7-Up and Gatorade feels like someone stole your stomach and replaced it with a water balloon.
So by the evening before your procedure, when you are supposed to take the medicine, you may feel like a monk. You have been abstaining. You yearn for the sensual pleasure of pizza, or cheese, or a little meat. You look forward to the procedure just to get the whole thing over with and begin feasting.
Now, the medicine: It will clean you out. That sounds scary. You may remember bouts of stomach flu when you got cleaned out. You will dread it.
Remember: You have ingested nothing but liquids for well over 24 hours. And there are no cramps like there are with stomach flu.
In the morning you will take more of the medicine. But that morning is the hardest because after drinking the medicine and prescribed amount of water, you are now done. No water, no broth, no nothing, for hours. Time has rarely moved as slowly for me as those five hours did.
By the time I reached the gastroenterologist’s office, I was eager for the procedure, because once it was done I would be free. I could eat. I had fantasies of food like prisoners and castaways have. I plotted my lunch with the eagerness of a first date.
And my eagerness was rewarded: It was the shortest wait in a doctor’s office I have had in my entire life.
They took me back to a room. There were a few questions. Did I have any questions? I did not. I put all my clothes in a bag and put on the ties-in-the-back gown. Shortly, a nurse came back, told me to lie down and covered me with a warm blanket.
When another nurse came back and took me to the room for the procedure, the anesthetist greeted me and in a cheery voice explained what she was going to do. One thing she said was the name of the drug propofol, which triggered a memory, and when she paused I said, “Wasn’t it propofol that killed Michael Jackson?
“Yes,” she said, “yes it was.”
From across the room a nurse called out, “It was a cardiologist who killed Michael Jackson!”
And on it went.
I was just joking, but the anesthetist explained aaaaaaaaaaaalll about propofol and what went wrong with Michael and his doctor.
Then they had me turn on my side, get in a certain place.
And then I was asleep. It’s almost as if I was snatched by aliens, because my memory in that room simply ends at that moment I situated myself on the bed.
The next thing I knew, I woke in a different room with Mrs. Lucas.
I was groggy. It felt a bit like being drunk, except it wore off faster.
So much worry over so little. And on the bright side, I learned a lot about propofol. The whole thing was a win-win.