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Better Out Than In

I finally had my colonoscopy and you can read ALL about it here!

“Forgive me nurse, for I have sinned. It has been seven years since my last colonoscopy. I’m two years overdue.”

Last week, I whispered this confession to the intake nurse at the gastroenterology clinic when she asked me why I was there that day.

Of course, my colonoscopy was in arrears. We’ve been in a pandemic for two years. Except, I was supposed to get my colonoscopy when I was 55. And I was 55 for a full eight months before the lockdown.

Also, once the vaccine was widely available, we were all supposed to resume our regular health screenings. So, I can’t use COVID as an excuse.

My epic delay was due to my epic procrastination.

Regular screening for colorectal cancer is imperative. Colon cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths, but it’s also the most preventable. If the doctors can get into your colon and remove any polyps before they can become cancerous, you’re good to go.

I know the benefits of a regular colonoscopy, yet I hemmed and hawed. Why?

It wasn’t the thought of a six-foot fiber optic tube being inserted into my rectum and then remotely slid through my colon. Although I could see how that might put people off.

Medical procedures don’t scare me. I gave birth to four hockey pucks via c-section. After being sliced in half and having a baby plucked out of me, pretty much any other procedure just becomes a nice opportunity to lie down.

It also wasn’t the long colonoscopy-eve I would spend evacuating my bowels. After raising four hockey pucks, sitting on the potty for prolonged periods of time is just a nice opportunity to get off my feet.

I avoided my colonoscopy because I didn’t want to drink the laxative, or what the doctors call prep. The last time I went through the procedure (two presidents ago!) I was told to drink two gallons of the “cherry” flavored prep.

There are five kinds of liquid metals on the periodic table: mercury, francium, cesium, gallium, and rubidium. The two gallons of this alleged cherry prep juice tasted like licking a cast iron pan, or like the inside of my iPhone, or like drinking all those liquid metals combined. What it didn’t taste like was two gallons of happy-cherry-juice.

To make matters worse, I can’t chug; a disability that made me very boring at college parties. Not being able to chug means whenever I must drink something crappy, it tastes crappy all the way down.

This is why I dithered. Frankly, I couldn’t face the francium.

However, the clock was ticking, and I’ve had polyps before. I needed to get my butt in gear. When I made the appointment, my stomach seized at the thought of swigging cesium.

Good news! The prep has changed! This time, I only had to drink one eight-ounce bottle of prep the day before and another the morning prior, both followed by 32 ounces of the clear liquid of my choice. My first-choice clear liquid is always Chardonnay, but since alcohol is a no-no, I went with chicken broth and ginger ale.

The new prep was supposed to taste like cranberry. It did not. It was more like licking a stainless-steel pan, or the inside of my tv remote, or drinking gallium lite.

At least it wasn’t two gallons of gallium lite. And this Jewish girl appreciated the chicken broth chaser. Chicken soup is good for the soul and for cleaning out your colon!

After the first round of prep and broth, I settled in for an evening of television near the bathroom. The trick here is to choose a low-stakes show where it won’t matter if you miss something while you’re indisposed.

I picked “NCIS.” I thought I was watching “NCIS: New Orleans” and couldn’t figure out how they got to the Philadelphia crime scene so quickly. Did I miss a plane ride while I was in the loo?

Then, I realized I had confused the actor, Scott Bakula with Gary Cole, and this was the Washington, DC “NCIS.” Much closer to Philly, although they still got there quickly. There wasn’t traffic on I-95?

Because of the “NCIS” viewer demographic, there were two Cologuard commercials with Katie Couric. Cologuard is the colorectal cancer screening kit where you ship a stool sample to a lab. As much as I didn’t want to be in the situation I was in, I don’t think I could poop in a box and UPS it. They know me at the UPS.

Remember in 2000, when Katie Couric famously underwent a colonoscopy on television? In the video, she drank her two gallons of “cherry” prep by sucking on a lime before and after each glass like it was a tequila shot! And Katie could chug! Then, she was awake for the whole procedure! Katie Couric is a colonoscopy boss.

It made for exciting television, but Katie missed the best part of a colonoscopy: the sleep. The anesthesiologist turned me off and on like a light switch. I woke up refreshed and ready for my complimentary pretzels.

In the end, it all came out alright for me. I don’t have to go back for five years (perhaps one new president.)

I won’t procrastinate next time. Maybe by 2027, the prep will taste like fruit juice, not rubidium lite.

Published in The East Hampton Press on March 31, 2022

Photo by The National Cancer Institute

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