Turning the other cheek: Tale of a colonoscopy
It seems that every humor writer on Earth has penned an amusing account of his or her root canal, mammogram or other cringe-worthy medical procedure. Arguably, the intimate details of one’s doctor’s appointments should not be published for the masses to read. However, many unscrupulous writers before me have plucked this low-hanging fruit in shameless pursuit of an easy laugh.
While I aspire to higher moral standards as a writer, I cannot deny that embarrassing medical procedures are grounding experiences to which many readers can relate. So, realizing that publicly exposing the sordid details of my recent colonoscopy might qualify as conduct unbecoming of a military spouse, I nevertheless feel compelled to give my readers what they want.
Of course, I will tell the unsavory tale with the utmost decency and decorum — no vulgar language will be used in this story. In fact, I have gone to great lengths to provide squeaky-clean metaphors and subtle innuendos to describe the most sensitive parts.
For those who might not know, routine colonoscopies are recommended for people over 50. In theory, the procedure is relatively simple — the doctor uses an endoscopic camera to check the colon for irregularities. But in reality, this life-saving cancer screening has a way of bringing humans to the brink of all that is sacred, forcing them to confront the indignity of uncontrolled bodily functions and to stare into the deep, dark abyss of their mortality. No pun intended.
The first step in my colonoscopy journey was the dreaded pre-operative bowel cleansing. By nearly starving myself on a clear liquid diet for two days, and guzzling what seemed like a 50-gallon drum of the prescribed system-cleaning solution, which tasted like bilge water with a spritz of Lemon Pledge, I effectively relinquished all control of my bowels for the next 48 hours. Suffice it to say that I would highly recommend that anyone scheduled for a colonoscopy invest in a Mega-pack of Charmin double ply, install a splash guard on the toilet and stop wearing pants altogether.
By the next morning, my intestines were emptier than an AA meeting on St. Patrick’s Day, and I was ready for my colon’s photo shoot. At the Naval Clinic’s surgery center, I put on a hospital gown open at the back and lay on my side as instructed. The room contained various trays of instruments, an overhead spotlight, an air compressor and a long black hose wound over a metal rack. I thought I had accidentally wandered into a Jiffy Lube. But then I saw the flat-screen TV for live streaming the video of my innards and knew I was in the right place.
The doctor had decided to put me under general anesthesia rather than mild sedation, because my lower intestines were “all over the place” and would need extra probing. As I waited for the anesthesiologist to arrive, I was embarrassed about my exposed rump and middle-aged stomach that drooped onto the table like spilled pancake batter. I glimpsed the air compressor and knew that they would soon be pumping my intestines full of air and shoving heaven knows how many feet of that hose into my body.
Thank God the nurses and doctors are all strangers to me, I thought. I’d heard all the mortifying stories of uncontrolled flatulence during colonoscopies, and I was relieved that no one I knew would be there to see me turn into a human kazoo.
Just then, I heard, “Hey, Lisa!”
The anesthetist came in for a side hug, and I stared at him in shock. It was Jerry, the father of my daughter’s friend from school. I had chatted with him and his wife many times during school events. I knew he was a Navy doctor, but I had no idea that he would one day peer down at my bare backside.
The milky solution in the syringe could not hit my IV soon enough. I awoke an hour later, feeling gassy, embarrassed and woozy, but mostly relieved that my colon had a clean bill of health.
Schedule your colonoscopy screening now. See www.coloncancerfoundation.org.