I promised myself I would not write about it. I promised myself I would not write about my colonoscopy.
The reasons why piled up pretty quickly. First, there was the pun factor. Once the poo jokes start flying, almost everything seems to trigger scatological references. (If you see any in this column, it’s your potty mind, not my intent. There are some levels to which even I will not stoop.)
Then, there was the surfeit of material on the subject already floating around out there. When Katie Couric performed a great public service and saved lives (blah, blah, blah) by airing her colonoscopy on national television 10 years ago, she unleashed a flood of cutesy colon-cancer screening appeals. If you’d like to experience something only mildly less embarrassing than having a camera travel five feet up where the sun don’t shine, get a load of Peter (of Peter, Paul and Mary) Yarrow’s “Colonoscopy Song” on YouTube. Further, is there anyone in my age group who hasn’t had Dave Barry’s colonoscopy column foisted upon them? It’s like a
rite of passage when you turn 50: the AARP card comes, and then the Barry column follows. No wonder old people are crotchety.
But see, the thing is — the thing I didn’t count on when I made this promise to myself — having a colonoscopy is fun.
Yes, fun. Of course, I’m not talking about the prep, which requires a day of clear-liquid fasting and some pretty heavy-duty, er, house cleaning. This takes some planning and provisioning. Armed with my shopping list, I marched into Hannaford a couple days before my appointment. Those who had gone before me said the worst part of the experience was drinking the noxious liquid (Barry described it as “a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser”) prescribed to jump-start the “cleaning” process. As fate or luck would have it, my doctor wasn’t calling for that stuff. I got to use a flavorless, over-the-counter product called Miralax, enhanced by four Dulcolax tablets. The only catch was that I would have to down all 14 doses of it, mixed with 64 ounces of Gatorade, in a single two-hour sitting.
When I couldn’t locate exactly what I was looking for (there are an alarming number of something-laxes out there), I fetched the pharmacist, who led me directly to the products. “Oh, these are very popular,” she said over her shoulder, giving me a not-unkind look that conveyed, I know where you’re going, and I know what you’re getting.
Next was my fasting menu. By the time I hit the checkout, I had in my cart one package of chicken bullion, one bottle of apple juice, two boxes of Jell-O (no red, purple or blue), and the aforementioned evacuation-cocktail ingredients. That’s all I can eat? I thought, rattling the meager contents around. I’ll never make it.
But, of course, I did, and I’m going to spare you the rest of the Technicolor details. (OK, if you need a visual, picture the Drano vs. hair-clog commercial.) Instead, let’s flash forward to the recovery room.
I’d been given what’s called a conscious sedative, meaning I was supposed to be able to stay awake and watch the procedure (oh, goody) without feeling anything. Instead, I remember nothing after getting booted up until I was gently roused from sleep by a nurse, who was asking me what I’d like for my post-procedure snack. I wanted to answer, but she was too beautiful, and the gurney was too comfortable, and there was my darling, darling, darling husband by my side. Hello, darling. Hello, kitty.
Still, she went down the list: breakfast bar, cookie, cracker, prime rib, chimichanga, trout almandine. I chose the first item, and oh, my friends, did I choose wisely! That was the best breakfast bar and the best cranberry juice I’ve ever tasted. Such crumbledy-gooey goodness. Such bright-red, sweet-tart excellence. I could’ve stayed in my johnny on my gurney for the rest of the day, savoring every morsel and every single sip.
But that’s not the way it works. Eventually, John was able to get me up and dressed, although I do recall some issues with neck- and armholes. From there, I was apparently (I’m having to trust John’s account of all this) a little unsure on my feet, and careened across the parking lot until he nabbed me. I was too fast for him when we got home, however. I shot upstairs and staggered around while disrobing, until I tripped into a wall, straightened myself and said, “I meant to do that.”
Then I was out. And I mean out. I don’t think I can even call the condition I was in “sleep.” It was dark and deep and still. Every once in a while I’d drift to the surface to make sure the house wasn’t on fire or that I wasn’t lying at the bottom of the stairs, and then I’d sink back down. I haven’t had a rest so profound in years.
Even so, I can’t tell you how glad I was to hear the words “See you again in 10 years,” when the doctor called later that evening. Because, despite all that fun, once a decade is plenty for this fantastic voyage.
Elizabeth Peavey encourages all her crotchety brothers and sisters to go get a colonoscopy. It’s worth it in the end.