Only half of those over the age of 50 who should have a colonoscopy comply with recommended guidelines to do so, and 60% of all Americans over 50 do not utilize any screening measure for colon cancer whatsoever. Yet colon cancer kills over 50,000 of us a year and is the third leading cause of death. This screening measure reduces the colorectal cancer death rate by two thirds and by 37% for all colon related cancer.
After doing some research it appears that one of the major reasons people avoid having a colonoscopy (outside of the fact that 21 states still do not require insurance companies to cover colorectal screenings), is the “prep.”
The day before the exam, patients drink large amounts of a vile mixture and spend the better part of the night making trips to the bathroom. Though unpleasant, this intestinal purging is a critical part of the process because the more thoroughly the colon is cleaned beforehand, the easier it is to detect and remove potentially dangerous precancerous polyps.
The prep mixture I was given was called “Movi-Prep.” A bit disingenuous, I thought, as I nearly expected popcorn in the box with a video to ease the anticipation anxiety from the insertion of an endoscope into my rectum. It wasn’t. It was the vile liquid that is made all the more vile by adding a sugary flavor to make it less vile.
I was reminded of aerosol air fresheners in bathrooms; I think I’d prefer the actual odor to the actual odor perfumed like a strawberry garden.
Nevertheless, I soldiered through the experience and actually found a modicum of entertainment value, after all, as I watched my…stool (sorry, there is no better word)…gradually turn clear. I felt clean. Very clean.
You are on a clear liquid diet for 24 hours and I was forward thinking enough to know that when I was brought home after the procedure (that’s what middle-aged maintenance is called- a “procedure”) that I would be starving, so I went to the grocery store and bought a deli-sandwich and Hawaiian Punch that would be waiting for me.
Very challenging, however, to be hungry and strolling through a place where the sole function is to have everything you can imagine to eat in one place (a thought might be to do this one day earlier).
A friend drove me to the Allen Digestive Health Center in the morning. It is essential to have a driver because the Demerol that they use to make an invasive event feel less invasive will leave you in a state of conscious-unconsciousness. I’ve heard stories of people who were left alone and then went on shopping sprees and had no memory whatsoever of doing so.
An IV was inserted and all systems were GO for launch. She wheeled me into the examination room where Dr. Ravi was waiting.
I knew Dr. Ravi from fundraisers and charity balls that I host about town, and admittedly, I felt a little awkward knowing that he was about to examine the MC’s “a-s-s.” My inclination when I’m uncomfortable is to find humor and the moment called for comments that are more or less expected from a marginally funny guy. I assumed that he’d heard every joke that could possibly be made, but, as I said, I felt an obligation.
“I wouldn’t feel so cheap,” I said, “if we’d had dinner first.”
No response, but I had fulfilled my duty and was actually relieved knowing that Dr. Ravi was all business. The nurse said, “I’m administering a sedative now.” I felt nothing and looked at the tv screen that was going to feature “My Colon” in living color. Within seconds….I was out.
The next thing I remember was being told to relax until I felt good enough to put my clothes back on.
“Everything went well,” the nurse said, “Dr. Ravi will come by to give you the results. Should I tell your ride to come in?”
“Sure,” I must have said.
True to the story I was told about Demerol, I have no memory of Dr. Ravi coming back, getting dressed, getting home, getting into bed or eating my sandwich. What I can tell you, however, is that I felt great after a long nap and even better when I read the report of my clean colon.
I’m middle-aged. This is a reality for us all if we want to continue healthy lives for as long as we can.
I want to leave you with this – if you are over 50 and you haven’t had a colonoscopy, do it. The alternative is something you might not be able to live with.