Skip to comments.Dave Barry: A journey into my colon -- and yours (funny but serious)
Posted on 02/24/2008 10:56:07 AM PST by nuconvert
Dave Barry: A journey into my colon -- and yours OK. You turned 50. You know you're supposed to get a colonoscopy. But you haven't. Here are your reasons:
1. You've been busy.
2. You don't have a history of cancer in your family.
3. You haven't noticed any problems.
4. You don't want a doctor to stick a tube 17,000 feet up your butt.
Let's examine these reasons one at a time. No, wait, let's not. Because you and I both know that the only real reason is No. 4. This is natural. The idea of having another human, even a medical human, becoming deeply involved in what is technically known as your ''behindular zone'' gives you the creeping willies.
I know this because I am like you, except worse. I yield to nobody in the field of being a pathetic weenie medical coward. I become faint and nauseous during even very minor medical procedures, such as making an appointment by phone. It's much worse when I come into physical contact with the medical profession. More than one doctor's office has a dent in the floor caused by my forehead striking it seconds after I got a shot.
In 1997, when I turned 50, everybody told me I should get a colonoscopy. I agreed that I definitely should, but not right away. By following this policy, I reached age 55 without having had a colonoscopy. Then I did something so pathetic and embarrassing that I am frankly ashamed to tell you about it.
What happened was, a giant 40-foot replica of a human colon came to Miami Beach. Really. It's an educational exhibit called the Colossal Colon, and it was on a nationwide tour to promote awareness of colo-rectal cancer. The idea is, you crawl through the Colossal Colon, and you encounter various educational items in there, such as polyps, cancer and hemorrhoids the size of regulation volleyballs, and you go, ''Whoa, I better find out if I contain any of these things,'' and you get a colonoscopy.
If you are as a professional humor writer, and there is a giant colon within a 200-mile radius, you are legally obligated to go see it. So I went to Miami Beach and crawled through the Colossal Colon. I wrote a column about it, making tasteless colon jokes. But I also urged everyone to get a colonoscopy. I even, when I emerged from the Colossal Colon, signed a pledge stating that I would get one.
But I didn't get one. I was a fraud, a hypocrite, a liar. I was practically a member of Congress.
Five more years passed. I turned 60, and I still hadn't gotten a colonoscopy. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from my brother Sam, who is 10 years younger than I am, but more mature. The email was addressed to me and my middle brother, Phil. It said:
``I went in for a routine colonoscopy and got the dreaded diagnosis: cancer. We're told it's early and that there is a good prognosis that they can get it all out, so, fingers crossed, knock on wood, and all that. And of course they told me to tell my siblings to get screened. I imagine you both have.''
First I called Sam. He was hopeful, but scared. We talked for a while, and when we hung up, I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis. Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, ``HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BUTT!''
I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called ''MoviPrep,'' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America's enemies.
I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor. Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes -- and here I am being kind -- like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.
The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, ''a loose watery bowel movement may result.'' This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.
MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.
After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, ''What if I spurt on Andy?'' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.
At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the hell the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.
Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.
When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point. Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was Dancing Queen by Abba. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, Dancing Queen has to be the least appropriate.
''You want me to turn it up?'' said Andy, from somewhere behind me.
''Ha ha,'' I said.
And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.
I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, Abba was shrieking ``Dancing Queen! Feel the beat from the tambourine . . .''
. . . and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that it was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.
But my point is this: In addition to being a pathetic medical weenie, I was a complete moron. For more than a decade I avoided getting a procedure that was, essentially, nothing. There was no pain and, except for the MoviPrep, no discomfort. I was risking my life for nothing.
If my brother Sam had been as stupid as I was -- if, when he turned 50, he had ignored all the medical advice and avoided getting screened -- he still would have had cancer. He just wouldn't have known. And by the time he did know -- by the time he felt symptoms -- his situation would have been much, much more serious. But because he was a grown-up, the doctors caught the cancer early, and they operated and took it out. Sam is now recovering and eating what he describes as ''really, really boring food.'' His prognosis is good, and everybody is optimistic, fingers crossed, knock on wood, and all that.
Which brings us to you, Mr. or Mrs. or Miss or Ms. Over-50-And-Hasn't-Had-a-Colonoscopy. Here's the deal: You either have colo-rectal cancer, or you don't. If you do, a colonoscopy will enable doctors to find it and do something about it. And if you don't have cancer, believe me, it's very reassuring to know you don't. There is no sane reason for you not to have it done.
