Four Years, Eleven Months, Three Weeks to Go

Is it possible to write a tasteful column about a colonoscopy?

Several years ago, I posed that very question in this very newspaper. Faced with having turned 50 a few years earlier and with both a parent and a dear friend dead of colon cancer detected too late, I scheduled a virtual colonoscopy. It revealed no problems. Seven years later, I had the traditional procedure, during which the gastroenterologist removed two small polyps. He recommended I return in five years.

I scarcely blinked before my time was up.

In my mind, there were a million reasons to hold off for a while, starting with Covid. There was the fact I’d have to trouble one of my friends to drive me to and from the procedure. I’d have to go endless hours without eating. I’d lose sleep. I’d have to choke down gallons of a foul-tasting laxative. I’d be stuck at home and inside the house soon after I choked down the foul-tasting laxative.

But acknowledging that my health was more important than any of those excuses, I scheduled the procedure. Then the dread began.

Silly, I know. I’m trying so hard these days to live in the present. To not fret about the past or worry about the future. As Baba Ram Dass wrote in his weird and wonderful 1971 book “Be Here Now,” life is better if we focus only on the joys and sorrows of today. Why worry over a colonoscopy prep that was almost a hundred days away?

Three months flew by all too quickly and “Prep Monday,” as I not-so-fondly called it, arrived. I’ve been experimenting for a while with Intermittent Fasting, which seems to offer simple and impressive weight control and health benefits. So, rather than get my calories from bullion and 7-Up and not-red-or-purple Jello and not-red-or-purple popsicles, I decided to take in zero calories following my Sunday evening supper until after the procedure on Tuesday morning. It wasn’t really all that bad, except for not being able to have cream in my morning coffee. That part was awful.

I drank my first dose of laxative, which required far less foul-tasting fluid than five years ago, at 11:00 a.m. I mixed a packet of powder with 16-ounces of icy-blast, no-calorie Gatorade, which I’d chilled in the refrigerator overnight, and sipped it with a straw placed way back on my tongue. It was salty but not gag-worthy. I chased it with 16 ounces of plain water. Then I waited. I’ll spare you the details of what happened next, except to say that I’m exceeding glad the toilet paper shortage of 2020 is no longer a thing. I couldn’t chance walking to the mailbox. I couldn’t chance taking the compost out to the backyard bin or filling the birdfeeder or watering my zinnias. If a task took me further than seven steps from the bathroom, it didn’t get done.

I repeated the process at 11:00 that night, believing with all my heart that the laxative would have no effect because how in this world could my colon be anything but absolutely, positively empty?

I was wrong. I got not one wink of sleep Monday night. But Tuesday morning was a breeze. A sweet friend picked me up before daylight and drove me to the surgery center, where the wonderful staff and my wonderful doctor treated me with professionalism and exceeding kindness. I scarfed down a Hardee’s bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and coffee with extra cream when it was all over. Best of all was the news that my colon is healthy. I likely won’t have to repeat the procedure until mid-August of 2026.

Which, by my calculations as I write this column, is only four years, 11 months, and three weeks away.

(August 28, 2021)