Ahh…summertime. My sweet, sweet summertime. You’re finally here, I thought to myself, as I watched a dragonfly fanning himself outside my living room window. Okay, technically, it wasn’t June 21 yet, but when temperatures get to triple digits, it’s summer. The bees were a-buzzing, the mowers were a-mowing, and life was wonderful again. Gone were the days of covering my cute blouses with jackets and sweaters; outerwear is such a buzzkill for fashion. Some jackets are stylish; but still, they are outerwear. And we all know life is not about what’s on the outside; it’s about innerwear.
As this particular summer started, our schedule began filling up more than usual; every inch of June was covered with plans. Several times a week, I glance at my calendar on the kitchen wall. Without this routine, I’d forget everything. One particular day, while reviewing upcoming events for the month, I saw parties, trips, and, of course, swimming dates. Then I saw an ominous reminder; a monumental event was scheduled smack dab in the middle of my fun fest. It would be a day of challenge. A day of new experiences. And, hopefully, a day of weight loss.
My first colonoscopy. Why I scheduled it during my most beloved season is beyond me. But there it was, in black ink. Not blue, which is the ink color used for creative writing, fun lists, and notes passed in class. But black ink – the color of taking care of business.
I’d thought long and hard about having the test done, putting it off for the previous five years. Everybody tells you about the risks involved. Then everybody else tells you about the risks of not getting checked out. Even if you don’t ask the question, the entire human race has an opinion about colonoscopies. It’s the same phenomenon as people’s opinions on politics, but not as many write about colonoscopies on Facebook.
The only opinion I sought out was from the Great Physician. When I had peace about doing the test, I confirmed my appointment. I had no nervousness, which was unusual for me. When I’d had my wisdom teeth out at age 18, I wrote a colorful Last Will and Testament before the procedure, leaving my prized possessions to my fellow college journalism students. But this time, I was calm. Of course, being much older, it could’ve been the prospect of having a nice nap that made this test more appealing. Sleep without guilt is a powerful gift.
But protocol for the test requires that no solid food is consumed the day before the procedure. Now that was a scary prospect. Since Wednesday would be my mandatory fasting day, I ate well on Tuesday, although not too well. Keeping in mind the what-goes-in-must-come-out philosophy, I didn’t want to create an intestinal Armageddon situation. But I made sure I had a snack before bedtime.
“How did you handle the clear liquid diet before this test, Flash?”
“I don’t remember,” he answered.
“It was just last year. You don’t remember not chewing for over 24 hours?”
“What about after the procedure? How did you feel?”
“Couldn’t tell you,” he replied. My husband is an abundant source of information, when the situation calls for that.
“Are you sure you were there for the test? Maybe it was your clone.”
“If only. That would’ve been great. A Colonoscopy Clone. I could’ve eaten, while he drank that drain cleaner,” Flash said, referring to the required laxative solution.
The next morning, I woke around 7:30. Frequently, I stay busy in the mornings, putting off breakfast until 11 or 11:30. I’m so distracted getting things done, I don’t feel hungry. But the Morning of No Real Food, I woke up starving.
Can’t…hang…on…much…longer, I thought to myself, at 7:31. I dragged my lethargic body to the kitchen, and opened my first carton of chicken broth. After warming it up for 30 seconds in the microwave, it tasted heavenly – my only manna in the desert of medical procedure prep. By 2:30 p.m., I’d had 80 ounces of chicken broth. But I felt strange, like when my blood sugar gets too low.
Don’t pass out. You can do this. Don’t walk toward the light, I encouraged myself. I’d already crawled to my neighbor’s house to borrow three cans of lemon-lime soda, in case I needed a sugar boost. But after drinking some of that, I still felt shaky. I knew time was of the essence. I opened the fridge again, looking for my salvation. There is was – a bottle of uncolored Gatorade we’d had for at least three months. I drank 20 ounces of it like my life depended on it. Because, of course, it did. At 2:45, I thought I might survive until Flash came home. I tried to do a few things around the house, until I realized I should conserve my energy. Movies and couch surfing were the order of the afternoon.
When Flash came in from work, he asked, “What are we doing for dinner?”
“Seriously? I’m having chicken broth.”
“So we all have to have chicken broth?”
“You want me to cook for y’all when I can’t eat any food?”
“Oh, yeah. I guess not,” the King of Sensitivity replied.
I don’t know what they ate for dinner that night; I was preoccupied. At 6 p.m., I began drinking the first bottle of Poop-Be-Gone. At first, it wasn’t too bad. But by the second gulp, it had a strange aftertaste. I wondered if the manufacturer’s adding cherry flavoring had been a bad idea. The more I drank, the harder it was to keep drinking.
Now, dear reader, I’m not a wimp. As I often tell Flash when he complains about having the sniffles, I gave birth. I have a decent pain tolerance, and lived through tasting liverwurst. But, still, I was having trouble taking the drain cleaner. Until I decided to drink it with a lemon-lime soda chaser. I took a drink of one, then the other, until the bottle was, thank God, empty.
Walking back into the living room, I announced, “Well, I got it all down. But nothing’s happening.”
“How long has it been?” Flash asked.
“About 10 minutes.”
