The following account of my colonoscopy is intended for both mature and immature audiences. In documenting this experience, I'll try not to get too brown. Butt I'd also like to encourage you, my friends, many of whom are 50ish, to consider getting screened, because I love you and so do a handful of other people.
My friend calls me a verbal flasher. So be it. At least I'm not jotting this down while sitting in my car next to a playground.
Monday, 7:21 AM—Hopped up on two hollow-gutted coffees, I board Metro, T minus twenty-four hours, nine minutes until the glovin' starts and the lights go up.
I nestle into my favorite seat, the one in the back corner with a little extra elbow room for either writing or etching a sick tag on the window. I pull out my colonoscopy prep sheet. "No solid foods all day, only broth, coffee, soda or Popsicles. Beginning at 5:30, drink eight ounces of Golytely every ten minutes."
Golytely? Awesome name. I've heard the company has a friendly but competitive relationship with the three other giants in the power laxative market: I Shit You Lot, Fecease, and Jell-O Instant Pudding.
Monday, 7:54 AM,—When the pharmacist slides the jug onto the counter, I almost sh.. (too easy). Seriously, this is a gallon jug with the "fill line" almost to the cap. After water and a refreshing lemon flavor packet, it makes a gallon of Poolytely.
Wonder if Bartell's sells beer bong materials. Probably not.
Monday, 5:26 PM—After fantasizing about New York style pizza all day, I bid goodnight to the family and hop in the minivan for the twenty-minute ride to Motel 6.
Our house has one bathroom. Staying there tonight wouldn't go well for anyone.
I arrive to see families playing in the inner courtyard swimming pool. Not quite the clientele I was expecting being so close to the airport, but hey, that and my ten-percent AARP discount have me feeling weak with excitement.
Monday, 5:53 PM—I enter Room 238 overlooking the pool, and slide the curtains closed. I feel like I'm hiding out after robbing a Fotomat. Might as well get comfortable. I change clothes and throw off the DNA-encrusted bedspread.
Monday, 6:01 PM—I decant the first cup of Lemon Crush. Barely makes a dent in the top of the jug. Bottoms up. "Argh," says Mr. Uvula the dangling pirate. Tastes like chilled poodle saliva.
Only fifteen more cups to go. I set my phone alarm for ten minutes and turn on the TV. It's Wolf Blitzer with an image of Robin Williams in the corner of the screen—Robin Williams, 1951-2014.
What? No. The guy was a genius. The World According to Garp, The Fisher King, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, his stream-of-consciousness stand-up routines, and now he's gone. Sometimes it seemed like he couldn't get it all out fast enough. Only 63. What a loss.
Monday, 7:15 PM—Seven doses in. I'm feeling the first gurgles of a new lifestyle, so I'll sign off for a bit.
Monday, 10:47 PM—Feeling stable. Goodnight.
Tuesday, 5:15 AM—Ever the Pavlovian, upon hearing the familiar folksy refrain of my phone alarm, my brain reacts. Shit. Time to drink more of the shit.
Seeing the empty jug on the counter snaps me to reality. I feel sleepily satisfied as I stuff the plastic container into the garbage, take a shower and throw my stuff together. Farewell Motel 6. May our most intimate secrets pass silently into Puget Sound.
Tuesday, 6:01 AM—My wife is up when I arrive home. During the school year, she puts in about eighty hours a week, so she tends to enjoy sleeping in during the summer. Little is said as we climb into the Hyundai under dark dawn skies.
Tuesday, 6:44 AM—I check in at the endoscopy clinic and get a wrist band. Two other dudes come in right after me, also accompanied by female partners. Occasionally we glance at each other, sharing the bond of our impending initiation into the Brotherhood of the Bottom.
Tuesday, 6:57 AM—The nurse greets my wife and me. She's very friendly and pretty. Glad she can see me at my best. I'm led through a door and into a small bay. "Go ahead and have a seat on the bed," she says. "It's going to be your home for the whole procedure; we'll just wheel you around."
"Am I getting a general anesthetic?" I ask.
"It's not general, it's called 'conscious sedation,' a combination of drugs that help you relax and block pain. You may be awake but you won't remember anything. A lot of people just go to sleep."
She starts an I.V. and asks me a list of questions. "Okay, that's it for me. The doctor should be in shortly. Nice to meet you and I'll see you afterwards."
Tuesday, 7:10 AM—The doctor enters through the curtain, introduces himself and explains the procedure: "We wind the scope through the colon and look around. Sometimes we'll see a polyp, which is a lump in the lining caused by abnormal cell growth. If that's the case we insert instruments to clip it off and suture it."
"Are polyps common?' I say.
"They occur in about twenty-five percent of people over fifty. Okay, ready to go?"
"Sure." I watch him deftly perform multiple tasks while chatting with me. Interesting how doctors and nurses are so good at doing that. "How many of these do you do in a day?" I ask him.
Tuesday, 7:17 AM—The nurse rolls me into the brightly lit colonoscopy room. She asks me to lie sideways, facing the monitors and TVscreen. I always wondered how my grizzled mug would come across in HD, but today the paparazzi aren't interested in my face.
"Okay," says the doctor, "we're starting the anesthetic."
I feel my heart race and watch the digits rise on the monitor: 76, 82, 84. I still don't feel anythi...."
Tuesday, 8:09 AM—I'm sitting in a chair. My clothes are back on and my wife and doctor are standing next to me.
"We found a couple of small polyps," he says, "one was three millimeters and the other was seven millimeters. We cut them out and we'll let you know as soon as we get the results from pathology." He hands me a packet of literature.
I lose track of reality again and didn't permanently revive until I found myself riding over the West Seattle Bridge.
"Are you hungry?" asks my wife.
Hunger doesn't describe the feeling, dear bride. I could eat Little Caesar himself. "Yeah."
"Want to have breakfast at Easy Street?"
I've just gone thirty-six hours without lard. I want breakfast, lunch and dinner at Easy Street. "Yeah."
Tuesday, 9:22 AM—After washing down a club sandwich and fries with some of the best coffee I've ever tasted, we return home. I fall on the couch, turn on Dexter and sleep deeply through two episodes.
Tuesday, 11:11 AM—Feeling great.
Wednesday, 1:47 PM—Back at work. I open an email from the clinic which tell me my biopsy results are in. For the past day I've tried not to obsess over it, but Mr. OCD despises uncertainty even more than he hates Howard Schultz. I can't imagine the anxiety cancer patients must feel. Here I am, ruminating over a couple of little colon lumps for twenty-four hours, and these poor people must dance to this number over and over again.
Wednesday, 2:19 PM—I call the clinic and the nurse reads me the doctor's letter:
"Dear Mr. Haywood,
I hope this letter finds you in good health. While the polyps we removed were not found to be cancerous, we would consider them pre-cancerous and thus rightly removed.
"We would like to see you for another screening in five years. Take care."
Please do this. It's really not a big deal in the end...so to speak. Do it for yourself and do it for everyone who cares about you.
Get your ass in there.