Started from My Bottom, Now We’re Here

original photo by Jake Lucifer

I am getting older, but grey hairs aside, I’m healthy. And in decent shape. I get exercise. I don’t get sick often, don’t take any medication, don’t smoke, and don’t drink much.

My biggest “grey area” health-wise is my family medical history. So I recently underwent a complete physical because why not? I have insurance. I might as well use it.

Having come up clean for most other genetically-predisposed possibilities (prostate cancer, blood pressure, heart issues, etc.), the one remaining question mark was my colon.

Men should start screening for colon cancer at age 50. But with my family history, my doctor suggested I get a colonoscopy.

😳

The procedure itself could take as little as 20 minutes and was really the easiest part of it. You are put under anesthesia and the doctor will handle the cinematography, so to speak.

You may be a little groggy after but can usually resume your day like normal. The hard part — where you probably have heard the war stories—is the lead-up to “game day.”

30 Hours Before Procedure

“You must be on a clear liquid diet 30 hours before your procedure.” And the kicker: the last 4 hours “nothing by mouth” not even candy or gum. (To be honest, the last 4 hours, you are not even thinking of your mouth.)

On the menu: water, sodas (ginger ale), power drinks, fruit juice (no orange), tea and coffee (no milk or non-dairy creamer), chicken or beef broth, hard candies, plain Jello (no fruits or toppings) and popsicles or Italian ice.

I love tea. That day I LIVED by tea. I planned to have chicken broth for dinner but was SO hungry by noon, I had it for lunch. I’ve never been happier to eat chicken broth.

Thankfully I had found and made yellow Jello because it gave my mouth the sensation of actually eating something. The clear liquid diet was not so bad. Here’s what was:

Prep

The night before the colonoscopy, you must cleanse your colon by taking an oral solution (read: laxative) diluted with water. After drinking the entire 16-ounce mix, you have to drink another TWO 16-ounce containers of water over the next hour.

The mix doesn’t taste great, it’s made of sodium/potassium/magnesium sulfates — yummy? They flavor it a little, but it’s a bit sweet. You’re almost thankful to drink the second container of water. I made it through the last 16 oz. just inside that hour. And I was okay. My stomach felt huge with all that water, but nothing too bad.

I made my way downstairs to my bunker for the night (a recliner near our second bathroom, so as not to bother wife and daughter). Thankfully I had a fully charged phone because by the end of the next hour, I was seated on my porcelain throne. And pretty much stayed there for a good hour or so.

You don’t want to go far. I’d get up and almost immediately realize: Nope, not done. I even showered at one point, thinking it was over. No. It was not. It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t seem to end.

Finally, when I felt I could successfully clench myself to sleep, I did so knowing that:

Oh yeah, did I not mention? There’s ANOTHER dose of prep!

5 hours prior to the procedure, you have to take a second dose of the solution. So yep, back upstairs for the 16-ounce mix, another 16 ounces of water, and the last 16 ounces of water. These I took faster, I just wanted to get back to sleep as soon as possible. And I knew I’d have to get there via the toilet.

I woke up the morning of my procedure and still had to hit to bathroom once or twice before we left. My wife and daughter drove me to the procedure and stayed with me the few minutes in the waiting room then waved and kissed me goodbye.

Procedure

In the next 5–10 minutes: The nurse gave me a gown, slippers and an IV, then her rundown/papers to sign. I met with the anesthesiologist, who gave me his rundown/papers to sign. And I was off to the operating room.

I met the nurse and doctor while Phillip Phillips played on the speakers in the room. Got the final rundown and we were off. They had me lay on my side and took my glasses. The nurse asked me a question, I answered. The anesthesiologist told me to take some deep breaths. I took about 4 or 5 and… then was woken by the nurse.

It felt like I had only been out for 5 minutes. It was closer to an hour.

My glasses were already on when I woke and I was given ginger ale and the most delicious oatmeal raisin cookies ever*. (*My lack of food for the last day and a half + anesthesia may have clouded my judgment.)

The doctor returned to let me know they found three polyps (where cancer can form) which they removed without any trouble. He suggested I get another colonoscopy in 3 years. The results came back a week later and the diagnosis remained: three precancerous polyps, return again in 3 years.

I am happy to have gotten screened early. Happy what could have gotten worse was gone. Yes, I remain concerned for the future. But I am grateful that I did all this seemingly unnecessary testing.

I am in good health and good shape. I was not sick or in any pain and I would never have guessed anything was wrong. Perhaps not even before it was too late.

Now I’m here.

Writer-Artist ✍ Contact: ernio.com →in New Yorker: http://bit.ly/NYernio Find @ernio_art →on Instagram: http://bit.ly/eh-art License →via CartoonCollections.com

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