Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Kinky Colonoscopy

The defining mark of turning half a century, my first colonoscopy. When my doctor said I needed to have one done, I was less than thrilled. But I was resigned. If colon cancer is caught early, it can be successfully treated and cured. And, the only way that is possible is to do a search-and-rescue up your behind.

I made my appointment for a Monday. I was to limit what I ate for the week, fasting the last day before the procedure. I was warned that if I wasn't completely cleaned out, I'd fail the test and have to come back to repeat it. Fearing being a failure, I did exactly as I was told.

By Sunday, I felt like I had been in the hunger games. I was dreaming about fajitas with guacamole on the side. At 6 o'clock that night I was to drink the first dose of the nuclear laxative aptly called MoviPrep. I read the directions and mixed two bags of powder--Bag A and Bag B--with a quart of lukewarm water.

Remember those suckers grocery stores used to give kids in the checkout line? If you found a bunch of those--the green lemon-lime ones--all stuck together under your car seat, unwrapped each one, placed them in a jug of warm water overnight and then stirred in a cup of salt in the morning, you'd have what tastes the equivalent to MoviPrep. Awful stuff. 

After an hour, I had finally gacked it all down.  I went downstairs, telling my husband and son that I was going on a private retreat and that under no circumstance were they to visit. I lit a few candles, placed several magazines strategically in the bathroom, and found a movie on Netflix. I watched "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead," which, ironically, is about the American diet and how it is killing them with diseases such as colon cancer. Colon cancer is rare in countries where people have plant-based diets.

Thirty minutes into the movie, I finally felt the need to go. I can only describe what happened next as traumatic. I didn't want to think about what would happen if I had eaten the fajitas.

By eleven, I was pretty sure that my colon was more than cleansed. It had been sterilized. I went to bed, fell asleep for five hours and then got up to the alarm to repeat the whole process. Since there was nothing left inside of me, I was pooping pee.

At this point, I was so hungry I felt like a wartime prisoner. My only comfort was that it would soon be over and I could eat again.

When I arrived at my appointment, I was told to take off all my clothes and don the gown. I went to sit in a waiting room with strangers who were also butt-naked under their gowns. We all knew we were there for the same reason. No one looked each other in the eye.

I was given an IV. From here it gets a little fuzzy. I remember singing "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles. I caught a rather unflattering view of my behind on the screen overhead before the lights went out.

The next thing I remember is opening my eyes and asking if I could have a cracker. The nurse said unfortunately, no, I would have to remain fasting. I had failed the test. They had run into a kink and couldn't finish. I was a fail? I had a kink? Yep. I would need to go for a scan that afternoon. I was given another jug to drink, this time filled with dye for the scan. Then they put me in a recovery room to wake up and pass gas along with everyone else I had seen in the waiting room earlier.

After three hours laying on my side in a dark room, it was time for the scan. I figured the scan couldn't be that bad. Just a picture, right? Oh no, the fun was just beginning. The tech said she was going to fill my intestines with air. She'd then insert a balloon to hold the air in while she took pictures. "Oh, and please don't emit any gas, while we do this." She said this all with a straight face.

I had to get into several awkward positions, somehow holding the balloon and the air in while she took the pictures. Mercifully, she finished and told me I was free to go home. Dave pushed me in a wheelchair to the car. I wasn't feeling so hot. Halfway home, I got out of the car and got sick. There wasn't anything to throw up except my tonsils.

I continued to get sick the rest of the evening. Finally, it occurred to me that this may not be normal. Maybe they had punctured my colon, and I was being poisoned to death by toxic laxative and dye. I called the resident on call. She said it was probably an effect of the anesthesia. I think it was the combined result of all the atrocities done throughout the day.

Finally, it was over. I woke up the next morning surprisingly no worse for the wear except for sore tonsils. On the bright side, I must have lost like 10 pounds. I hopped on the scale. Two.

Since I failed my colonoscopy, I was told I would need to come back in five years instead of ten. At first I said that I'd become a vegan before I'd have another colonoscopy. But I'll suck it up. There are worse things than a colonoscopy. Like having colon cancer and not knowing it until it's too late.  Thankfully, my test came back negative.

If you haven't had a colonoscopy, don't let my experience scare you. Really it isn't bad as long as they don't run into a kink in the road. Which probably would only happen to me.