Do you know what I’ve discovered? When children become young adults, they become cognoscente of their parents’ mortality and turn into little nags. Baby-girl (my younger daughter) has been on my case for the last year or so to get a colonoscopy and “everything else you need to stay alive.” Baby-girl says I need to get extensively poked and prodded “so that you’ll be around to be a proper grandmother!” Lecture, lecture, lecture — nag, nag, nag! Which was really sweet at first, but the nagging had begun to get on my nerves. I mean, I AM A GROWN woman, after all. What I do with my body is my business. Sheesh! Anyway, I made a mental note to come back and haunt her ass when she’s in her late 50’s about all the things she probably won’t be keeping up with because maintenance of everything in our lives, from flossing to car repair, is overwhelming.
I finally acquiesced to getting the damn test, just to shut Baby-girl up. I had no idea what I was getting into. Some sadist who interned under Satan himself is the inventor of the colonoscopy turbo-charged preparation, the snake-like apparatus with its searchlight, camera, and blowtorch to burn off polyps, and the jet-propelled gaseous aftermath.
I should have gotten this procedure done when I turned fifty, but I didn’t just want any ol’ doctor poking around in my ass. I was looking for a Dr. Welby type – the kind of gentle, sweet doctor that only Hollywood can produce. For the most part, I don’t like doctors because the ones I’ve encountered through the years tend to be arrogant and dismissive of my opinions and concerns as a woman about what is really happening inside my body. I’ve been rolling around in this sack of flesh for sixty-three years; I should have some type of informed clue as to what I might be experiencing.
So as in everything in my life, I tried to establish as much control over the colonoscopy process as I could. I researched and interviewed as many doctors as I could find within my insurance network. One was too cold, one was too hot, but none were just right. Finally, I came across a woman online who seemed perfect. She had outstanding reviews, great bedside manner, and specialized in women’s health issues. If someone had to look up my ass besides my husband, I’d much rather it be a woman. But when I got to the colonoscopy office the following week, they pulled a bait-and-switch on me.
“We tried to give you a call about Dr. Smith’s new schedule, but we were unable to reach you,” said the rather curt receptionist. “But don’t worry; we’ll make sure that you get treated by our senior physician who has done hundreds of these procedures. You’ll be in very capable hands. In the meantime, why don’t you have a seat and read through our brochure: ‘What to expect from your first colonoscopy’”!
I was pissed. After all I’d done to keep this procedure as tightly controlled as possible, my first criterion had slipped away: a female doctor of my choosing. I felt like I was drowning and began to get a panic attack. As I read all the instructions about how to prepare my ass-arena for the upcoming event, I started to flip out as I noticed the sheath of papers listing the potential side effects while absolving the colonoscopy center of all culpability.
- Bleeding and puncture of the colon
- Nausea and vomiting
- Allergic skin reaction
- Damage to the colon or rectum — including a
perforation, which is a tear in the lining of the rectum or colon
- Allergic reaction to the medication
- Serious infection
- Heart or lung problems, possibly including
irregular heart rhythms or lung or heart failure
- Loss of life
- Other rare or improbable events
What the fuck – “other rare or improbable events”?! I couldn’t breathe; I was getting dizzy, and I needed some air. As I got up and fled through the lobby door, praying that I wouldn’t faint, I crashed into none other than. . . George Clooney. My papers signing my life away to the ass clinic went flying to the north and south, my purse and glasses went off to the west and east. But I didn’t care. I was having a Casablanca moment: “Of all the colon joints in all the towns in all the world, George Clooney had walked into mine.”
“Good morning, Dr. Fitzgerald,” said the nurse with a lilting tone that hadn’t been there when she greeted me. “This is Mrs. Tomczyk. You’ll be doing her colonoscopy instead of Dr. Smith.”
As “Dr. Mc-damn-he’s-so-fine” apologized for running into me and helped me up from the floor, the first thing I thought was “well now, who needs a damn woman doctor, anyway.” The next thing I thought was: “Oh no, George Clooney’s going to come face to face with my fat ass!”
George Clooney sent me back home with instructions complicated enough to build a rocket ship. I had to start preparing for the test seven days before the procedure. Iron and herbal supplements had to be stopped and nothing with seeds could be consumed. I had heard that in the past the solution one drank to clear one’s colon looked like sludge and tasted like vomit. But “Dr. Mc-damn-he’s-so-fine” assured me that the medication and procedure had much improved. All the meds it would take would be a mixture of laxatives, OsmoPrep pills, and small soda-pop bottles of some clear, fizzy liquid that tasted like sea water. When the doctor gave me a list of the items I was required to drink right up to the night before, I was beginning to think that my friends, who had told me how hard it was going to be, had all been a bunch of wussies. I partied down with gallons of apple and white grape juice, tea, lemon Jell-O, lime Kool-Aid and all the soda I could drink while I dreamt about how to drape my ass so that it looked more “Rubenesque” in front of George Clooney.