I am so eager for you to do this that I am going to induce you with an Exclusive Limited Time Offer. If you, after reading this, get a colonoscopy, let me know by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to Dave Barry Colonoscopy Inducement, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. I will send you back a certificate, signed by me and suitable for framing if you don't mind framing a cheesy certificate, stating that you are a grown-up who got a colonoscopy. Accompanying this certificate will be a square of limited-edition custom-printed toilet paper with an image of Miss Paris Hilton on it. You may frame this also, or use it in whatever other way you deem fit.
But even if you don't want this inducement, please get a colonoscopy. If I can do it, you can do it. Don't put it off. Just do it.
Be sure to stress that you want the non-Abba version.
It might save someone's life.
It could have been worse, Dave. They could have been playing Eddie Murphy singing “Boogie In Your Butt”.
Barry’s description of the entire process is right on target!
Over the past 4 years I’ve had numerous doctors’ visits and medical procedures. Barry’s comment here is dead-on: “At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the hell the forms said.”
I disrupted the proceedure by singing "Sentimental Journey". The Staff had to recover from laughing.
I declined anaesthesia because I dislike Fentanyl, and in my life, so many people had told me to take that journey that I was intent on seeing what the attraction was. It was actually very interesting.
My PCP asked how it went, and looked worried when I said, "It was FUN, and I get to do it again in a few years!!!"
"Sounds delicious! But is it really higher in fiber than my oat bran cereal?"
Well since I won’t listen to Katie Couric on anything it’s good that Dave Barry has prepped me to get a colonoscopy!
I’m 48, so do I wait two years, or do I figure that I’m already middle-aged and might as well get my first one now rather than two years from now?
I really don’t want anyone coming near that part of my anatomy, I’m not Barney Frank, but I suppose it’s a medically important screening procedure.......
I always enjoy a good DB read, but this is in another category. I laughed so hard it hurt. Thanks for posting.
Dave Barry obviously shows no sensitivity to the sexual practices of homosexuals.
My sister had colon cancer 4 years ago so I’m considered to be at a higher risk. But I’m also afraid of the 17,000 foot tube.
America lost a true talent in Phil Hartman.
The first timeI went in (ten years ago) they used a Valium drip. Not fun.
I went back recently and they're now using this anesthetic that makes you forget? They wheeled me in, I asked when they were going to start, and they said they were finished.
Best line in the piece. I should eventually get another colonoscopy - I have IBD (no symptoms for 5 years) and am almost 50. I give reason 4 as my excuse.
Colon cancer killed my mother. By the time she knew she had, it was too late. This was 23 years ago, before routine screening. Had she had the screening, she might still be alive.
My best friend’s sister died last year from colon cancer. She never thought she needed the screening. She was only 57 years old.
I’m not 50 yet, but I’ve had the scope done twice. If I hadn’t had it done, there’s a good chance my polyps could have turned into cancer. My friend got his scope done, now his doctors can watch his polyp situation as well & hopefully prevent him from getting colon cancer.
The scope isn’t pleasant, but it’s better than cancer. I urge everyone to “suck it up” get over your fear & GET THE SCOPE!!
His Dr. said that polyp had probably been there for 10+ years and had he had his colonoscopy at age 50 when he should have he would have avoided a colon resection during which he lost so much blood he had to have several units transfused. He also ended up developing a heart arrhythmia post-op as well as a week long hospital stay that left him very weak. He was out of work for 6 weeks and ran out of leave time.
Get it done sooner rather than later. My dad is/was very healthy otherwise, no risk factors, and no family history so it can happen to anyone.
I wonder if the part about the vodka is true.
I just went through this. A couple of times I was convinced that when I finally got to stand up, my appendix was going to be in there somewhere.
OK, that one made diet Sprite come out my nose. And it was painful.
Bump. Gotta bookmark this Barry.
The first one I had three years ago was just like Barry said.
However, last week, my second colonoscopy... did not go as expected. I expected to hear the music, then awake in the little room wanting a Dr Pepper. Instead I was semi-awake and it was not pleasant.
No "Dancing Queen" that I recall... it was more like a combination of the Ned Beatty theme from Deliverance and "I Fought the Law and the Law Won" with an occasional pig squeal thrown in for effect.
