Finding Peace in the Process



The 'Burbs, Illinois,
January 18
Married father of two girls. Was a writer in a previous life. Drove a truck for 20 years. Trudging the road of happy destiny since 1987.


MARCH 7, 2010 3:23PM

Taking care of me

Rate: 21 Flag

     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. 

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I six years past 50 and six years due. Thank you for the reality check.
Ok so this is sort of gross and maybe I am just really tuff but there is an easier procedure that just takes an enema the day of. They don't venture so far north and you aren't knocked out. My Dr was surprised I chose it but I drove myself, there and home and didn't need to rely on anyone else. Just saying if you don't like that knocked out feeling, it's fast and I only went ow twice. Of course if they found anything they would probably make you come back for the full on assault. Anyway glad you went and got it done!
I'm glad you're okay.

I was supposed to get a biopsy done around 4 months ago on some nodules in my thyroid that were seen accidentally on a scan. I keep putting it off because something always comes up, but because of this post I'll schedule an appointment today. So thanks for that.
Well done Jimmy! Its not an easy task but well worth the effort. Its do-able, folks, go do it!
Reality check here as well. Summer, I will plan.
I'm turning 50 this year, and was just contemplating this proceedure this morning. Glad all is well.
Glad you are OK.
I went through it about eight years ago and am glad I did...polyps were found, but they were benign. Cape Cod Hospital was more like a spa...warm towels on the lap, very attentive nurses, I didn't mind the experience at all. My only lapse was ranting that someone had stolen my clothes....and I had them on. NEVER try to drive yourself home after a colonoscopy!
I love the pay it forward aspect of this very important post. Most importantly, I'm glad you are healthy.
Glad everything worked out for you -- I've been avoiding this like the plague, and I have no excuse but laziness and wanting to remain blissfully ignorant. I know better, ignorance is never bliss.
I'm glad you got this done and came out well on the other side (GI tract allusion may or may not be intentional).

I had mine before hitting 50. Instead of pills, my doc prescribed a powder to be mixed with a gallon of water and some truly horrific flavor packet (I had 6 choices of flavor). I got about 3/4 of the mix down me. After that my permanent gag reflex took over.
Good news all the way around here Jimmy.I am glad you had it done and glad it came out okay.
I had one done before fifty and some polyps were removed.
Everyone needs this test, well before the symptoms of more serious problems surface.
It sounds like such an odd procedure, but when you get to the surgery center, they are so matter-of-fact about it, and you realize the "ick" is all in your head. They do tons of these a day, and in fact your ass looks 10000000 times better than most who come through the door. (I'm just saying....)

My husband's brother had his first colonoscopy at age 49. That's when he found out he had late stage rectal cancer and would need a colostomy, and radiation. There were other, experimental, options that *might* prevent the colostomy, but he had two children under the age of five, and opted for the best viability. Five years out, he's living well, and okay with his decision. He went to Costa Rica surfing last year. Because of family history (both of his brothers had rare forms of cancer), my husband has a colonoscopy every three years. They are old hat by now.

Thanks for posting your story. You might encourage others to suck it up and get in there! (I'm looking at you Tom Cordle.)
My liquid was flavored pineapple - generous use of your platform to give this potentially lifesaving advice. Some of the insurance company involvement makes sense.
So glad you're ok!

I prompted my second husband to get a colonoscopy -- he had never had one, and was in his 60s -- and he had early stage colon cancer. We were so relieved that he would be ok, but he died of another unrelated cancer two years later.
Glad you're okay. Early detection--it's the way to go.
Why can't you mix it with vodka? any special reason? Maybe you'll slip off the pot or miss it altogether but otherwise, it seems like a sound idea.
I bet you're glad to have this lovely experience behind you.

Glad the news was good:)
Congratulations! And thanks for the reminder.
I am glad that you did this for you, Jim, and that everything came back clear. I admit, I do not look forward to this part of my life. I know it's coming, but I'm glad it's not coming tomorrow.

Thanks for the PSA, and for helping to dampen some of the "fear of the unknown" that many of us have.
WalkAway--My sentiments exactly. I am in a period of stay at home worker comp which will end sometime and I am determined to do all the stuff I never had time for.

