Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Fashionable Colonoscopy

Valerie says: We already know there are two dreaded C words that we feel uncomfortable pronouncing.  (You know what they are, right?)  Last week, five years after we began this blog, we were reminded there was a third: Colonoscopy.

Every year we're supposed to get a pap smear, for which we lie in an absurdly undignified position with our Lady Parts exposed to passing breezes, while the doctor pokes and prods to make sure everything is okay Down Under (no, not Australia).  And every year we're supposed to get a mammogram, during which someone we've never met before matter of factly handles The Girls, and treats them like waffles in a waffle iron.

But these indignities pale before the indignities we suffer with the quinquennial colonoscopy, beginning with the dreaded Prep.  I have made my peace with this particular ritual because one of the C words shows up occasionally on my mother's side of the family.

Colonoscopies are distasteful subjects of conversation.  Even if you had a "good" one, no one wants to know what standards you employed to reach that conclusion.  Somewhere, in reading up on the prep drink one has to guzzle (enough to put out a small kitchen fire, I'd say), I came upon the phrase "high velocity diarrhea", which conjures up all sorts of dramatic visions.

I had never seen that adjective in conjunction with that noun, and I was a bit chagrined.  Right there you know it's not something you are likely to discuss with the bridge club, no matter how attentive they seem.

As all our readers probably know, the day before the colonoscopy, you have to fast, drinking only clear liquids.  Nothing red - not even Jello - because it might confuse the test results, which meant I couldn't even rely on my favorite drink: Naked Juice's Berry Veggie, a combination of cherry puree, beet juice, carrot juice, sweet potato puree and other things that are supposed to be good for you.  That day, of course, EVERYTHING reminded me of food. (Painting by Arcimboldo, 1526-1593)

Bananas at the fruit vending stalls appeared nearly Dayglo yellow, and all the food trucks that I'd never given a second glance to were suddenly terribly intriguing.  (Photo NYU Grads in Residence)

I thought I might want something in addition to Coca Cola, lime seltzer and orange juice, so I stocked up on Campbell's Soup.

Oh, sorry.  Wrong photo.

But you're not allowed to have any solids, so I strained all the wonderful noodles and bits of chicken out, and put them in a plastic container.  I figured I'd eat them in the evening after the procedure. I also bought a favorite flourless chocolate cookie the size of a small pancake, a bag of Wise buttered popcorn, and a bottle of Berry Veggie to take with me.  The whole procedure is only supposed to take an hour, from the time you put on the no-slip socks to the time you can get up to leave, and I was assured I could eat as soon as it was over, so I made sure to pack my favorite stuff as a reward.

I'm not going to say too much about the prep.  You pretty much know the drill, right?  The solution you have to drink - and drink and drink and drink - is kind of revolting.  Your doctor will always try to tempt you by saying it comes in several flavors now, but as far as I'm concerned, if champagne is not one of them, I don't expect to enjoy it.  I had to drink the full container I'm holding in the above photo twice - once at 3pm, and again at 9pm.  That's two liters, or one and a half of the large bottles shown.  I managed the first one pretty well, but the second took forever.  The fact that the prep container has a built in handle didn't make me look on it any more favorably. For additional information, please refer to the picture of Niagara Falls near the opening of today's post.  The above photo is a fanciful recreation of the prep.  I was not wearing a hat.  In fact, I was minimally dressed, in washable clothes, and sat on a large plastic bag, 'cause ya just never know.  (Happy to say I didn't need the plastic bag.  But Murphy's Law says I would have needed it if I hadn't had it, so I covered all bases.  So to speak.)  All in all, as long as it's once every five years, I guess the prep is okay.

The last time I had this done, seven years ago (two years too long, readers!), I was asked if I wanted to watch my own procedure.   I thought it might be edifying, so I tried (there's a screen you can see while lying on the gurney), but I found it dead boring.  I mean, did you see The Great Escape?  What do you think Danny the Tunnel King (Charles Bronson) saw while he was digging that tunnel?  (Hint: why do moles have poor vision?)

It's not exactly like watching The Fantastic Voyage, where an entire space craft is shrunk to the size of a pinhead (with Raquel Welch inside it) to perform microsurgery, and the space craft gets attacked by protective red blood cells, which have mistaken it for an alien invader.

And anyway, I knew there was going to be nothing in there for me to see.  That's what all the prep was for.  I asked the anaesthesiologist why I was offered the opportunity to see this procedure, but not allowed to see the neuromectomy performed on my foot (hidden from me by a napkin-sized curtain).  He pointed out that the neuromectomy had to be performed in a sterile environment - what would happen if I'd sneezed and there had been no curtain?  A colonoscopy, on the other hand was not, by definition, a sterile environment.  Point taken.  The anaesthesiologist attached three electrodes to me: two under my clavicle, and one on my left side to monitor my heart rate (I think) during the procedure.  Then they put me out, and I had a nice nap.  When I woke up, the first thing they did was give me a package of really nice cookies.  (Sorry - I don't remember what they were.)  The second thing they did was give me my test results.

The rules specify that you have an escort home in case you are still enjoying the effects of the anaesthesia, and very fortunately for me my friend Tim di Fiore, an opera singer, lives just three blocks away from the clinic, and is not bound by the rigors of the 9 - 5 schedule, so at 9am he strolled over and got me into a cab.  Just to be on the safe side, he took the taxi with me (maybe a ten minute ride in midtown traffic).  I felt fine, so I sent him back in the same cab.  I'd love to have a picture of that, but I didn't bring my camera with me to the clinic, so I've borrowed one of Tim's publicity photos.  I want to know who his photographer is.  The halo suits him.  Thanks, Tim!!

On arriving home, I read the report.  For the first time, I had polyps, which the doctor removed and biopsied.  There were three: two "small" and one "diminutive".  (Where do you draw the line between small and diminutive?  Is a diminutive polyp cuter than a small polyp?)  I was advised to make a return trip in three to four years, instead of the previous five, probably because of the polyps, combined with my family history.

Realizing my electrodes were still attached, as was my ID bracelet, I memorialized them in the opening photo. Then I took my huge chocolate cookie, my popcorn, and my Naked Juice out of my bag, and had a feast.  I'd taken the whole day off, but by noon I was ready to enjoy the rest of the day.  I think a guy would have watched taped football.  I did the equivalent for me: I went thrift shopping.

Readers!  Get it done!  Jean says she's due for hers, too, so you're in good company.


  1. Interesante experiencia, gracias por compartir
    A la luz de amor

  2. Great commentary, witty story, thoroughly enjoyable, and may I ever be spared those indignities and inconveniences! :)

  3. Have mine tomorrow! I will be documenting it for my blog as I couldn't possibly do any better than yours. And you have better hats.

  4. Good for you. The prep is the thing that gets me. I can barely get it down.

  5. Your post should be published in an international patient education brochure! A sense of humor in necessary for this procedure.

    I am in awe of the polka dot ensemble!

  6. One of the ladies pictured in the bridge club looks so much like my grandmother my goodness the resemblance is uncanny ..Oh vay on the colonoscopy I hate them but hey we gotta have em right ? Oh vay again .

  7. Informative... I am going to take take Colonoscopy test this Sunday.. I am damn nervous