It’s nothing considered nice, but is definitely necessary


If all those TV personalities can do it, so can I, I figure as I make an appointment for a colonoscopy, then decide to tell you about it. (Lucky for you I’m not a TV personality, otherwise, you would have to put up with accompanying visuals.)

First, there’s a consultation with the surgeon who will perform what is delicately called “the procedure.” I like him, which is important when you have someone looking at, well, you know. Dr. Johnson reviews the “colonoscopy instructions” with me, boldly circling the important ones – like drinking LOTS of fluids after downing Fleet Phospho-Soda the evening before the procedure. And let’s not forget, “applying a protective layer of Vaseline on your buttocks to avoid irritation.” Doc can’t seem to stress this enough. Alrighty then.

During the next two weeks I get advice from numerous caring friends. I listen raptly to every detail. Someone tells me to apply Preparation H along with Vaseline before I drink the Fleet. Another tells me not to eat red Jell-O and to stay within 10 feet of the bathroom after I consume the magic potion. My sister says the drugs administered before the procedure are definitely worth looking forward to.

Because I’m afraid of starving and blowing away in the wind, I buy all the gourmet treats, per the instruction sheet, to be consumed on “the day before.” Juice, broth, soda, Gatorade, Jell-O (not red), popsicles, and Italian ice. Upon waking, I gulp down a tumbler of apple juice followed by a mug of tea. I miss my oatmeal and blueberries terribly. Throughout the day I snack on Jell-O, chicken broth and soda. I ignore the candy on the counter. I keep busy. By 4 p.m. I contemplate killing for a cracker. A co-worker innocently mentions supper and I send her a withering look.

Two hours later, I’m home mixing an apple juice and phospho-soda cocktail. Bottoms up! Well, that’s not so bad. It’s like swallowing a big gulp of ocean, something I’ve done before. I chase my aperitif down with 42 ounces of clear liquids and in the next 30 minutes all systems are go. I eat two Italian ices. Yes, it’s a good thing I remembered the bit about the Vaseline and Prep H. Very, very good advice.

Rumblings control the remote

One thing no one warned me about is the strange sonata that emanates from my belly for the remainder of the evening. It sounds very much like baby whales calling to one another beneath a stormy sea. As I attempt to watch “Memoirs of a Geisha,” which I’ve rented especially for the occasion, I increase the TV’s volume to drown out all those internal rumblings. Between that and pausing the DVD player to run the well-traveled “10 feet,” it’s tricky following the plot. Good thing I read the book.

Willing myself to stop using the facilities at 11 p.m., I fall into a fitful sleep, dreaming of food. I’m wide awake before dawn and slurp down my second dose of Fleet and juice. For some reason it tastes much worse than it did nine hours ago. I manage to shower, shave my legs, drink two liters of water and am even ready on time, wearing my lucky pink shirt. That 5 a.m. wake-up was none too early.

My oldest daughter drops me off at the hospital. I knit only two rows before a nurse comes to get me. In my nifty backless gown and covered with heated blankets, I doze for a few minutes, contemplating life and how much I want to live it. I think about cancer. Finally, I’m wheeled into the operating room and given the meds my sister spoke so highly of. I remember saying, “Ouch” a couple times and watching my insides on a screen.

Funny, I don’t remember being taken back to the recovery room, but there I am, munching on a muffin. Sis was right about the drugs. After being told all is well in “that department,”I instruct my daughter to beeline it to Brunswick’s premier dining establishment, Fat Boy’s, where I savor a haddock sandwich and fries. I have the rest of the day off to write this column and eat some more.

You can – and should – do it

Now you’ve heard another war story about a colonoscopy. In another five years, God willing, I’ll go through the whole rigmarole again and be grateful for it. Here’s the thing – when my dad died last year, cancer had taken his bladder, prostate and colon. I’ve lost three dear friends to colorectal cancer. Yet another friend is currently receiving aggressive treatment for this disease. In the United States, colorectal cancer takes a person’s life every 9.3 minutes. Be brave. Talk to your physician today about scheduling a colonoscopy. You can do it.

Karen Schneider is a freelance writer living in West Bath. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]