Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Big "C"

  I remember when I was in my 20’s and 30’s saying there was NO WAY I was going to ever get a prostate exam. NO WAY that is, until I turned 40 and people my age and younger started getting cancer and people I went to school with started having heart attacks. Then paying to ‘get the finger’ from a doctor seemed a bit more palatable and being manly seemed a lot less important than the possibility of finding out you waited too long to know you had something serious. I didn’t think too much about this stuff until George Harrison died of lung cancer. There was a fairly young, loaded guy who couldn’t get a cure, just a couple more years. So now whenever I get a checkup, I get the prostrate check and it’s a consolation to know that my doctor seems pretty disgusted by the whole thing too.

  When I turned 50 last year, I went to the doctor for a checkup and he told me now that I was 50 I should have a colonoscopy, especially since my grandfather died of colon cancer. My grandfather was 96 when he passed away, but I trust my doctor, so I agreed to let them schedule one. I must have been a little nervous about it because I mentioned it at my Thursday chess club to a couple of the older guys and they started talking about how disgusting it was to drink this stuff they give you. Then I mentioned it to a couple of other men at work and they told me their colonoscopy stories. My head was filled with visions of drinking disgusting liquid, being hungry but not being able to eat, and having my innards ‘roto-rootered’ (as one man put it complete with a mime impression of a man with a jack-hammer), and not being able to walk straight for a week. Even my boss told me his colonoscopy stories when I told him why I needed the day off and I wouldn’t describe him as the sharing sort.

  Despite all the horror stories (and not one encouraging tale), I went for my colonoscopy as scheduled. I had to drink about a gallon of vaguely salty water which had the intended effect, but it really wasn’t all that bad. I couldn’t eat any solid food the day before, but I was allowed to have ice pops and JellO as long as they weren’t red. I love ice pops, so there were no problems there. I was able to munch ice pops till 10 at night when I wasn’t allowed to eat even ice pops. Kathy drove me to the medical center in Des Moines the next day and the doctor and nurses explained that they wouldn’t be knocking me out but giving me some drug that would keep me almost unconscious, but able to respond to their commands to roll on my side and such. Luckily, I left my checkbook at home and gave Kathy my wallet to hold.They also told me how safe it was while I was signing all the disclaimer forms (just in case). Then Nurse Craig hung around with me until the drugs took effect. Craig told me that when he got his colonoscopy, not only was he awake he was watching his colon on the TV and asking the doctors questions. This sounded pretty weird to me and I was happy to finally pass out (I think) and not have to talk to a colonoscopy groupie. I woke up later and it was all over. My colon must be in good shape because they told me I don’t need another colonoscopy for 10 more years. Nurse Craig had a big old smile on his face, but since I didn’t want to know what he was so happy about I decided to adopt a ‘don’t ask – don’t tell’ policy towards him.

  My experience was so benign, I wondered what all these horror stories I heard were all about. Maybe I’m breaking some sort of ‘man’ code by not continuing the urban legend of the horror of the colonoscopy or maybe I’m just lucky. Or maybe all middle aged men with health insurance get a colonoscopy around my age and it has become a rite of passage just like a first smoke, drink, or date as a teenager. And what’s the point of a shared ritual if we don’t embellish it a little? Maybe someday I’ll tell the exciting story of my first smoke, drink, or date as soon as I can make one up.

  I decided to write about colonoscopies for two reasons. On Saturday at Zanzibar’s, Greg was standing up while he was playing and told me he was getting ready for an upcoming colonoscopy. I resisted temptation and just told him how mine went pretty smoothly and it was no big deal. No point in worrying anyone unnecessarily, but it reminded me of all the stories I’d been told. My other reason involves greed and curiosity. Google puts ads on my blog based on content and when I wrote about dentures last week, I got ads for dental implants on my blog and they paid the most per click than anything on my blog except last elections ‘Tell Sarah Palin NO’ ads. I imagine that dental implants are very lucrative since they can afford such nice payouts to Google. I had to find out if the colonoscopy ads will be just as well-paying.