Here’s a Fun Thing to Try


Colonoscopy2imgTestI was closing in on 50 when, at my yearly checkup, my doctor asked that question we all understand to be key these days, about the medical history and cause of death of my two parents.

“My mom: heart attack,” I said “but my dad left before I was born, so I have no clue how he died.”

“Find out,” the doc said. “Do some digging if you have to.”

So, I dug. It took months, but by the time I came back I had my answer. “’Intestinal cancer’ it says on his death certificate.”

“OK, then. You’re overdue for  a colonoscopy.”

“ Hey come on,” I said, going for the joke. “I didn’t even know the guy!”

 He didn’t laugh. “A colonoscopy is indicated for anyone past a certain age either of whose parents had cancer ‘below the bellybutton’. Here are the names of some people who do this procedure. Pick one and get it done.”

So… I picked one, and in a month’s time found myself seated across from a white-haired GI doc for a little facetime. Did I have any questions? he wanted to know.

I did indeed. “My sister has had this procedure and she says it’s super uncomfortable and I should ask for medication, so I wondered: what do you give people?”

“A muscle relaxant of course, as well as a drug called Versed  which acts an amnesiac.”

“An amnesiac?! You want us to forget then, which means it MUST hurt!

“But does it, really?” I asked, hoping against hope.

“Oh, I won’t say I haven’t heard a few good groans over the years,” he answered cheerily. “I mean think about it: You’ve got a five-foot probe and…three right angles.”  

I thought about it; pictured that flexible wand and its seeing-eye fiber-optics. Then I pictured the colon itself, an inverted letter “U” that you explore by ‘driving up’ a squiggly on-ramp.

I went head anyway and booked the procedure.

When the day came the two drugs, administered in painless I-V fashion made me feel fine. Wonderful, in fact.

“Let’s see that five-foot probe!” I gamely sang.

“Here it is!,” the genial doc sang back.

I turned then to look at the monitor – and then somehow a 90 minutes swath was cut from my life. I was lying on my side and it was 8:41; then suddenly I was sitting up and it was 10:11.

I do have a vague memory of turning in protest once, but it seems more dream than memory and, as the saying goes, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a noise? If a highly ‘personal’ but beneficial experience is visited on you and you don’t remember it, can you call it uncomfortable? Maybe not.

So line up and get it done if you’re at the magical age. The dread snacks you get in the Recovery Room alone are make it all worth while.

colonoscopy fears


10 thoughts on “Here’s a Fun Thing to Try

  1. This year is my year for a repeat…it’s too bad the prep isn’t funny as I would have liked to remember your article and laugh while going through it…

    1. It’s actually not bad anymore! No 64 ounces of sludge that you have to drink. You buy two little ten ounce bottles of Citramag, divvy the stuff into into four 2 1/2 ounce portions, throw each one back like a shot of whiskey, Chase it with a cup of Gatorade or lemonade or just plain water and just see to it that you empty m the whole bottle within a 90 minute span. Then some 12 hours later you do it all again. I loved lying around and watching good tv – it’s a thing I never do!

  2. I was told that one doesn’t need it after the age of 85. I’m not sure if that sort of reprieve is a good thing for someone who might live to reach 100.

    1. Oh I remember that too! Her husband died within six months of the diagnosis because it had gone too far. Yes I have noticed that I suddenly weigh a lot less and that my tummy is GONE (though the sight of the bathroom wallpaper was kind of getting to me after while haha)

  3. i love that you embraced the process and watched tv and RELAXED!! i always wonder…WHO has time for that…. but i also did that when i was prepping… with those darn pills, all 860 of them. the last two i projectile gagged a few times before i finally got them down.
    the colonoscopy room is like being in a mechanics garage with all the hydraulic and machines and computers….and of course, the PROBE>. hope you had a wonderful slumber….

  4. My grandfather died of colon cancer so I’ve had 3 of them. While in the pre-op bed, they put me out completely. I drifted off into unconsciousness. So the experience was pleasant. Now you’ve got me thinking they wiped the whole thing from my memory, and maybe I did suffer!

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