Recently, because I’m of a certain age, it was time for that dreaded medical test, the colonoscopy. Everyone fifty and older has a reaction when the word is even spoken, and everyone has their own story surrounding the event and process. It’s a rite of passage.
“It’s the prep that’s the worst part!”
“Hope you have smooth sailing and that everything comes out ok!”
Oh, the jokes can go on and on and while potty humor does help during this most humbling time, we all know the importance of making sure we are up to date on our tests. We know it is necessary.
Importance notwithstanding, it is one of the most dreaded, talked about, and joked about medical procedures we older folks have.
Ten years ago, I had the joy of prepping for an upcoming colonoscopy. I had Boo arrange to get off work so he could take me and bring me home. I drank all the liquid concoctions, took the pills, and showed up at 7:30 a.m. clean as a whistle, and ready to go. (pardon my pun)
“Good morning!” the cheery desk clerk sang.
“Nancy Malcolm. I’m here for my colonoscopy.”
“Hi, Ms. Malcolm. Let me get you checked in.”
Pages began to shuffle and ruffle. She glanced back up at me, “Did you say, Malcolm?”
“Yes,” M A L C O L M
The calendar came out. More shuffling of papers.
Then she grabbed the calendar and said, “I’ll be right back.” And she was.
“Uh, Ms. Malcolm? Your appointment is tomorrow. We have you down tomorrow, the 7th with a 6:30 a.m. check-in.”
I’m pretty sure my heart stopped as I asked, “Are you certain? Oh, my goodness, are you sure? I had it down for the 6th at 7:30 a.m.”
“No, I’m sure. See?” And she turned the calendar to show me. “You’re the doctor’s first patient tomorrow. The 7th with a 6:30 a.m. check-in.”
I felt a flip and gurgle in my stomach, and I thought I would either pass out or take off running to the bathroom, instead, tears welled up and my face got hot. My lip began to quiver and as it did, a salty tear ran down from the corner of my eye.
“I don’t think I can do this again or go without eating for another day.” I turned to look at Boo who was all comfy in his chair with a fresh coffee and reading the news on his phone.
“Why don’t you take a seat, and I’ll talk with the nurse.”
“Ok,” I slobbered and dejectedly turned toward the row of chairs near Boo.
I sat down and before he even glanced up from his news, he said, “Ready for action?”
“It’s tomorrow,” I whispered through my tears. “I’m on the wrong day.”
His face didn’t move, but his eyes peered up at me in shock, “Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m sure!!” I said a little too loud and as I looked around, I saw people staring at me sideways with pity and horror. My saga had played out as their worst nightmare, and they were checking their own paperwork and sighing with relief.
Silently, I sat while Boo debated on whether to question me further or just sit quietly in solidarity. He patted my knee.
“I’m waiting for the nurse to tell me what to do,” I offered, and he patted me again.
“I’m so hungry,” I said to no one in particular. “And water. I need a drink of water.”
I went to the restroom. Walked around the waiting room. Tried to read the news over Boo’s shoulder and then just sat and stared into space. Finally, I walked up to the window again.
“Did you find the nurse?” I asked the desk clerk.
“Yes, she’s in the OR. She’ll come out when she can. We have to wait.”
“Ok,” I whispered.
Twenty minutes later, a nurse came out and called me over to the side of the room. As I walked over to the door where she stood, I felt all eyes on me. The collective waiting room leaned one ear toward us, trying to be nonchalant.
“The doctor said he will fit you in this morning, but you’ll have to wait an hour and a half.”
“Yes, yes, Ok. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” I said.
She wasn’t smiling, although I wanted to hug her anyway. “Don’t go anywhere,” she said. “And don’t eat or drink anything. Not even water.”
“Of course. I won’t.” And she turned to leave.
Sure enough, an hour later, she came back to get me. Most of the gawkers from the waiting room had already been called to their appointments, so I kissed Boo’s cheek and said, “See you soon.”
“Good luck, Babe,” he said, and I began my walk of shame to the room where I put on my gown and waited for my IV.
“Did they tell you what happened?” I asked the nurse as she finished sticking me with the needle.
“I heard,” she said. “You got lucky this time.”
“I know,” I said, and they wheeled me off to the OR.
“When do I get the happy juice?” I kept asking, and finally, the doctor said, “We might be able to find you a little bit, even though you’re here on the wrong day,” and then he laughed. That’s all I remember till later that day.
I was still groggy on the drive home, but that evening as I was more awake, I went to the pantry for a snack.
“Cheetos! Boo! How did these Cheetos get here?”
He came into the kitchen and just stared at me. “Are you serious right now?”
“You know I can’t control myself with Cheetos and now I’m going to have to eat some. But I’m throwing them out after that. You shouldn’t tempt me. You know I forbid Cheetos in the house,” I said.
“Boo,” he said. “You threw a fit driving home after your procedure and made me stop at 7-11 for a big bag of Cheetos. I tried to suggest something else, but you said you deserved them after all you’ve been through today. You insisted.”
“Sorry, babe,” I said as I crammed a handful of Cheetos into my mouth.
That was definitely one colonoscopy for the books. So, this past week when I was scheduled again, ten years later, for my colonoscopy, I had already checked and rechecked my dates and times.
When I met with the doctor three weeks ago, he said, “If all goes well, and you do the prep perfectly so that I get a clear picture, and everything looks good, this could be your last colonoscopy. You’re almost seventy, so in ten years you’d be eighty. If this doesn’t kill you it will most likely be something else. Consider it a perk of getting older.”
And then he went on; “Make sure you follow the prep instructions perfectly. This morning I had to tell a lady she has to come back next week. I saw corn.”
“Corn. She said she didn’t eat anything and followed the instructions, but I didn’t get a clear look. I know corn when I see it. No food and no corn.”
“No corn,” I promised. “You can count on me.”
Friends, getting older is not for the faint-hearted. Literally. I followed the prep instructions, starved myself for two days, and showed up on the right day at the right time and sure enough, everything went according to plan. There was absolutely no way I was going to have to come back next week. No corn for me. It was all smooth sailing.