About six months back, my doctor asked “Merlin, when did you have your last colonoscopy?”
Wincing at the unpleasant memory, I said “About ten years ago.”
The doctor clucked, “Then you are overdue.”
I dodged his reminders for six months or so then relented. I called his nurse to schedule the exam for convenient Monday. “Yes, Monday,” the nurse giggled. “Everyone wants Monday. I guess that’s because the preparations take a whole day and Sunday means not missing work. And by the way,” she tittered, “on Sunday, will you be near a working toilet?”
I recalled that the first colonoscopy had required two unpleasant enemas the morning of the exam. “Well now it’s different,” she said with relish.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
The nurse told me that today, there are more thorough preparations. “You have to be flushed out but good, and that means a days’ worth of harsh laxatives, plus some electrolytes. You’ll be taking the electrolytes all day long on Sunday. Oh, and you’ll have to fast.”
“Yes, nothing to eat all day Sunday and all day Monday, and nothing to drink after five A.M. Monday But after the exam, you can go pig out.”
Swell. I’d be dying of thrust and willing to eat the ass out of a skunk. I don’t do well if I miss a meal. Not for nothing do I look like Orson Wells.
The nurse continued: “I’ll phone-in your prescriptions.”
“Yes. Four little pills to get things moving and a gallon of electrolytes to keep them moving.” (Ha ha)
“Yes, but you may not need all of it — just until you are flowing clear.”
“What’s ‘flowing clear?'”
“Your stool,” she snorted like Earnestine the Operator.
“What do you mean, my ‘stool?'”
“Your BM.” She was enjoying this. “It’ll be like diarrhea, except more voluminous and less stinky.”
On the Saturday before the ordeal, I dropped by the drugstore and picked up my supplies. The clerk handed me a plastic gallon jug with some powder in the bottom and a small bottle with the four pills. She said, “Tonight, fill the jug to the ‘full’ mark and put it in the fridge — it tastes better when cold.”
At home, I mixed up the stuff in the jug and let it sit until everything was dissolved. It resembled a thin mucus. Into the fridge it went.
Sunday morning, I breakfasted on bacon, eggs, toast, milk and coffee, then settled in for a day’s starvation. I turned on the Discovery channel and took to my chair. The pills went down the hatch at ten, followed by a glass of the mucus. I’ve never eaten shit, but if I did, I’m sure it would taste like this stuff.
Each hour thereafter, another glass of mucus.
It was mid-afternoon when I said, “Jo, this stuff isn’t working.”
“Give it time,” she said.
A few moments later, my bowels gave a violent lurch followed by an intense cramp. “Oh, Christ!” I said, “get out of my way!” Hunched over, I scuttled to the toilet. I barely made it.
There was a massive poo, followed by more cramps. I was sitting athwart the thunder mug in a cold sweat when Jo appeared at the door: “Here’s your next glass of mucus,” she said with an evil smile.
This drill was repeated throughout the day until around eight when I pronounced my “stool” to be free flowing and clear. (I know this, for one must look in the bowl after each voiding to check for content, clarity and color.)
Exhausted and famished, I went to bed.
At ten Monday morning, I reported to the clinic to have a doctor peer in my guts using something like a plumber’s snake.
After changing into a “gown” with no backside (won’t need a backside anyway, now will I?) I was led into a room and placed on a cot like the ones used for lethal injections. Presently a nurse came in and plugged an IV needle into a vein on my hand: “There,” she said, “This’ll take the edge off.”
Some minutes later, they wheeled me into the examination room which was dark like an execution chamber. There were four, maybe five, people in green scrubs milling about. They paid as much attention to me as do mechanics who about to grease a car.
“OK, sport,” came a male voice. “Hop up on the table,” he said pointing to a cold looking black slab. I did as he asked. Then a pair of hands laid me down on my left side, ripped the gown off my back end and told me to draw my knees up into a fetal position. In the background I could hear a couple healers chatting about whither or not the Saints would clobber the M`s. A third was on the phone telling his wife he’d pick up a roast on the way home.
“OK,” said a woman, “Let’s do this guy.”
With that, a pair of hands spread open my cleft and probed my unmentionable spot. “Mister .. um, er .. Sprague, you wanna watch?” Then they stuck in an air hose and inflated me like a balloon. With my colon thus distended, they can see all the details. “Sure, why not.”
I was told to direct my gaze to a monitor on the far wall. Before I knew what was happening, the snake was in.
Do you know what your guts look like? No? Well they look like the inside of a vacuum-cleaner hose festooned with red and purple veins.
On went the snake. Then there was a stab of pain. “Hummm,” said that doctor, “looks like you’ve got a mess of adhesions from all those surgeries. Here, let me see if I can knock a few of them loose.” In an aside, she said to the nurse, “Better give him a good hit of Fentanyl; this will smart.” What followed felt like someone jabbing plunger into a toilet. “There,” said the doctor, and then played-in more snake.
Then I saw the first polyp; a sickly white lump peeking from a crevasse. “Ah,” said the doctor with obvious satisfaction. With that, she slid a wire loop from the snake’s business end, dropped the loop over the polyp and drew it in, snipping the polyp off at its base. A small aspirator sucked the polyp back into a catch bag for later analysis. Blood oozed.
Then she found another, then another . . . Five, all tolled.
Finely she was done and the hateful apparatus was withdrawn.
After laying around the recovery room nauseous from the Fentanyl, I finally went home and ate a hamburger, fries, milk and pie.
A week later, I got the news: The polyps, called tubular adenomas, were precancerous. Well Jesus Christ and General Jackson! I already had one cancer, and that was quite enough, thank you. The doctor advised me to come back in a year for another look-see, and to eat plenty of roughage in the meantime. –Which I shall do, for I’m not yet ready to croak, nor do I want to spend the rest of my life shitting through a hole in my side.
And I imagine, Gentle Reader, neither do you. So a word to the wise: If you’re over fifty, go to your doctor and ask about a colonoscopy. If the doctor recommends one, don’t be shy.