Better Life

Here’s Lookin’ in You, Kid

Here's Lookin' At You Kid
A few words about colonoscopies.

Allow me a couple of minutes to sell you on the following experience:

Day One: deprive yourself of anything that regular guys would consider “food.” You will receive sustenance from only clear or light-colored broths, gelatins, and non-dairy soft drinks. As your family and friends sit down to supper, you will quickly imbibe a pint of fluid that tastes like a combination of rotten raspberries and hot dog juice. Within the following hour you’ll chase that down with a quart of water and then spend the better part of the next three hours repeatedly visiting the nearest toilet.

Day Two: you amble off to the kitchen to enjoy a second hotdogberry cocktail and another quart of water. You will then be whisked away (by the designated driver of your choice) to a magical place.

Upon your arrival, you will be led to a small, curtained-off space and invited to remove your clothes, don a backless gown, and hop on a gurney. Someone will come along and insert an IV into your arm before wheeling you into what I like to call the “TV Room.” In the TV Room you will be greeted by a handful of (hopefully) friendly folks. One of them will probably be fiddling with the TV. Another will be fiddling with several feet of rubber hose that contains both a flashlight and a set of razor-sharp pincers. Yet another will be hooking a tube of mysterious white fluid up to your IV line while the rubber hose person kindly asks you to roll over on your side, affording him or her better access. As you comply, you will feel yourself feeling warm, then dizzy, then sleepy, then . . .

When you awaken, you will be greeted by a doctor eager to show you some pictures that he or she has just taken. At first glance, these pictures may look like the inside of an abandoned mineshaft but, no. You, in fact, are the star of these pictures, only instead of your smiling face, what you are looking at is the inside of your colon.

Procedures and results may vary, but this has been the general game plan for all four of the colonoscopies I have had over the past thirteen years. The process – especially the prep – is almost as enjoyable as what I have described, but do you know what is even less enjoyable?

Colon cancer.

Colon cancer is one of the three deadliest forms of cancer largely because it has either spread out of control or has metastasized to other organs by the time symptoms manifest themselves. This is why early detection is vital for all people over the age of 50, and for those under 50 (like me) who have a history of the disease in their family.

My mom put off colonoscopies until the age of 62, when she went to her doctor complaining of severe and pervasive digestive troubles. She was diagnosed with Stage IV (the worst) colon cancer that had worked its way into her liver. Within two years, she was dead.

Everyone 50 or over should speak with their doctor about scheduling a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy prep I described above comprises a relatively short investment of time (and unappetizing discomfort) that might prevent their lives from being cut cruelly short.

While I’ll never embrace the dreadful taste of the purgative solution I have to chug-a-lug with more frequency than presidential elections or Olympic curling, I find it a fair exchange for the peace of mind I receive in return. This is one case where a little, ahem, hind-sight may turn out to be life-saving foresight.