Unpleasant, but necessary, 50th birthday present – Commercial Appeal

For my 50th birthday my doctors give me a present: a colonoscopy.

The prep instructions are daunting. “In a large pitcher pour two 32 oz. bottles of Gatorade and 8.3 oz. bottle of MiraLAX. Begin drinking every 15 min. until completed.”

I start this at 4 p.m. the day before my procedure. But this is not all. The morning of the procedure I have to wake up at 3 a.m. and drink a bottle, an entire bottle, of magnesium citrate.

I read the instructions three times to make sure I was not misreading. I know what MiraLAX does to my patients.

It’s about 7 p.m. when I take the last swig of my orange Gatorade and MiraLAX punch. My wife smiles as I go back and forth to the bathroom. All night I keep the lights on in the bathroom.

In the morning, with my wife, I arrive at the surgery center. The nurse takes my vital signs and asks if I am having any nausea, vomiting, stomach pains. I say “No.” Then I say, “You didn’t ask me if I was having diarrhea.”

With a kind, understanding smile, she says, “We expect that. “

So is a colonoscopy worth it?

As I lay on a gurney wrapped in a sea blue paper gown and a warm blanket covering me, my gastroenterologist comes by. He justifies the procedure.

About 3 of every 100 Americans who are at age 50 will develop colon cancer in their lifetimes. Each year, 51,000 people will die of colorectal cancer and about 430 die in Shelby County. About 60 percent of these can be prevented by early screening.

Then he tells me the scary part. “A colonoscopy can lead to complications. One in 2,000 develop a perforation; now that can ruin your weekend, and may even require surgery and a six-month recovery.”

I do the math; 3 percent risk of colon cancer and .05 percent risk of severe complication. It’s worth it. And in any case, I did the prep and there is no turning back now.

A colonoscopy is not the only screening test for colon cancer. Stool tests for blood will detect cancer. This does not require a prep or a procedure at the doctor’s office. Another is a sigmoidoscopy, this is when a scope is placed half way up the colon.

Now there is a new test called virtual colonoscopy. It is an advance CT scan of the colon, which re-creates images of inside the colon and detects possible polyps or cancer lesions. This requires a prep and if anything suspicious for cancer is seen on the virtual colonoscopy then a full colonoscopy is required.

My doctor recommends the full sedation with propofol, the drug that killed Michael Jackson. My doctor explains that it was used inappropriately and that it is a safe drug. In fact, the last thing I recall is being rolled into the endoscopy suit, the sticky cardiac monitor being placed on my chest and a pre-procedure timeout checklist being done.

The next thing I recall is seeing my wife in the chair, and my gastroenterologist comes in the recovery bay and says, “It’s all clean.” My wife smiles. I fall back asleep.

My next appointment is in 10 years. I can wait. But now, it’s wife’s turn.

Source : Commercial Appeal

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