Rearview Mirror

The Colonoscopy Chronicles

(Don’t worry, nothin’ oogie ….)

Around St. Patrick’s Day, someone at work mentioned that the odds of finding a four-leaf clover are something like 1 in 10,000. I have no idea if that’s accurate. I just know two things. 

1.) I don’t think I’ve ever found one in my life.

2.) My mother-in-law Betty found them all the time.

Before every one of Karry’s nephew’s baseball games, Betty would arrive at the ball field early and, pluck a four-leaf clover from the grass and give it to Justin before warm-ups. He tucked ‘em in the inside ring of his ballcap. By the end of the season, his cap was lined with four-leaf-clovers like Stargell Stars. Though I never asked him, I bet he felt invincible taking the field.

That story encapsulates everything you need to know about Betty Fordyce. She made everyone she met feel lucky for knowing her. 

Our hearts broke when she passed from colon cancer in 2006. 

When I went for my annual physical this year, my family doctor informed me it was time for a colonoscopy. Wasn’t psyched about the prospect, but I thought of Betty when I scheduled it. Since her Mom’s passing, Karry’s been begrudgingly vigilant with her screenings since she’s deemed higher risk.

March was Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. As the CCA reminds, about 150,000 will be diagnosed this year with this highly preventable disease. In 2018 a large study found that “colonoscopy was associated with a 61% reduction in colorectal mortality.”

Those are much better odds than finding a four-leaf clover. And, statistically speaking, much better protection, too.

Many of my friends have either turned or are approaching a big, round birthday milestone this year. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to get your screening. FWIW, the wake-up music is spectacular.

They say you always remember your first time. Just in case, I figured I’d capture a few things for, you know, posterity ….

__

Karry kicked into planning mode. She’d been through the prep a couple times before. She stocked me up with lime Jell-o, chicken broth, Italian Ice (lemon), apple juice, lemon-lime Gatorade. Made sure I knew my schedule. Made sure I’d heard from the surgery center. 

It seems a crime to me that poems don’t get written about the un-asked for Grace of such small and selfless gestures. It’s the true stuff.

She was so genuinely compassionate. 

My daughter, on the other hand ….

The day before, Emma texts Karry and me that she did really well on her PJAS entry. I assume this is a good thing. Evidently not, as it means she has to now do more work on it for the next round, which she was hoping to avoid.  

I attempt consolation, figuring Shakespeare might offer some ennobling perspective. 

Me: Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

She: Eat your Jell-O, Diarrhea Don. 

Ah, my delicate flower. 

__

Since the screening was the result of my odometer turning over, I reached out to my peer group for some expectation management. 

My friend Don texts back: Ah, it’s not so bad. You get to drop a pound or two and get in a nice nap. Also, this is one of those occasions where I’d rather be the receiver than the giver. 

This is why Don was elected class president our senior year.

__

Karry gave me a heads up that the stuff they make you drink is awful. Fortunately, I was able to leverage one of my two legitimate super powers. I can close off my nose to keep from smelling or tasting anything. When the kids were young this came in wicked handy. Changing diapers?  No problem.  Someone puke? Projectile vomit? Lemme at it. 

So, when the moment came to ingest the prep, I chugged it like a cheap beer in the TKE house basement, slammed the plastic cup on the counter and yelled, “Bam!” … causing Karry to run to the kitchen to make sure I hadn’t accidently injured myself. 

Again, poems should be written about such sweetness. 

Oh, my second super power? I have a really loud clap. Like, piercing, ear-splittingly annoying to anyone in a 100-yard radius. 

I’ve yet to find any redeemable value for it. 

__

Speaking of the stuff they make you drink, it came in two 6 oz. bottles labeled, “Bowel Prep.” 

I think they should partner with Trader Joe’s on the packaging. 

Something like this: 

Lucy Schtules’ Colon Tickler. 

I’ve already written like 10 taglines.

__

By 3:30 a.m. the second dose of Lucy’s magic elixir was working serious overtime. I was a good 15 minutes into the ‘completely-sh*tting-my-brains-out’ phase of the prep when I ran out of things to read in the bathroom. Desperate, I finally took notice of the brand name of the baby wipes that Karry had bought me special for the occasion.

“Li’l Journey.” 

