Sunday, October 19, 2008


I’m initially writing this as a simple opening statement, for the benefit of those who’d really rather not read the rest. (Some of my subscribers get an email copy of every post the moment I write it, and I’d rather not dump (so to speak) this subject in their mailbox involuntarily.)

So, the full text of this post will only be online, not in email.

The subject is that, being over 50, I’m preparing for a colonoscopy tomorrow. Dave Barry has written about this process (see below), so I’m not the first, but I’d like to add to those who are demystifying it. The very idea makes a lot of people cringe and hide, and having had one a few years ago, I can attest that it’s really not that bad, and can be the source of much merriment, if you have the right attitude. Which I do.

But if you read the rest of this, you gotta be willing to be playful about the subject matter.

I’ve started the prep process, and by this evening I’ll have posted the story.

(If you're curious about the title of this post, that too will be revealed later.)

3:15 p.m. update

If you don’t know what a colonoscopy is, you can read about it here (Mayo Clinic) or here (Wikipedia). Or, if you’re like me, you’re much more interested in what Dave Barry had to say about it when his turn came last February, which began:

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.

Here’s something most people don’t know: Although colon cancer is the second most lethal cancer in the US (after lung cancer), it’s also really easy to detect. It’s one of the very few organs that can be checked for cancer using a camera,which is really handy, when you think about it. (No camera could have gone for a drive through my kidneys.)

All it requires is for the inside of the organ to be nice and clean. And that’s where the fun starts, because, well, normally it’s not.

A few days before the event they have you start on a modified diet, so by the day of the inspection, there’s no confusing residue in you. The modified diet isn’t bad; you just don’t eat things that could look like a suspicious growth: seeds, red Jell-O, etc.

The day before, you drink a bunch of stuff that causes your insides to completely empty within a few hours – with vigor. Dave Barry describes stuff called MoviPrep; I had a prescription for NuLytely. My experience wasn’t nearly as, um, explosive as he described, but I’ll agree that you don’t want to be far from the bathroom for the several hours that it takes.

Now, some people will make a grumbling misery out of this, but hell, if we can turn a near-fatal cancer into Laugh, Sing, and Eat Like a Pig, we can certainly be playful with this situation.

So instead of grumbling about running to the bathroom constantly, what the hell: I set up shop in there.

I’m sitting here with my laptop on a TV table, online via wireless Internet, with a 10 minute kitchen timer around my neck. Every ten minutes the timer goes off, I drink another glass of the stuff, reset the timer, and go back to my typing. And when I need to be on the john quickly, no problem: I already am.

(Now that I think of it, I can't think of a better way to do my weekly report for work. Oops, I hope they're not reading this.<wink>)

3:40 pm update

I should add that my primary physician, the terrific Dr. Danny Sands, shares my attitude. I’m going to violate doctor-patient confidentiality here and quote, with a little editorial liberty, an exchange we had yesterday in the otherwise-secure PatientSite email system, which he helped invent:
e-Patient Dave: It’s good to see that as my mind has become clearer lately, my memory’s become clearer too.

e-Patient Doctor: After you drink the NuLytely, that’s not all that'll be clear.

Running and Passing

And now we come to the humor – the running joke, you might say.

My wife Ginny is as much of a word brat as I am, always looking for any excuse to abuse some hapless word. So of course we couldn't just call the juice by its brand name.

I observed that although our hometown team the Patriots isn't playing today (they're on Monday Night Football this week), we'd have plenty of running anyway. "Passing, too," she said.

"When are you going to start the juice," she asked. "The diarrhetic?" I asked, abusing "diuretic," and added "They should call it Running Water."

And then it hit me: Runnymede. It's the place where King John signed the Magna Carta, and a perfect brand name for a drink (mead) that makes your honey runny.

(What comes to mind is that Mom taught us "If you're neckin' with your honey and your nose is kinda runny then you may think it's funny but it's snot.") (Might this have anything to do with my inherited word-brattiness?)

[btw – For me, NuLytely doesn't taste nearly as unpleasant as how Barry describes MoviPrep.]

4:55 pm update

Well, it's almost through (so to speak). The Runnymede has run its course, the outcome is clear, so it's time to move on.

As long as we're being candid, I might as well say the other thing that you have to deal with, other than your "behindular zone" concerns: you have to arrange for a driver, because you do get anesthetized. (See Dave Barry, again.)

Personally, I really enjoy being loopy, and I do get loopy when I get anesthetized! I well remember when I was 16 and a dentist put me under - Mom and I giggled a lot as I came out from under.

But yeah, it's not just your own time off work (why aren't these people open weekends???), it's your driver too.

But deal with it. Trust me, you'll have a lot more time off work (and so will your driver) if you end up with a cancer that you might have caught years earlier.

So be a grown-up, as Dave (and Dave) say. Once you're 50, do it - and have fun!

Over and, ahem, out.

See this update, with results, 11/11/08.


  1. I like your take on this. I am 24 and have been having bi-yearly colonoscopies since I was 8 so I am pretty used to Runnymede and conducting my life on the john. I do think you have to have a sense of humor when it comes to these things.

    On a side note, I was wondering if you allow links on you site. I have a link to an informational cancer site that I would like to share with you. Could you contact me at curecancer1 at gmail dot com?

  2. p.s. I was wondering why a colonoscopy doctor is called an endoscopist instead of a colonoscopist, but I eventually noticed:


    Then it all made sense.


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