I knew not to go into my office the day before the procedure, but I figured that working from home would be a piece of cake. Exactly two hours to the minute that I took the first pills and drank the sea-water solution, I was on the phone with my boss when I heard the beginning of the Jaws theme song gurgling up from my stomach: “daaa-dunt!”
“What was that noise?” asked my way-too-inquisitive boss.
“What noise? I didn’t hear anything,” I lied as the sound got louder and more intense: “DAAA-DUNT…DAAA-DUNT… DAA-DUNT, DAA-DUNT, DAA-DUNT, DAA-DUNT. . .!
“Crap, I’ve got to go, Boss!” I said as I fled to the bathroom with the full strains of the Jaws theme song drowning out my cries of “Oh, nooooooooooo!”
I really can’t explain what happened to me for the rest of that day and night. Let’s just say, I didn’t know that my ass had the ability to become jet-propelled, whirling my body around the exhaust fan like an escaped balloon, while everything I’d eaten since kindergarten came turbo-charging out of my behind. Let’s also say, certain parts of my house should have been condemned after this prep session. Twenty minutes later, I was on the phone with my husband (WW) telling him that he might need to get a hotel room that night for his own protection. He had just said to me: “Don’t worry Honey, this too shall pass,” (laughing at his own joke), when he heard me start to scream.
“Oh shit!” I cried.
“What? What happened? Are you okay?” asked my husband.
“NO, I’M NOT OKAY,” I screamed. I trusted a fart and the carpet will never be the same!”
Bright and early the next day WW and I left our traumatized house and set off for the colonoscopy center. The place was like a scene on a sitcom set. All the doctors and nurses do at this center is probe behinds and I’ve never seen a happier bunch. Considering what they have to stare at all day, these people were down-right giddy.
I wish I could tell you about the procedure, but it was over before I knew it, and I didn’t feel a thing. They gave me the anesthesia that killed Michael Jackson, and I went to sleep in an instant and woke up 45 minutes later feeling more rested than I had in years (Michael, my man, I get it now!). Apparently, they also blew air into my colon to expand it so that the scope could move throughout the area unobstructed, which had caused my stomach to blow up like a balloon. But I wasn’t aware of any of this happening. One minute I was out like a light, and the next minute George Clooney was calling my name.
“Eleanor. . .Eleanor, you can wake up now,” said my dreamy ass-doctor.
“Well, hellloooo, George,” I said in my most sexy voice while stretching like a cat.
“Mrs. Tomcyk, everything went very well. Although I did find three polyps which I burnt off, and I’ll be sending them to the lab to be biopsied. You might experience a bit of spotting and a slight bit of cramping today, but you should be back to normal by tomorrow. I’m almost sure the polyps are benign, but we can’t be too careful.”
At the mention of the word, “polyps,” I almost had a heart attack and realized for the first time that this procedure hadn’t been an option. Baby-girl had been right!
“I LOVE YOU, GEORGE CLOONEY,” I passionately cried as my heart over-flowed with gratitude; at which point a fart as loud as a freight train exploded from my ass. Dr. Mc-damn-you’re-so-fine smiled as he gave me that knowing look of “this is just what we’ve all been waiting for.” George Clooney then disappeared behind the curtain and into another patient’s life as if he’d been a dream.
My husband (WW) helped me get dressed and escorted me down the hall to the car as I gave off two farts for every three steps as my stomach began to shrink back to normal. WW and I keeled over with gales of laughter as we drove home hilariously singing Mel Brook’s 30-year-old punch line to the tune of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”: “Never, ever trust a fart, E, I, E, I, O!”
The biopsy came back today, and all is well in “the land of the indignities.” As I began to fall asleep happy and content that I had passed my first colonoscopy test, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. As WW and I chuckled about my George Clooney experience, I could have sworn that I heard the voices of Walton’s Mountain emanating from my nether regions as it nestled around my “clean, cancer-free colon”: “Good night Tushey. Good night Colon. Good night Muffin. Good night Colon. Good night Gluten-free Intestines. Good night Colon. Good night Thunderous Thighs. Good night Colon. Good night Jelly-Belly. Good night colon. Good night Fluffy-Butt. . .Good night Colon!”
Two best colonoscopy jokes I’ve discovered to date:
If your hand doesn’t fit, you must quit.
Hey, now I know how a Muppet feels.
Author’s note: This was a funny story (hopefully) about a necessary procedure which is not a laughing matter. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US. I finally “got over myself” and took my chubby ass in for the C-test when two women I knew in their forties died suddenly and prematurely from colon cancer. That made Baby-girl hysterical, by the way. Had the disease been caught in its early stage, they would probably be alive today. If you are over 50 and haven’t had a colonoscopy, please don’t wait: http://www.screen4coloncancer.org/understandingColonoscopy.asp
All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk copyright © 2011 except where otherwise noted
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