I know. I should have given advance warning so you could send me a thoughtful card from the “Invasive Procedures” section at Hallmark.
Everything turned out rosy, thanks for asking. My colon is apparently perkier than Taylor Swift on Grammy Night.
Don’t know why I procrastinated so long to join the 14 million who get this done anally, er, annually.
Ha! Of course I know why.
Pure cowardice is what it was. That and listening to terrifying late night Coast to Coast AM radio interviews with space alien abductees who always seem to wind up “getting probed” in their no-no spots.
But I had all the scientific evidence I needed.
As unpleasant as letting the ol’ ying-yang become a road movie may seem, the verdict is in: colonoscopies can detect problems like pre-cancer and polyps and maybe even save your life. Experts say the average healthy individual should get a first “baseline” colonoscopy at age 50.
Yeah. Yeah. I knew all that – theoretically, anyway.
Plus I had the real-life allegory of the Clark Family Backup to serve as cautionary tale.
See, we used to live in a three-story 1909 craftsman house on the South Hill. About a year after moving in, the sewer line backed up, befouling our basement with a dank swamp of gross-smelling poo water. A call to Roto-Screwter produced a couple of Carhartt-clad lugs who set about threading a clunky camera-on-a-coil device into the line for a look-see.
“Like a colonoscopy for sewers,” explained the elder roto-dude.
Soon, a small monitor was displaying nightmarish images of roots and flotsam and bits of Mayor West’s missing hard drive, for all I knew.
Diagnosis? My sewer pipe had disintegrated from decades of proud service. It had to be replaced, and pronto.
Next up was a calloused gang of professional diggers who jackhammered a grave-shaped hole into the laundry room concrete floor.
Down into the void went a strange torpedo-shaped drill. Powered by an air compressor, the device made a jarring “woomff-woomff” sound for two days as it slowly burrowed a new pipeline from the basement to the main sewer way out under the street.
I don’t want to scare you, but this is precisely the sort of costly traumatic process that can happen to your insides when you wait too long to take stock of your plumbing.
So as a brand new colonoscopy survivor, I have prepared the following tutorial to guide you step by step on your journey to alimentary awareness.
STEP ONE:The Setup.
Let’s hope you have a decent health insurance plan. That will make it easy to schedule a colonoscopy at an actual clinic with qualified endoscopic professionals.
If, however, your health plan sucks, you may wind up face down in a shopping mall massage chair receiving an after-hours colonoscopy from some vegan with a man bun.
Either way, you must first visit a pharmacy in order to pick up a supply of Bowel Blaster, also known as colon blow. No matter what it’s called, consuming the stuff will turn an average human being into Mount St. Helens meets Vesuvius. This must be done to ensure HD-quality images that are clear enough to become an internet meme.
Remember that health plan disparity?
Well, if you have a respectable plan like mine, the colon prep will come in the form of two small bottles of clear liquid. If you have a Brand X, your pharmacist will hand you a gallon jug of Tijuana tap water and wish you “vaya con Charmin.”
Don’t get me wrong. Both preps will do the job, although I’m told the sheer volume of the cheaper option is not recommended for anyone with a working gag reflex.
The most important advice I have for your pharmacy visit is to wear a disguise.
I base this on the busybody who probably recognized me from my column photo. Trespassing way past the pharmaceutical privacy line, she kept leaning in to eavesdrop on every highly personal instruction the friendly pharmacist gave me.
Finally, as I turned to leave, the snoop announced in a tone loud enough to be heard all the way to the Rosauer’s produce department: “Doesn’t really matter what they give you, Doug, THEY’RE BOTH AWFULLLLL!!!”
STEP TWO: The Day Before.
I’m trusting that you have followed all the instructions as outlined in the pamphlet from your doctor. You know, like stopped blood thinners, written a will, visited a priest, etc.
You are now entering the period physicians call the “Hallucination Zone.” This is because you are unable to eat anything except clear broth, pixie dust, water and air.
Soon you will have visions of being The Lizard King, just like Jim Morrison of The Doors did while he waited in the desert for his colonoscopy.
At the prescribed time, I poured one of the 6-ounce bottles of prep into a tall glass of cold water. Then I stirred well and…
Suddenly I was hopping around my kitchen, babbling and chanting like Elizabeth Warren in a sweat lodge ceremony.
