The Wuss Survives His Colonoscopy

I’m home, typing in bed. My colonoscopy is over. Dr. Chang found one very small polyp, which he assumes is benign.

I am also pretty stoned right now. If this entry isn’t totally lucid, I reserve the right to come back and revise my remarks (as they say on the floor of the senate).

A number of people said the worst part would be the prep, and they were right. I ate no solid food yesterday, though I did finish a half gallon tub of ice cream.

At home, around midnight, I began to cleanse. I poured out a glass of soda from a two liter bottle of Sprite and replaced it with the contents of two small bottles of Fleet Phospho Soda.

It’s been a while since I’d had real sugared soda, so I’m not sure how the Phospho Soda changed the taste. I think I tasted the salt in it, which got stronger as I got closer to the bottom of the bottle. The Phospho Soda must be more dense than Sprite.

I knew I needed to get started fast or I’d never finish.

The first half of the soda bottle was downed in about 10 minutes. I took another hour to do the rest. That’s also about the time the effects began.

I’m not going to go into detail, but I can guarantee there’s nothing solid left in my digestive system – nothing! And, I probably lost five or more pounds.

Wow – diet secret!

By this morning I was getting apprehensive. It wasn’t one thing that worried me, it was everything. Though, if I had to choose a prime suspect for my angst, it was the IV.

Somehow, I expected it would go in my forearm and it would burn. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Actually, it went into the middle of my hand, between my wrist and fingers and didn’t hurt at all.

The doctor’s waiting room looked like… well it seemed like a doctor’s waiting room. It was only after a nurse came to fetch me, and I walked through a door to the inner sanctum, that I was transported into a hospital. That part amazed me.

The building I was in was designed to be an IBM sales office. It’s three stories tall with lots of parking. Obviously, it’s been heavily modified.

In a small prep room, the nurse began going through a questionnaire. It was the typical medical queries about medication and past procedures. By this time I was wearing an automated blood pressure cuff on my left arm and an oxygen sensor on my right middle finger. EKG probes were stuck to my chest and side.

A heart monitor blasted a rhythmic line of beeps. That, more than anything, took away any pretense of this being a ‘nothing’ process. Say what you will, this is a real surgical procedure.

John, the anesthesiology nurse came in. More questions. More forms. He was reassuring, but also had to tell me everything that might go wrong.

No one wants to hear a sentence which contains the words, “in rare cases.”

By this time I was a real nut case. I could feel myself quivering with fear. I said, “If my blood pressure isn’t high now, when will it ever be!”

I told John I didn’t want to be totally under. I wanted to be sedated, but awake. However, I would leave my actual state of consciousness to his judgment. If it seemed I was in discomfort, he could do what he felt was right.

He saw my nervousness (a blind person could have seen my nervousness) and recommended something to take the edge off before the ‘main event.’ Within a minute my anxiety was diminishing.

I was OK to walk to the operating room, though I wanted someone to hold onto.

They helped me onto the table, I got on my side and that’s all I remember.

Later John would tell me I wasn’t comfortable as Dr. Chang began his work, so out I went. I don’t remember getting to that point, but that’s exactly what I wanted him to do under those circumstances.

So, what can impart to you? After all, a colonoscopy is a life safer and recommended once you get to a certain age.

It is scary to consider a colonoscopy in the abstract. Someone is going to run a tube… many feet of that tube… into your body while taking pictures and possibly snipping polyps.

On the other hand, my apprehension was not in proportion to what actually happened. I felt no pain. I feel no pain now. There is nothing that would lead me to believe I’ve had it done.

The prep part, as everyone says, is worse than the procedure. And even it is more of a bother than anything else.

The people I dealt with today were super. They were confident and reassuring and promised not to tell anyone what I looked like with my clothes off. I hope Dr. Chang knows how important they were to me even before they were doing their real work.

It’s impossible you’re a bigger baby or more of a wuss than I am. That being said, I’m glad I had it done. I’m also glad I don’t have to do this again for another five years.

Blogger’s note: Do I have photos of my colon? Of course. I’m in no shape to scan them now, but they’ll be added to this post later.

They Call It A Procedure

I did a very grown-up thing this afternoon. I went to see a gastroenterologist in anticipation of getting a colonoscopy.

I didn’t want to be a grown-up about this (or much of anything). I suppose I have no choice. My wife, my doctor, my mother, even my sister have said the time is right. It’s been put off for years.

People have these all the time, and I have no reason to believe there will be a problem for me, but it’s still freaky. It’s freaky before the procedure&#185 and doesn’t end there.

I met Dr. Chang at his office, not far from where I live. I liked him right away. First of all, my friend/physician (aka Steve) had already vouched for him. Second, he seemed confident and smart. I like smart when it comes to medicine.

The obvious question is, why would anyone choose this less than glamorous specialty? He said, and I believe him, he was fascinated by the body’s digestive process… and then he went to explain what he meant. He sold me.

Then we went into what’s expected of me. I’ll have to limit my diet as I approach the procedure. Early that week, no more aspirin or ibuprofen. During the last day, clear liquids (though thankfully, I can continue to drink coffee).

The night before, I’ll down what I now call ‘the potion.’ You mix ‘the potion’ into a 2-liter bottle of soda and then down it all. He said it’s best served really cold and with a straw, so you can aim it beyond your taste buds.

Without going into details, I’m guessing it will start coming out as it’s going in! Maybe that’s an exaggeration. One of my co-workers offered up it sounded like a radiator flush for a car.

The doctor walked me through their facility, on the top floor of what used to be an IBM sales office building. It’s a hospital now. They might not call it that, but it’s a hospital nonetheless.

During the procedure, Dr. Chang will be looking at a TV monitor – seeing my innards through a camera. He showed me the tiny camera lens and light.

As he continued talking about the camera, all I could see was the length of the cable connected to it. Along the cable were marks and numbers. It was calibrated, much like that thing you strike with a sledge hammer at a carnival (except this didn’t have a final mark reading “Superman”).

I will go, because it’s the right thing to do. In the end (play on words unintended) I’m the beneficiary. Many of my fears are irrational. Certainly my fear of this. But, irrational or not, right now it’s real.

&#185 – In using the word procedure, I’m reminded of Bill Crystal in City Slickers. It’s the beginning of the movie and he’s in the midst of seeing his life crumble. Standing before a room of grade school kids, he says:

Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you’re a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, “What happened to my twenties?” Your forties, you grow a little pot belly you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery.