It wasn’t that long ago that I found out I owned a prostate. Now, my doctor tells me, I have a colon.
I was sitting in his office discussing some test results, when he said, “I saw something I didn’t like in your stool sample.” It’s hard to keep a straight face when someone says something like that. I would have been quite concerned if he had found something he liked.
“I’m sending you for a colonoscopy,” he said. “They’ll be in touch.” I had no idea how prophetic those words would be.
A few days later, I get an email; pages of instructions and preparation; none of which mattered. The fact is, there is only one way to get a colonoscopy – you audition for it.
I am ordered to show up at the colonoscopy centre, given more papers and instructions and told to wait until the movie begins. There are about 20 of us, all trying hard not to make eye contact. I suppose they all had dis-likable stool samples. Not hard to imagine, really.
So the movie starts – no popcorn – and halfway through, the realization sinks in. They are going to do what!?! With what!?!
Colonoscopy, for the uninitiated, is a video camera attached to a garden hose, more or less. It goes in where the sun don’t shine and you’re treated to the most boring travelogue you can ever imagine on closed circuit television. The idea is to see if you have anything living there that shouldn’t. Now I see why they didn’t give us popcorn.
We come out of the movie room shaken. A nurse takes us individually to a meeting room where we get more paper and more instructions. There is, she says, “preparation.” If you think about it, and I encourage you not to, the doctor driving the garden hose camera does not want meet your Thursday beer and chicken wings coming the other way.
“So you are going to drink four litres of laxative,” she says like it was humanly possible.
“Two litres the night before and two the morning of your appointment. It’s on the instructions,” she says.
”They are going to do what!?! With what!?!” I ask.
She says it’s not that bad and I can opt for sedation. “I need sedation?”
“Some people find it easier,” she says.
I get my appointment time two weeks off and she sends me away to contemplate.
It’s not my nature read instructions; I consider reading a manual to be an admission of defeat; but for this I am willing to make an exception.
“It is important,” the instructions read, “that the bowel be clean and free of obstructions.” Considering its function for the last 66 years, that may be a challenge. My instructions encouraged me to eat a lot of white food – rice, chicken (white meat only, one presumes), potatoes, ginger ale which is not technically white. I am to avoid anything with seeds, lumps, nuts, fiber or the color red for four days before the test.
Five days before the test, I got a call from the colonoscopy clinic reminding me to start my white diet and buy my provisions – Gatorade, ginger ale, gum, Gravol and four litres of laxative. I do this, finding out to my disappointment that the laxative is some powder in the bottom of a four-litre plastic jug. Thirty bucks and I have to supply my own water for mix.
At the check out, the woman behind me pats the jug of laxative and says, “That’s great stuff for losing weight.” I honestly cannot think of a thing to reply.
I am kind of enjoying the fibre-free diet when I realize it’s almost judgment day. I full up the plastic jug with water, shake it to dissolve the powder and let it sit in the fridge because the instructions say it tastes less bad cold.
The evening before the test, I clock watch until 8 pm. I mark the halfway point on the jug and sit down with a large tumbler. It takes nearly an hour to gag down the two litres. The liquid tastes like lemon flavored salt water, but that pales compared to the ice cream headache I have. I resolve to drink tomorrow’s ration at room temperature.
I won’t go into great detail about what happened next. It’s pretty much what you would expect from drinking two litres of laxative. I didn’t get a lot of sleep and I dared not cough. The morning’s additional two litres were pretty much unnecessary, just gilding the lily you might say. They wanted clean and I am happy to report they are going to get it.