Without question, this is the funniest f*cking thing I’ve ever encountered at 3:30 in the morning.  

__

Out of mercy I won’t bore you with my 10 taglines for “Lucy Schtules’ Colon Tickler.” 

Just the top three. 

3.) “I’ll give yer bowels what fer.” 

2.)  “Evacuate your premises.” 

1.) “Goochie goochie goo.“

__

Day of, they take me back, I slip into my Uniform, and then wait for an hour as the doctor’s running, um, behind.

In pre-op, it’s a bunch of open-air beds separated only by pull curtains, so there’s some visual privacy but zero audio privacy. Therefore, I’m part of every patient’s conversation being checked in. In addition to colonoscopies, they evidently do other procedures that I want to know as little about as possible. 

Nurse: So, Mary, have you had a hysterectomy? You’re not having periods anymore are you?

Mary: I’ve not had a hysterectomy, just my tubes tied. But I’m pre-menopausal, so my periods are mild. 

Me: (in my head) LaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLa! 

__ 

The anesthesiologist lets me know they’ll be starting the sedative and tells me to pick out a good dream. Next thing I know I wake up in exactly the same position I passed out in, but in a different room. Within 15 seconds, I’m stirring. My tongue inspects the inside of my mouth and finds a desert.

Nurse Liz comes over, and asks me if I’d like something to drink. She runs down the choices. 

Me: Oooh, Pepsi. 

I’m a Coke person, but Pepsi holds a special place in my heart at moments of great thirst. Always takes me back to elementary school basketball Saturday mornings at the Junior High, after which, Dad would whisk us to the Dairy Mart on Dixon Boulevard, where I’d pluck a tall 16-oz ice-cold returnable bottle from the cooler, and use the bottle opener that was fixed to the checkout counter to crack it open. For my money, ain’t nothing better than Pepsi on a thirst. 

As I sipped, I take note of the music playing in post-op. It’s The Cars. “Who’s gonna drive you home ….?”

Perfection. 

Followed by, “Hungry Like the Wolf.” 

In my post-anesthesia haze, I think to myself, “Man, I’d like to pay my respects to the DJ here ….”

A different nurse comes over and reviews the procedure’s outcome with me. I’m still a little foggy, but the general gist is that I have an ‘-osis,’ not an ‘-itis,’ which is the lesser of two evils, I gather. Though I have some ‘outpockets,’ that will need to be eyeballed moving forward. 

Once I qualify that it’s nothing serious, ‘Outpockets,’ strikes me as the funniest thing I’ve heard since “Li’l Journey.” 

Liz comes over to check on me. 

Me (slightly euphoric from the anesthesia): Liz, did you curate a Wake Up playlist for me?

Nurse Liz: Um, what?  

Me: Liz, can I ask you a question?

Nurse Liz: (unsuccessfully hiding a wince) Yes? 

Me: So, I assume, the anesthesia, it’s pretty potent stuff, yes? 

Nurse Liz: Yeah. Why? 

Me: I don’t sleep well at all. The anesthesia … was wonderful.  

Nurse Liz: It’s the stuff that killed Michael Jackson. 

Me: No way!

Nurse Liz: Yeah. Propofol. His doctor left him alone, and his heart stopped. 

Me: (processing foggily) So, it’s so potent you can only take it only so often? 

Nurse Liz: Michael Jackson was taking it every night.

Me: (piecing the plan together in my head) No sh*t? So, what you’re saying is … if I had a gajillion dollars, I could hire my own anesthesiologist … but to your good point, the vetting process would be key to make sure my doc wasn’t a ham-and-egger…. 

Nurse Liz: (speeding up my discharge, ripping out my IV [ouch!]) You can put your pants on now.

As I get dressed I begin weighing the pros and cons of putting the kids’ college savings towards hiring a personal anesthesiologist.  

Me: (by the time I’m dressed, the anesthesia has pretty much worn off, and I become aware that my window with Nurse Liz is closing) Liz, so, aside from my “outpockets,” … I essentially have the colon of a 50-year-old man? 

Nurse Liz: You have a rock star colon.

That’s maybe the nicest thing any medical professional has ever said to me. 

See, it’s not so bad. 

Listen to Lucy: Go get screened.

Goochie goochie goo. 

 

Standard