By Larry Teren
If you are not experiencing abdominal pain or worried about getting or having colon cancer, then I guess the following story will not induce a visit to the family doctor.
Usually when someone tosses out an expression such as “movie prep” my mind harks back to the days when I would frequent movie theaters. I’m sorry, I forget that now we call them cinemas, which rhymes with… but, that’s getting ahead of the story. Anyway, I always thought a cinema was the film itself- you know, like the Spanish word cine.
Anyway, until a month ago, as far as I was concerned a movie prep meant to bring enough extra money to buy a box of popcorn, a cup of pop (or do you say soda?), chocolate covered raisins (the ones that didn’t move on their own when you put them in your hand) or Ferraro candy coated almonds. Not any more. Not after these past couple of weeks. Now, “movie prep” immediately congers up a putrid tasting medicinal preparation in advance of a colonoscopy procedure.
Just saying the word “colonoscopy” causes most men to shudder and shrink like a one or two year old clinging to their parent’s leg. Part of it is the homophobic fear of letting anyone put a tube in a place that was designed for outtake rather than intake. Another part is the fear of getting bad news that a polyp may be discovered taking up rent-free space in the colon and having to deal with its consequence- colon cancer. But, far and wide, the worst part is prepping.
I stopped eating about 9:30am the morning of the day before the exam. Anticipating what was in store for me later in the day as well as the next day at the hospital, I spent the rest of the morning nervously getting rid of extra baggage that the special concoction was supposed to do that evening after I drank it.
Any of us over the age of fifty who have gone through it (I can now say, “been there, done it”) know the set of instructions that apply. Basically it means that you have to drink the worst imaginable fluid- a lot of it- that will cause you within a reasonable period of time to run to the washroom and empty out your colon. They should also put in the instructions that you make sure you have a good book to read or crossword puzzle magazine to solve.
The stuff I was instructed to drink did not come cheap. It cost over sixty dollars and it was no deposit/no return. As for the drinking, I mixed two packages- one marked A, the other B- into a provided 33 ounce plastic bottle (nice to know that you get something you can keep for 65 bucks, huh?). I was forewarned by siblings who had already been through the ordeal that the drink would be tough to swallow. I laughed it off and thought I could handle anything.
Boy, was I wrong. The first six ounces went down okay about 6:00pm. After that it was a struggle to just sip every couple of minutes a little bit more. The thing is I was suppose to drink two full 33 ounce mixes. Yeah, sure. I barely got through 90% of the first one. Worse, it was not doing what it was advertised to do. By midnight I had forced into my mouth what dribbles I could and hoped that I would be awaken in the middle of the night to respond to nature’s call.
Oh, I woke up from a three or four hour sleep (as usual) but other than feeling a bit of being part of a human rinse cycle, there was no call to arms (or other places unmentioned). I had been warned that if I was not thoroughly prepped, the doctor would abort the mission and would have to do the thing all over again at a later date.
My older sister (she hates when I say that but the truth is what it is) drove me to the hospital and would come back when they told her to- she was also driving her husband back and forth from a different hospital for his cataract surgery. She also told me to expect the worst because I was not properly prepped.
I told the lady at the endoscopy department station the honest truth about how much of the poison I drank. She then asked some personal questions relating to how much gas was left in the tank and what octane it was. She said she would tell the doctor my answers and let me know if the mission was being aborted. She went and came back less than two minutes later and said that all systems were go even if mine wasn’t (sorry).
Led to a draped off cubicle area I was told to take off everything but my socks- they didn’t want to get sued for athletes foot- and put on a gown backwards. There is something about lying naked in a private area while female after female comes there to keep you occupied and poke around you while asking innocuous questions. (What is your name? When were you born? Why are you here? [The last one was not a metaphysical question]) I mentioned out loud a couple of palindromes (“a man, a plan a canal, panama. Able was I ere I saw Elba) and were wondering why I was talking gibberish as they had not given me the truth serum yet. I tried every cute joke I could remember while facing each new audience who was forced to deal with me. There was only one faus pax.
You see, the doctor doing the exam was a surgeon I had seen twice before in the past year for other reasons. He had been on me to finally do the procedure after putting it off for nine years. The last time I saw him, he was also training a resident. He asked if she, a young Black lady, could sit in and observe the examination. Being an exhibitionist, I approved.
While I was laying in the pre-op area, a Black lady doctor pulls back the curtain and walks into the area greeting me with a big smile. Hey, I thought she was the same one who previously had been intimate with my body parts. So, I jumped the gun and said, “hi, remember me? How are you doing? I remember you.” She replied that she had not previously worked with the doctor, that she was for the first time ever in this part of the metropolitan area. But I’m used to putting my foot in my mouth and being at a hospital I figured they could quickly extricate it.
As I was wheeled into the procedure room, three new ladies who would be helping the doctor greeted my anticipated arrival. One was the anesthesiologist. She was getting ready my general anesthesia. I explained to them that if we were making movies, being the star of the production I was going to get a 40% cut off the top. And that I had control of camera shots. At least they laughed.
The lady doing the general anesthesia placed a tube in my nose and connected another one to the clamp that had already been pricked into my right arm. She told me to breathe in and breathe out. I did so three times and that was the last thing I remembered. I woke up about 50 minutes later and the nurse told me that no polyps had been found and that the doctor would meet with me after I dressed and returned to the waiting area. They didn’t even ask me if I was now experiencing any abdominal pain- which I wasn’t.
The doctor told me that there were no polyps but that I had to come back in three to six months because he could only see clearly the top two thirds of my colon. So if anyone tells you I’m full of it, you can assuredly tell him or her that this is not correct. I am only one-third full of it. And grateful that I can eliminate worrying about colon cancer.
Thank you and drive home safely.