I did something good for myself last week. I got a colonoscopy, four years after turning 50, four years after my doctor suggested it, more than six months after a couple of guys on Open Salon suggested it.
The only way people find cancer in their lower intestines--other than getting a colonoscopy--is to feel it, and by that time it is usually inoperable. It spreads to vital organs and one waits to die.
I consider myself a rational individual. I hear the arguments for getting this procedure and I say, "Yes. Of course. I should do that. I will do that."
And then I watch TV and blame the nasty insurance industry for screwing Americans out of coverage. Say what you will about them--and I've said much of it myself--they tend to like colonoscopies. If you have coverage and are over 50 years old, your doctor will recommend it and your insurer will pay for it.
United Health Care, my company, didn't even ask me to make a co-pay. They paid 100 percent of the cost. I assume that is because it is one of the most effective preventative measures one can take. When cancer strikes the digestive system, the insurer winds up paying a fortune, often only to ease the suffering of someone who is likely to die soon.
(I'll end the suspense here. I'm good.)
The procedure is uncomfortable. You don't eat the day before. I had a can of chicken broth. Yum. You are also allowed to suck on hard candy, so I got some Life Savers. I didn't consider the irony when I got them. I just liked them before I cleaned up my diet ten years ago and quit eating candy. Coffee is also allowed.
Then at 3 p.m. you take four Biscodyl. They come with the prescription of Magnesium Citrate. Start drinking liquids. Then at 5 p.m., start on the two-liter jug. This is where it gets fun. Imagine a hose shoved down your throat and turned on, all that water with no where to go but down and out. I feared it might lift me off the seat. It took a few hours to complete the prep. Best to take the jug and a magazine into the john. There's no sense leaving the room till its over.
I awoke the next day to Post-It notes at every faucet in my house reminding me not to drink anything, even water. This was a challenge for me, an active and unrepentant coffee addict. But I would soon be in for much stronger stuff. I had spoken to one of my A.A. friends about the procedure and he told me I had a treat in store for me.
"That Demerol felt so damn good I wished I'd had two colons."
No such luck on the intraveneous Demorol. Today's method is the Michael Jackson overdose drug, propofol. The lights just went out and stayed out until after the procedure. Why anyone would want propofol on a regular basis is beyond me.
I awoke to a nurse nicely reminding me not to get up just yet. The doc came in and told me he removed seven polyps. This seemed to concern him.
"Good thing you came in" he said.
He called two days later with news that all the polyps were clean. No sign of cancer. His only instruction was that I should return in three years instead of the usual five or ten, due to the number of polyps.
I had planned a feast for myself after the procedure, steak, salad, baked potatoes, pie. I was so groggy I instead scrambled a couple of eggs and spent the rest of the day on the couch. I was 100 percent the following day.
Despite my doctor's orders of four years ago, my prompt for doing this came from a friend here on Open Salon. Jeremiah Horrigan was rushed into life-saving surgery last year following his test. I commented on his post on July 19, 2009, that "I'll get it done."
You can read that wonderful post here:
Jeremiah cites an amusing and informative post by Gwool, which prompted him to get tested. You can read that here:
So in the spirit of paying it forward I offer the same advice: Get it done, then let us know what happened and urge someone else to get it done.
I offer my thanks to Gwool and Jeremiah for their posts, and look forward to the next one.