Chuck--It's a lifesaver. I'm really grateful to Gwool and Horrigan for the prompt. And if you haven't read 'em, the posts linked above are great.

Lunchlady--It was okay by me, but if someone gets checked your way rather than not at all I say that's great.

Natalie--I told Horrigan something similar in July. Hope your definition of "today" is better than mine.

Kelly--Thanks for checking in. I happen to be off work, so time wasn't an issue. For anyone else, you'll need a few hours off the previous day, provided you can work on chicken broth and Life Savers, and then all day for the procedure and sleepy time that follows.

Owl--Thank you.

BarkingLot--And this is exactly why the test is recommended.

scupper--We're gonna hold you to that!

voicegal--Thank you.

Steve--Yeah, I too was a little silly when I woke up. But they insisted on verifying my ride home before they started.

cartouche--Paying it forward was the idea here, and staying healthy. Thank you. I think we're worth the care it takes to keep us humming.

Tom--Ignorance is the last word I would use to describe you, so I don't think that's an option. I'm looking forward to the next chapter to be written by you the others here who haven't done it. First one to post gets a Life Saver.

Stim--Ha! Humor is allowed and hard to avoid on this subject. They gave me the pills and the gallon jug. Guess they wanted to make sure. As Gwool pointed out, eating light the day before the plumbing evac makes the experience less stressful.

Mission--Thank you.

Bellwether--It was the prep that discouraged me. I have little shame when it somes to doctors. I figure they are pros and are adequately compensated, so what the heck. Glad the brother-in-law is doing well.

Daniel--I chose the pineapple as well and wonder if its really necessary to offer six flavors. Can't imagine serving the unused flavor packets the next time my daughter has her friends over.

Lea--Thank you. So he got another two years from it? Good! Rage, rage against the dying of the light, right?

Shiral--Thank you.

Gabby--They tell you not to drink alcohol the previous day or the morning of the procedure. Yes, some of us would need to be told not to drink on the way into the place. Back in the day this would have been an issue for me. No booze for 36 hours? Never happened. On the other hand, they do tell you to stick to clear liquids and vodka is clear, right? I imagine the reaction to the anesthesia might be a problem.

Eden--Me, too. Thanks.

AtHome--Thank you.
your writing just gets better and better. your easy changeups here, short sentences, shrewd descriptions, the naturalness of your Voice, is great.

7 polyps! mazel tov. better than the other thing!

Glad you are OK. Good PSA too.

(still trying to get the idea of two colons out of my mind)
Bill-You snuck in on me and I missed your comment till just now. There are worse things than taking care of ourselves. I think we're worth it.

Greg--That line about two colons came from a writer friend whose regular speech is filled with unforgettable phrases. Every conversation with him includes two or three word pictures I've never heard before. He's a natural.
Well, I must admit I shifted uncomfortably while reading this...but glad you're alright.

It must have been the Life Savers.
It's one of the annoying things about being a grown-up. I detest every kind of check-up, check-in, check-out and all the blah that goes with it. If I wasn't married, I probably would never go see the doc. My husband makes me do it. For my health. Argh.

Glad everything turned out a-okay.
Thanks for this. I am 51 and have already put it off a year. My husband didn't have one until 56 and was found to have Stage 3 colo-rectal cancer. He had surgery, chemo, and radiation, and six years later he seems to be OK, but still has to go for blood tests every six months, and we always worry. He also suffers long-term effects, in that his diminished rectal capacity due to the resection causes him to visit the bathroom at least 10 times a day, which is inconvenient, to say the least, and something he'll live with forever. And it most likely could all have been avoided by having a colonoscopy on schedule at what am I waiting for? Gotta make that call.
Only catching up with this now, Jim, and I'm glad to report my man's booking himself in for the same next month. So that gives me a little time to consider whether I should let him read this or not... Sometimes a little knowledge is a lot too much, you know? I might decide to just be happy he's getting checked out ;) Thanks for posting this and I'm happy to read you got the all-clear!
Glad you posted this Jimmy...I got mine 3 years ago :) My sister-in-law is now battling colon cancer ....she only had her first one done last year where they found this...the horrors that follow are ongoing and scary. Stay well.