You may remember that 50th birthday recently… Well, that prompted a visit to the doctor for a physical, which I had not had since we moved to the mountains 8 years ago. In addition to the things to take care of (i.e. “get it over”) included the anticipated colonoscopy. He assures me that if all looked well, I would only need to repeat this every ten years. Fortunately, my father informs me that doctors do not recommend doing this after age 80, so I should only need to do this a couple more times in my life.
The process begins with the DRE. The doctor and I know this is coming, but neither choses to mention it directly. He works his way through various computer screens on which he checks and updates vital signs, discussions of symptoms, other tests he has ordered or performed. Then there is the fake out, “lower your pants” to inspect for hernias, etc. “Turn your head and cough…”. Then the instruction to turn around, bend over and put your head on the exam table. Face plant. All is either darkness or the white of the sheet, depending on whether you keep your eyes open. The silence of the exam room is interrupted by the snapping of rubber gloves, squishing of some jell, and omph. Before you know it, the doctor hands you a box of tissues without explanation, and you lay half prone, half bent, and a little baffled. Oh, that’s what those are for. Eye contact is limited as we finish the questions, before heading off to other tests. Yes, a colonoscopy is recommended for men of my age, and your prostrate is okay. $20 co-pay.
A week later, I head to the medical office of the practice which will perform the colonoscopy for my pre-procedure screening. They ask me most of the same questions, take vital sings, which have not changed, and provide me with instructions. They are all quite pleasant and set up a convenient date and time for the procedure. They phone in a prescription for the pills that I must take the night prior to the procedure. $50 co-pay, plus $60 for the pills.
The prep diet for the procedures starts 3 days before. I review the list of restricted foods, most of which are things I eat: high fiber cereals, whole grains, raw and leafy vegetables, whole nuts. Instead, I get to have white bread, white rice, pasta, clear soups, strained juices, no red dyes in stuff. At least I can have fish, eggs, milk, and plain yogurt for the first two days. I decide that creamy peanut butter fits the description of not-whole nuts.
Saturday, when we are invited to drop by friend’s in the afternoon, I stick to white wine. Sunday, I start my white toast and eggs diet. Sunday afternoon, when we are invited over to other friends, I have a glass of white wine and catch myself on the 3rd baby carrot with dip before I realize that I cannot eat any of the yummy stuff on the counter. Oh, grapes, carrots, broccoli, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, sliced tomatoes with mozzarella, and chips. Ack! Is this what folks on a diet go through? I’m at high risk of sounding snobbish here, as weight has only been an issue for me in that I have to “feed the beast” all the time to keep up with my metabolism. Linda has a good laugh.
My last toast and egg breakfast occurs the day before the procedure. From then on it’s clear liquids, soup broth (no red stuff), clear juice, tea and jello (which I pass on). I have a full schedule at work, including three pediatric treatment sessions and one pediatric evaluation, and two adult client re-evaluations, plus a few more adult clients. I think I live on the sugar in apple juice. My stomach is growling at 10 a.m. Paradoxically, the client whom I scheduled into my “lunch” break does not show up. As I sip my last chicken soup broth on the drive home, Linda mentions that chicken soup would be a good dinner option for her. I think I scowled, after consuming 1 1/2 quarts of the stuff since 10 a.m.
The hour we arrive home I start my first round of pills. Twenty horse pills, taken four at a time with 8 oz. of water in 15 minute intervals, then wait… About an hour later the volcano erupts, dribble, squirt, FAWOOSH. After the second eruption, it becomes dormant. I set the alarm for 2 a.m., at which time I complete the final 12 pills in 15 minute inervals… I sleep until 12:30 a.m. when the volcano awakens. I awake at 1:50 a.m. and turn off the alarm to avoid wake up Linda, as I go to my last round of pills and 8 oz. of water with each downing. With this size pill you need more than 8 oz. of water to get them down. The volcano sputters at 5 a.m. Is this the last gasp?
I get up at 5:35 a.m. and start the coffee pot for my driver. No urgency. Time to dress and tend to the cats, goats, and ducks. The weather radar indicates that another round of spring thundershowers will come our way today. Water, food sound a long way off. The instructions say that after the procedure the nurses will inform us of how I can resume eating. Hmmm. How to decide what to defrost for dinner without that data?
In my nutrition starved, sleep deprived, gut emptied, dry-mouthed state, Linda drives me to the hospital. The instructions are explicit that the patient is not to drive to or from the procedure. I think this is intended to prevent the risk to stopping at a diner or mini-mart on the way in.
We arrive at the Outpatient Center, at which I give the bathroom one more opportunity. Clear liquids went in & have finished coming out. Cheerful registration desk clerks send us to the next desk about as fast as we can sign papers and get to the waiting room. Linda, who may end up waiting for several hours, comments that the waiting room is nearly devoid of magazines to read. I notice the Gideon Bible next to my seat. That could keep someone busy for hours, but my name is called and we are off to room 4. The cheerful nurse introduces herself, Susan, and verifies my date of birth and name. I clarify that I go by my middle name, which once under sedation if she addresses me by my first name I am likely to respond to her as my mother, given her name. Linda clarifies that she can excuse herself for about an hour, which gives her time to run some errands. She warns Susan that my sense of humor will only get worse.
With my IV dripping and blood pressure cuff squeezing the other arm every 15 minutes, I read American Gardener for about 45 minutes. Then a surgery tech with a spiked hair cut and dry sense of humor wheels me to the operating room 14. She, the nurse, and doctor start the procedure. “We’ll give you some Demora…” I vaguely remember making a joke about not wanting to waking up to find that I have a belly button ring piercing, but am gone. Linda told me later that the doctor asked that I not vacuum the cabin today, as I carried on a long conversation about cleaning while under the influence. Cleaning has long be a refuge for my anxiety about things, so this is quite logical. When I get dementia, just give me a broom and dust rag.
I do not recall returning to room 4, getting dressed, using the bathroom (what could I have left?), talking with the doctor, driving (as passenger) past a lovely garden, so I must leave those events to hear-say. I do recall eating the PBJ sandwich, yogurt, and applesauce that I had packed last night, before Linda pulled into Subway and returned with a turkey, cheese, tomato, and lettuce sandwich on wheat bread. Yes! My recovery was underway.
According to Linda, the doctor said all looked okay. I will not need to repeat this procedure for 10 years. Whew! You probably do no want to hear about it for 10 years too.