I now have photos of parts of me I have never seen nor will ever see in person.
Last Wednesday I underwent a colonoscopy and an endoscopy, both of which were filmed. The wonders of digital photography! These are truly what can be called close up shots. Inside shots? I'll let you look at them if you really want to. I’m talking about this event because of the statistic my doctor gave me. Six out of 100 people have colon cancer. If it’s detected early, it can be zapped. If not, you’re a goner.
All went well and I've been checked out top to bottom. Or bottom to top. I wasn't aware enough to know the order of things. At any rate, it appears that, with the exception of a hiatal hernia and diverticulosis, both of which I already knew I had, I'm fine. No ulcers. Parts of me were clipped for biopsy and those parts came back negative. That’s good news.
If you’ve never had a colonoscopy, here’s how it goes. The process is so much more streamlined than it was nine years ago when I had my first one. Three days before the procedure, you stop eating nuts, seeds, berries, and red or purple food. I learned that most of what I eat is food with seeds, nuts and colored red or purple. Some green. Do you know how boring white food is?
The day before the procedure you eat no food at all. You may have bouillion or beverages except coffee (no coffee) or jello, but not red or purple jello or beverages. I think you can wear lipstick, though.
The day I didn't eat any food, only liquids, I thought about how at least three/fourths of the world every day has no food. My head ached and my brain was foggy. I knew why school students who don't have a breakfast can't think. I'm so glad for people like my friend Georga who coordinates the summer Lunch Buddies program in my town, the ones who make sure kids get something to eat when school's out. I wondered how actresses and ballerinas don’t eat day after day. A day of fasting puts abundance in perspective.
At 4:00 p.m. you swallow two Ducolax pills to start the cleansing procedure. At 6:00 p.m. you begin drinking 64 oz. of Gatorade mixed with 238 grams of Miralax. For the next four hours you spend most of your time in the bathroom, so have a fascinating book ready. I read Steve Martin’s new book, The Object of Beauty. I learned all about the buying and selling of art over the past 20 years. The Gatorade helped with my headache. I slept very well despite getting up four times during the night. The last time I had this procedure, I endured two days of fasting and a more violent cleansing, so this time I was pleasantly surprised. It’s all relative, remember.
You can drink something the morning of the procedure, up until a certain hour. No coffee, remember, and you should lay off the caffeine, too, so the nurse can find a vein. Nurses have a difficult time finding a vein on me. You’re already dehydrated and caffeine shrinks your veins even more. I drank green tea, forgetting about the caffeine. Then I started to worry because once in the past I got poked eight times by a needle and then was sent to the hospital where I think the expert there opened an artery or aorta or something similar. I don’t like getting poked even once.
Once you stop fluid intake, you wait until time to arrive at the clinic. Waiting is boring and for me with an overactive imagination, my muse on overdrive, nerve wracking. I worried about the vein issue and the minute possibility the procedure could cause a tear.
Finally we went to the clinic and I had to read and sign a waiver form that said in many different ways that if something bad happened, the clinic would not be held responsible. Of course, all the terrible things were listed, just so I could worry even more.
While we were seated in the waiting room and I was worrying, a nurse came to get a gentleman also waiting. She told him that the nurses could not find a vein on his wife and they couldn't spend any more time trying. He was to come inside to a conference room where the doctor would talk with them both. The man gathered up his things, softly saying, “Shit.” Nurses walked the wife out of the preparation/recovery room. When she saw her husband, she screamed and fell to the floor. Several more nurses came running. She flailed about and screamed for at least 15 minutes before she was upright again, calmed, and escorted into a conference room. I saw it all right over the top of the receptionist’s head, happening in the hallway. I recommend a wall be constructed there immediately. (Hello? HIPA?)
I told my husband, "This is not what I need to see (or hear) right before I go in there." I was already, with my vivid and overworking imagination, worrying about everything that could go wrong and thinking how pissed I'd be if they couldn't find a vein so I would have done all that fasting and pooping in vain.
As soon as the door closed on the screamer, a nurse opened the door and said, “Karen?” Why would a person want to go into that chamber of horrors after witnessing the scene that had just played out before me? I didn’t want to, but I stood up, kissed my husband good-bye, not for the last time, I hoped, and followed her. I was absolutely valiant.
We entered the preparation/recovery area. The nurses’ station was centered in the large room, and curtained cubicles covered three walls. A true ASS-embly line, I know my friend Jerry would say. The room reminded me of those swimming resorts in the 1930’s, with their little changing rooms and the pool in the middle. No swimming today.
The curtains drawn provide visual privacy, but every conversation up and down the walls can be heard just fine. Everyone agrees that you can’t hear but you can. We all got the same questions from the nurses who typed into the computers our answers. Our blood pressure was taken and we removed our clothing and put on the cotton gowns. The first nurse tried to get a vein. Poke, poke, poke. Nope. Wasn’t happening. I wondered if she was the one who had tortured Screaming Woman. She left and returned saying that another nurse would come to give me an anti-nausea shot and insert the IV needle. When she arrived, I told her to just use the vein in my hand. That’s exactly what she did and my vein worry evaporated.
Of course I was so nervous I had to pee, so I traipsed over to the restroom and back, holding on to the back of my gown. I knew someone would soon be seeing my butt, but I didn’t want it to be just yet.
Back at my cubicle, I lay down and waited. And waited. And waited. I don’t wait well. I used all the meditation techniques I knew to try to calm myself down. Chanting works best for me because I can focus my mind on the sound. Silence never works because I have trouble shutting off my blathering mind. I tried to chant the holy harmony chant I know, the most powerful healing chant that is the name of Jesus, but I was so nervous I forgot one of the words. I began softly singing "Amazing Grace" but then I thought I'd better shut up because everyone can hear everything from every cubicle and that's a song usually sung at funerals. Nothing else would come to my mind, so I lay there blankly. FOREVER. Almost.
Finally, a woman who looked too tiny to move my bed and me, transported me to one of the procedure rooms.
One funny thing that happened was that when all my tubes and wires were being hooked up by nurses, the song playing was, "Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's Door." I told all who were assembled I surely hoped that wasn't prophetic. They changed to another song and apologized. Somebody there needs to do some deleting from his i-pod. :-)
Electrodes were placed on my chest and one under my heart, so for a couple of days afterward, my chest read, “OO.” If you read from bottom to top, my torso read, “OOO.” Ghostly.
Jeff introduced himself to me, saying, “I’ll be assisting the doctor today.” He wore the blue smock and cap. My doctor came in to talk with me. He wore regular street clothes. Right then I figured who really would be doing the dirty work.
The doctor told me what they would be doing, which I already knew because why would I be there otherwise? He walked over to his computer and another death and dying song came from the speaker.
I removed the plastic device that held my mouth open so a tube could be inserted and told them they needed to get Elton and Leon's "Union." Jeff said, “Thanks for the recommendation. Now put the plastic piece back in your mouth.” The next thing I knew, I woke up in my cubicle.
I was so glad when I woke up and it was all over and nothing at all hurt and hasn't. Glad again when I ate dinner. Really glad when I got the news Friday of a ten-year reprieve because all biopsies came back negative.
If there is a medical procedure you should be having, then go do it. People love you and want you around a bit longer. Besides, now you get photos.