The Dreaded Colonoscopy

Photo:  Glamour shot taken while still slightly still drugged, in the Virginia Mason cubicle while waiting for Anne to come get me out of there.

Photo:  Glamour shot taken while still slightly still drugged, in the Virginia Mason cubicle while waiting for Anne to come get me out of there.

The past four days have involved a bit of whining.  I admit to this.

My clients stoically go through medical horrors.  Their family and friends often say:  they never complained.  They truly are heroes.

I on the other hand have made it one of my missions in life to tell it like it is.

This all starts several months ago.  Doctor says you're 50 (actually 53).  It's time for a colonoscopy.  I am too busy to make the appointment for several months.  But leave the paper on my desk and eventually make the call.  They suggest January 2.  I suggest this is not a good way to ring in the new year.  So we settle on today.

I won't bore you with all the details of the four days leading up to this except to say three things.

First, a vegetarian with vegan tendencies who has to eat a low fiber diet, is an oxymoron.  You have to do this for three days.  I missed popcorn the most.

Second, it is bad enough that you can't eat anything on the fourth day.  But then you have to  drink a humongous tub of bad tasting medicine water that is only drinkable if you add lemon crystal light.  Which I hope to never taste ever again.

Third, drinking  that crud results in a massive "cleanse."  If you ever hear someone bragging about voluntarily going on a cleanse (Gwyneth Paltrow is famous for this), realize that they are demented.  It is like having the stomach flu without a fever.

The day dawns bright and early because I didn't read the instructions carefully enough.  Was only supposed to drink 3/4 of the gross water at night and then the rest in the morning.  This explains why I was up during the night.  Oh well, it worked.

Anne arrives at 9.  She has to drive me there and check me in and pick me up.  Otherwise they won't do the procedure.  Liability reasons apparently.  Chalk this one up to my profession.  We are driving but I don't have the address.  Mapquest Virginia Mason downtown.  5 places pop up.  Can't remember which one to go to.  Make wrong turns.  Mapquest it again. Choose correctly.  Arrive.

Check in.  Say goodbye to Anne.  Nurse takes me into long ward.  Not a pretty suburban hospital.  Nice gritty city one.  I sit on a bed with wheels.  I can see other people on beds with wheels who are looking at me.  We are all separated or can be separated by curtains.  I hear a lot of chit chat.  So much for patient doctor privilege.  The doc behind the curtain next to me is telling a man about the polyps and hemorrhoids they removed.

What!  Who said anything about removing anything.  I thought this was just them taking a look.

The patient across from me is telling her doctor she doesn't want to be sedated at all.  He says he does about 50 nonsedated procedures a year.  He agrees not to sedate her.  I imagine this is similar to not using drugs during childbirth.  Even twenty years later, I clearly remember yelling at them to give me more drugs.

I listen to all of these conversations because I want to know what the deal is.  At the same time I'm answering the nurse's questions.  We talk about our kids (she has two), and smile a lot at each other.  I am wearing calm yoga like facade.  She doesn't realize that I'm spazzing about the prospect of something being taken out from in there.

Doctor comes to say hi.  She is wearing a cute red sweater with flowers embroidered on a peter pan collar.  She leaves.

Change into lovely hospital gown.  Put everything in garment bag.  Lie down on bed.  Bed is raised.  Bag is stowed right underneath.  Nurse finds a vein in top of hand.  Jabs it and connects it to tube for future use. I try not to look.  Hate needles.  She puts a warm blanket on me.   Wheels me down through the long curtained hall.  I resist the urge to wave at everyone as we parade over to the procedure room.

Arrive.  Junior puts a nose tube thing around head.  It feels like it is whispering air near my nose.  Doctor comes in.  Lie on left side.  And then they put me out.  Sort of.  I've asked them not to over sedate me.  So I am sort of awake.  But also not awake.  But more awake than I thought I'd be. Or wanted to be.

Thankfully I don't have contacts in so I can't actually see the screen in great detail.  But it is right in front of my face.  And my eyes are periodically open.  So I am seeing something.  And I can also feel them travelling around up under and around my stomach.  I'd like them to get on out of there.

It is over.  Wheel me back.  Doctor says everything is quite pristine in there.   (Well it should be - after what I did to make it look nice and pretty).   So nothing was taken out after all.  And before you know it I'm up and take this picture and text it to my girls.  Anne takes me home after first stopping by Whole Foods.  Where I load up on all the fiber in the world.

Go home.  Eat massive lunch.  Decide to look through the folder they've given me.  Flip through pages and there it is.  Didn't expect to see it.  A full proof sheet of vibrant colored pictures of my colon.  How sweet.

Decide to ignore orders to do nothing.  Apparently there is a risk of nausea, dizziness, and other bad things.   Get on workout gear.  Nala is shaking a little.  What is wrong.  We head out.  Basically for the next hour, I'm completely fine.  Nala is not.  It's like she's being sick for me.  Usually she's pulling me and going after dogs and squirrels and anything that is blown by the wind.

She is lagging behind.  I feel sorry for her but am hoping the run will snap her out of it.  This goes on until we are about half a mile from the house.  Suddenly she stops.   Starts gagging.   And in the middle of some nice person's sidewalk (sorry), she has a  major upheaval.   Two actually.

I'm prepared to carry her, but she manages to keep up with me as we trot down the hill.  Arrive home.  Give her some water and put her to bed.

Public Service Announcement:   The Centers for Disease Control recommend a colonoscopy starting at age 50 to screen for colorectal cancer.

If I can do it, so can you.