And the pig squealing... was me!
There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.
I was shrieking when I read this part...
Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, ''What if I spurt on Andy?'' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.
Chocolates? EW!!! No....
Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode.
Oh God, oh God, oh God.... (snort!!!)
Dave’s right. The 17,000 foot hose is a non-issue. But that cr** you have to drink is worse than drinking vomit. I get the willies just remembering it. I think I had to drink something called Fleet.
Pretty similar to my experience, except that I had to drink a whole gallon of that lemon-flavored camel spit. They found that I had ulcerative colitis, and kept me in the hospital for 5 days, which was horrible. I’ve had a couple more colonoscopies since then, and found out something else. They won’t let you drive home afterwards, so you have to lie and say you have a ride, or spend a day in the hospital.
It’s important to know your family history and discuss with your doctor. My grandfather died of colon cancer so my younger sister (40) got tested and polyps were found. After discussing with my doctor this recent development in my family history he thought it would be a good idea for me to be checked. I had one polyp removed at age 44 and I get another scope after 3 years. I’m glad my sister told me!
The whole this is just about as Barry describes it. The worst part really is not eating the day before and sitting on the can all that night. The actual procedure is a big zero - a nothing. You are not aware anything was done and there is no pain or discomfort because you’re in la-la land. When it’s done, just get somebody to drive you home and, in a few hours after that effects of the drug wear off, you’re good to go.
I had the Fleet stuff too. The worst aspect was that my appointment was first thing in the morning so the sojourn in the bathroom was an all-nighter.
my older brother had a polyp discovered when he had the procedure, so, even though I was 47 at the time, my doctor said I should get a colonoscopy too. I did, and they found nothing, but it was a relief to get the negative report. a colonoscopy is nothing to fear, and it can save your life. get it done, and then you can save yourself from the strain of worrying about it
I woke up several times from the nurse pushing on my gut, I guess to steer the scope around the corners, so I got to see my colon on the video screen and talk to the doctor during the proceedure. I probably didn’t make sense though. It’s actually pretty painless, even when you wake up, the anticipation is much much worse.
My prep has always been a 3 oz bottle of some powerful laxative that you mix in a cup of water and then drink a large number of clear drinks like sprite. It isn't too bad. But when it goes into effect it is like Barry said. It is the worst part of the procedure.
They found a polyp that was very suspicious and removed it. I had to go back at one year and then 3 years. Now I am back to the 5 year exam. My Aunt died of colon cancer. I just don't want my kids to go through losing a mom earlier than need be.
When my husband had his colonoscopy, he only had to drink a small amount of some stuff we bought at the drug store. For anyone having this procedure, many docs now use this prep, rather than the gallon sized junk. I don’t know why any of them still use the huge amount of “pre-clean” stuff.
As for me, I can’t get myself to do this. Part of it is the fear of the 17,000 foot tube, but part is even sillier - I am too embarrassed about my old body and how it looks. I know - doctors don’t care - but I just can’t get past it. Stupid, I know.
So a colonoscopy is survivable without anaesthesia? I'm thinking of getting one, but the general anaesthesia part scares me just as much as the procedure itself. If anesthesia is not necessary during a colonoscopy, this gives me something to think about.
Where I go, you can't lie about that because they want the person driving you home to be right there...can't even call a cab to take you home. And you have to be wheeled out to the car-they won't let you walk. I guess that's good for me because it takes forever for those meds to wear off...
I’ve never had general anesthesia for a colonoscopy...they just give some IV drugs to make you relaxed and not remember...Versed and Demoral are what they used to use but I think it was something different the last time I went...whatever it was, I have to say it was good stuff! :^)
But is far more likely to cost them their life. Damage done during colonoscopy has cost way more lives than the little bit of cancer found ever could. This is of course politically incorrect to mention, just like the deaths caused by mammograms.
And it’s not a one-time dose of the stuff. I had to drink it all day long.
Thank you slugbug. Just knowing there are painless options besides general anaesthesia during a colonoscopy sets me more at ease.
I awoke twice during the procedure. It wasn’t pleasant, they gave me more Fentanyl both times, so I remembered very little, but I remember talking to the doctor and I said ‘OW!’ LOL.
The space shuttle analogy nearly made everything come out the other end of my body...:)