He said nothing. Which said everything. It’s the calm before the storm, I thought. I sat down to watch TV with him, thinking the whole pre-colonoscopy process had been exaggerated by overly dramatic men of the world. As the program ended, my bowels were still serene, and I was wondering if perhaps that awful concoction didn’t work on everyone.
Then, the earth quaked as rumblings began in my nether regions “Uh-oh,” I started my play-by-play commentary for Flash’s benefit, “I’m going in.”
I disappeared for the next 20 minutes. Tears were rolling down my face as I laughed hysterically, mentally hearing Ricky Gervais, as Bertram Pincus in the movie Ghost Town, respond to a nurse’s asking if he “evacuated his bowels” after he drank a laxative solution before his colonoscopy. “It was like a terrorist attack down there in the darkness and the chaos, the running and screaming, okay?”
Finally, the deed was done. Returning to the living room, I held my fist in the air victoriously as I continued my commentary, “An eight-flusher.” We high-fived.
I slept the sleep of the calorie-deficient that night. Until 4 a.m., when I had to return to the Battle of the Bowels. Getting the second bottle of the solution down was much harder; combined with an empty stomach, I was afraid of nausea kicking in. But my soft drink chaser did the trick again, although it took an hour to finish the bottle. The Second Wave of the Great Cleanout of 2018 was much less dramatic than the first, my reward for perseverance in the face of starvation and dehydration. I mustered up the energy to shower, then waited until it was time to leave for the test.
After arriving at the clinic, I was called back to an exam room quickly. Two nurses and my doctor were gathered around a little bed. The doctor asked me a few questions about my medical history, then told me to get into position, so to speak.
“It’s funny, isn’t it?” I began my pondering. “We spend our whole lives covering our butts, and now mine is hanging out.” There was no laughter. Tough crowd, I thought to myself. But they’re probably up to their necks in butt jokes.
I asked questions about anesthesia. Whereas my concern used to be the dangers of being put under, my concern this time was making sure I wouldn’t remember this occasion, later.
“I had gum surgery one time, and they said I wouldn’t remember anything,” I explained to the nurse waiting to start my IV. “I remembered it. I remembered the needle going through my gums. When they didn’t believe I remembered, I repeated the conversation they had during the procedure back to them. Now, can you guarantee I won’t remember this colonoscopy? Because this, dear lady, I do not want to recall.”
She assured me.
“Now, when you give me that IV, I’ll feel insecure when it starts to kick in; I always feel that way when that happens. I guess it’s the loss of control. Is that normal?”
She said it was.
“So, you’ll stay with me, right?”
“Yes, I’ll stay right here.”
“Okay,” I replied, having established a close relationship with her. “Go ahead.” In less than three seconds, I went to La-La Land.
When I woke up, Cowboy and Flash were sitting beside me. As I always do after anesthesia, I woke up giddy.
“I can’t stop laughing,” I screamed.
“Well, laughing is a good thing,” one of the nurses said.
“You must be happy at home,” another commented.
Someone started talking about my colon. I didn’t know it was the doctor until Flash told me later who the voice was on my right side. She began, “We found a little polyp…”
“No. No polyps,” I demanded. “I didn’t want any polyps. That’s not okay,” I explained, as if I could’ve requested test results the way I order food at a drive-through.
“It’s okay,” she said, “we took it out.”
“Oh my gosh,” I replied.
“It’s okay. It just means you get to come back and see us in 5 years, instead of 10,” a perky, sadistic nurse added.
Why, in the name of all that’s compassionate, would a medical professional say that to a disillusioned colonoscopy patient? Thinking of my near starvation and the bottles of Hell Juice I forced down, I responded, “No, I don’t want to come back in five years. That’s awful.”
Moving right along, the doctor continued, “And we found some diverticulosis…”
“No, not the losis! I don’t want the losis,” I protested.
“It’s okay. Most people your age have diverticulosis.”
“My mom had that. Maybe I got it from her; she gave me big hips too. This is all her fault. Oh, I’m so disappointed. Everything was supposed to be perfect.”
After the doctor explained that my polyp had been sent to pathology, Cowboy and Flash left the room so I could get dressed.
“Do you need a wheelchair, or do you think you can walk?” a nurse asked.
Can I walk? Heck, lady, I can fly right now, I said to myself, laughing again. “I’ll walk,” I replied aloud.
But I clung tightly to Flash, as we made it to the car. I don’t remember the ride home, but I’ll never forget eating my Post-Colonoscopy Meal in bed, then sleeping for hours.
Two days later, the doctor’s office called with my pathology report.
“Well, you didn’t have a polyp,” the nurse explained. “You had a mucosal tag; it’s like a skin tag, but on the inside. So, you don’t have to come back for another 10 years.” Christmas had come early; I could’ve jumped through the phone and kissed that woman.
“Oh, you made my day. I’m so happy,” I exclaimed. “I don’t have to come back sooner with the diverticulosis?” I asked.
“No ma’am,” she answered.
“Ah, thank God. I can live with the losis.”
My joy was complete. I’d made it through my first colonoscopy. I didn’t die of starvation. My dignity was still intact, thanks to using humor as a survival tactic. And, contrary to what my oh-so-supportive friend Einstein had told me, I didn't gain eight pounds from all the fluid I drank. Like many things I procrastinate over because I dread them, it hadn’t been as bad as I’d imagined, and everything came out okay in the end.