Believe me when I say that sipping this liquid goat excrement is NOT a viable option. This is the time to make like a Wazzu frat lad with a fresh keg—and guzzle.
STEP THREE: Thunder Road.
I know what’s on your mind. You’re thinking:
“So, Doug, let’s say I manage to actually consume my colon nectar without imitating Linda Blair’s pea soup scene in ‘The Exorcist.’ How long will it take it to, um, work?”
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer.
A half-hour? Forty-five minutes?
Here’s the thing. I don’t want to sully the reputation of this glossy upscale publication by descending into even more crass potty humor than I already have.
Just trust me when I say that you’ll know when the time is nigh the same way you’d know if a rabid ferret suddenly raced up your pants leg and latched its razor fangs onto your tender vittles.
At this point the pre-colonoscopy experience becomes a sprint, not a marathon.
Oh, yeah, and don’t forget. The entire fire drill must be repeated about 12 hours later.
STEP FOUR: Oh, The Calamity.
True story. During my pre-colonoscopy phone call, the scheduling nurse actually told me she wanted to pair me with a doctor who best shared my wacky sense of humor.
Call me old fashioned, but I was sort of hoping more for the humorless nerd who gave the valedictory sendoff to the graduating proctologists of C. Moore Butts Academy.
On the other hand, who doesn’t love a good laugh?
Speaking of which, I got one seconds after stepping into the clinic on Procedure Day. The waiting room was actually crowded with a dozen grinning geeks who stood around chatting mindlessly as if they were at a cult potluck or Amway sales rally.
I tried my best to ignore these oddballs by hiding behind an outdated magazine.
(What? Brad’s leaving Jennifer? But they seemed so happy.)
I didn’t have long to wait until a nurse/warden arrived to escort me like a felon into a large room filled with dozens of hospital beds. For privacy’s sake, all the beds were enclosed by thin wisp of gauze, which allowed everyone to hear about one another’s personal bowel miseries.
After shedding my clothes, I had barely slipped into one of those humiliating open-ass gowns before a young and attractive woman arrived to quiz me from a long list of intimate questions about my health and mental stability, which, at the moment, was definitely “frayed.”
I felt sorry for her despite the inquisition. Think about it. Day in and day out, her job is to ask complete strangers the same intrusive questions over and over.
So I kept my answers short and to the point, unlike the woman in the adjoining curtain cell. She acted like the nurse was some old friend who had dropped by to catch up on any irrelevant detail she could think of. Their conversation went something like…
NURSE: “Do you have a history of any gastro-intestinal disorders?”
PATIENT: “No. But Uncle Bill was quite constipated last August.”
NURSE: “But you haven’t had any problems?”
PATIENT: “We all told him to stop eating so much cheese, you know, but he wouldn’t listen.”
STEP FIVE: Moon Walk.
I have no memory of how I got into the colonoscopy chamber. Was I rolled? Did I walk?
All I remember is suddenly being in there and discovering that Dr. Chuckles really was quite hilarious.
Trying to make small talk, I asked him about the knockout juice the anesthesiologist was about to pump into my IV line.
“Isn’t that the same stuff that killed Michael Jackson?”
“Why, yes it is,” he said cheerily. “So expect to wake up grabbing your crotch and singing in a high falsetto.”
Everybody in the room laughed and laughed and…
I woke up. The colonoscopy was over. Something like 40 minutes of life had simply vanished just like all the times my gasbag editor used to tell the staff about his latest Big Idea for saving the newspaper.
Colonoscopy behind me, I was soon back in my clothes and heading to Dolly’s Café for a restorative mound of hash browns.
Days later, my lab work arrived to let me know that everything was fine and that it might be 10 years before I have to bend over for an encore.
By then who knows what life will be like?
Flying cars? President Bieber? Maybe we’ll be able to perform our own DIY colonoscopies thanks to a revolutionary “innuendo” app on our cell phones.
If that’s the case, however, let’s all pray that Apple starts making the iPhone a whole lot smaller.
Doug Clark is a Spokane native and lead singer/songwriter for his band, Trailer Park Girls. He recently retired from The Spokesman-Review after writing three columns a week for more than 30 years. Clark’s humor and general-interest commentaries have won scores of local, state and regional honors along with three awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He can be reached at [email protected]