Caution: Possible Oversharing Ahead.
I’m very fortunate in that I have had very little experience with medical procedures of any kind in my lifetime. The only time I have personally spent in hospitals was for the uneventful births of my two girls. I have never had surgery and have never been under general anesthesia. I’ve had a couple of moles scraped off, had my wisdom teeth out with the help of Novacaine, and I had an epidural with my first child. That’s all, folks. I’m not telling you this to brag, but to assure you that I am not a veteran of the medical trenches in any way, shape or form.
The other thing you need to know is that my dad died of colon cancer, which puts me at increased risk of the disease. His initial diagnosis (years before the recurrence which sadly ended his life) was at about age 72. The medical standard of care, as I understand it, is that one should have a screening colonoscopy ten years prior to the age of first diagnosis in a first degree relative, or age 50, whichever is earlier. I’m still a few years shy of 50, but both my internist and my ob/gyn encouraged me to go ahead and get screened now. Well, OK, it started with “encouragement” a couple of years ago. Then my internist got serious and wrote an order for me, with the understanding that it just made good sense to get this out of the way. I went into passive aggressive mode for a year or so and ignored her. Then I went to see a new ob/gyn who asked, upon hearing my family history, when my last colonoscopy was. “Um, never?” She fixed me with a gimlet eye and briskly informed me that I was going, told me exactly which GI guy to call, and helpfully provided his number. (Yeah, never mind that he practices in the same group with my internist and that I knew very well which number to call…)
Well, I did it last week. It’s over with, I don’t have to do it again for five years, and as anxious as I was about the whole thing, it was totally worth the peace of mind.
Everyone says the prep is the worst part, and they are right on the money. More specifically, the bad part is the stuff you have to drink – not even so much what it makes you do. Seriously, science has almost mastered time travel – can we really not come up with a prep that is at least palatable? And the state-of-the art stuff is super-expensive, too. Insulting and ridiculous.
But OK, with the help of copious lime wedges and grim determination, I drank every drop of the vile stuff.
After that, everything was a breeze. I’m serious. The nurses and the doctor were all so nice, and they completely understood how nervous I was. They were very reassuring. I did just fine with the sedation drugs – I was a little nervous about that, because I tend to be really sensitive to any sort of medication, but other than the fact that I probably eliminated them more slowly than average (I was still feeling a little sleepy through the second day), they did not bother me at all.
So, please. If I, the ultimate chicken, can do this, you can, too. If you’ve reached the magic age or if you have risk factors but have been putting it off, make an appointment now. If you need a little shaming, think about some of your friends or family members who have had to endure surgeries, chemotherapy, worry, and uncertainty for months or years. I suspect they’d laugh in our faces for being worried about drinking a couple of liters of bowel prep.
Just do it, my friends. It’s the ultimate New Year’s resolution!