Friday, August 7, 2009


What’s the first thing you think of when someone says, “I just turned 50”?

Maybe you wonder if they scheduled their colonoscopy. It’s the second stage in the rite of passage; the first is admitting that you actually are 50.

The week before my procedure, I brought up the topic to everyone I met. At a wine and music event, I sat at a table with folks who’d endured more than one colonoscopy. All of them said it’s no big deal. But the day before isn’t any fun.

So the day before “the day before,” I ate very little. And on Sunday when I was allowed nothing but clear liquids, it wasn’t much different from Fridays, when I generally don’t eat. Preparation C, for “cleanout,” also consisted of four tablets of “the worldwide no. 1 selling overnight laxative,” Dulcolax, which on me acted like pepper triggering a sneeze: It was not an overnight phenomenon. My neighbor’s advice of staying home and not going to the neighborhood potluck was sage.

A couple of hours after swallowing Dulcolax, I was directed to pour seven doses of MiraLax powder into 64 ounces of chartreuse-colored Gatorade. MiraLax is polyethylene glycol, a synthetic resin used as a solvent or wax. I’m guessing in this case, it’s not wax. In the drug facts, it reads, “Stop use and ask a doctor if you get diarrhea.”

Kind of ironic.

Because I’d consumed so much liquid already, I had little room for much else, yet after three hours, the Gatorade was gone, along with everything inside me.

The next morning at 4:30 I was back at the bottles—MiraLax and Gatorade. My tongue fell out of my face at 6:10 a.m. No more.

Showered and lighter, I floated next door to Bette’s for a lift to the gas blower. You know how some women have a husband to take them to doctors’ appointments? Well, I don’t need a husband—I have Bette.

In the waiting room, we waited. When nurse Kris called my name, we jumped up and went into a preparation room. “I’m scared,” I told Kris. “I’ve never had an IV before. Do I have to have drugs? Do you know how much to give me? I’m rather skinny. Have you lost anyone yet? Why would you want this job?”

Nurse Kris patiently answered my questions. “You don’t have to be sedated. Would you like to have the procedure done without drugs?” Her tone of voice and expression formed my reply.

“Maybe not,” I whimpered.

“And who’s this with you?”

“Bette. She’s my confidante, neighbor, and drives the short bus for me.”

“So is it all right if she hears all the bad news that the doctor might tell you?” she sort of asked.

“Oh yes, please. All the news from North Korea too.”

“Okay. Take off your clothes and put on this cute little gown that exposes your rear,” Kris sweetly ordered. “Be right back!”

While she was gone those two minutes, I said to Bette, “What do you suppose is behind these curtains?” I peeked around the side to find sliding glass doors, a hallway, and another room across the hall that looked like a laboratory. Suddenly I felt as if I were in a university hospital and a whole class planned to observe my procedure from the hallway, giggle, and make anatomically correct comments about my hemorrhoids.

Kris skipped back in, pulling me out of my nightmare. “Now lie back on the bed and relax.”


When nurse number two walked in, I realized they were ganging up on me for the kill. “This is Elizabeth,” Kris announced. “She’ll be inserting your IV and feeding tube.” I could picture the straitjacket with a chink cut out for my butt hole.

“Will it hurt? I think I hear my daughter calling me.”

“No, it’s nothin—”

“Ouch! How long will this hurt?” Elizabeth, pretending to be mute, strapped the needle hole to my arm with several rounds of tape. I was stuck now. “It still hurts,” I whined. I noticed the pleasure she took in using my body as an oversize pincushion. Bet she’s mad at her boyfriend.

Behind me, Kris kindly interrogated in rapid-fire succession. “When was the last time you ate solid food?”

“I think, a month ago.”

“When was your last drink of liquids?”

“I had a shot of tequila at 6:10 this morning.”

“Have you had any aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs in the past week?”

Drugs, that’s what I forgot. “No.”

“Have you any allergies?”

“Onions,” I said, “and men. That’s why I have Bette here.”

They liked that. “Do you have a family history of colon cancer?”

“My family’s full of it,” I honestly replied.

“Wheel ’er in!” Back flew the curtains, slide went the glass door, and whoosh went the gurney on which I rode.

“Never been on a gurney before!”

In the laboratory I met Gail, the drug-prep nurse. I suddenly felt like a character in Young Frankenstein. We chit-chatted about painful topics, probably to get me in the mood.

Then I felt something move inside of me. “I think I have to go to the bathroom,” I told her.

“We have a suction.”

“Oh? What are you doing with all those needles?” I hesitantly asked.

“I’m preparing your drugs.”

Then I heard someone waltz in behind me and slide over to the sink by the window. As she washed her hands, I asked, “Are you Sue the doctor?”

“Yes, I am!” the perky little 15-year-old blonde answered, then pranced over to me. As she sat down and looked at me, she asked, “So why are you here today?”

“I’m here for the interview. Did you clean those instruments?”

“Yes. And are you having any problems?”

“Well, I may have irritable bowel syndrome, because you know as we get older, we have fewer enzymes to digest— What are you doing with that needle?!”

“Oh, I’m just putting a little sedative in you,” the little bombshell said as she injected Versed and fentanyl in me.

“I’m really small, so you don’t have to put very much in,” I uneasily offered. “And I’ve been having pain right here, and I’m thinking maybe it’s my colon and not my left ovary and…” I crashed.

I faintly heard, “Can you roll over on your left side for me?” I grunted and rolled like a beached whale. I did feel a sharp pain when they turned on their gas blower.

“Bette!” I eeked when I awakened in the first room. “How long have I been here?”

“About 15 minutes.”

“Am I going to live?”


So I slipped on my sundress, opened the door, and in my Versed-induced hypnotic state said thank you to everyone and wiggled my butt to the car. I think.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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  1. I've had two colonoscopies, but I can't remember either one.

  2. It's hard to beat the fun times old people have. You forgot to mention the prolonged flatulence after the procedure.

  3. That's exactly it.It's a weird feeling of "what just happened?" and then you're in the car heading home. I have to do it again in 4 years. I only go for the versed WOOHOO!Glad everything is fine inside!:-)

  4. To Donskiman:
    I only farted once, but I made sure I had an audience.

    To James:
    Thanks for being there!

  5. Colonoscopy's are too important to avoid, the day before is the only hard part. I have a friend that is dying from colon cancer because he wouldn't get one until he had a problem, and then it was too late. If he would have had a colonoscopy at 50, he wouldn't be dying a long horrible death at 70.

  6. My first colonoscopy was 10 years ago. Unfortunately, I found out the doctor's nurse was an acquaintance of mine, and she got to see more of me than I cared to show. Also, unfortunately, they found a couple of cancerous polyps which I had to have removed, and have had more viewings on a regular basis ever since... When people ask, I say it feels like nothing until the camera makes the first turn in the colon...


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