WARNING: The following 1130 words have been approved for all reading audiences by the Council for a Healthier Colon. If you need to leave this column at any time due to feeling squirmy, rest assured you are not nearly as uncomfortable as I was during my 24-hour Journey to the Center of Christopher Gabriel.
co·lon·os·co·py (kō’lə-nŏs’kə-pē) n. pl. co·lon·os·co·pies
Examination of the colon with a colonoscope. Also called coloscopy.
There are any number of ways to graph the stages of life we go through. For men, I believe the moment their first colonoscopy arrives requires its own stage. For those confused, I’m not suggesting Broadway or the Guthrie. It might even be a stretch for the Earl Muckler Dinner Theatre. And though it certainly qualifies as a one-man show, it’s a private performance. It rehearses, previews, opens and closes all in one day. No tickets are sold, there are few lines of dialogue but to be fair, the musical underscoring is dramatic and moving.
I turned 50 last May. It was a wonderful day highlighted by my family throwing me a surprise party. Curiously, the one thing I told them I didn’t want was a surprise party. In this family, when I speak everyone straightens up and pays attention.
It was shortly after the party, while weathering a vicious late-spring storm producing several inches of marble-sized hail, that thoughts of The Test began creeping into my head. Most everyone I know that turned 50 had their party, their obligatory shipments of over-the-hill gifts and… word from their doctor that it was time for The Test. A co…… co…… co-lon-os-co-py. See, that wasn’t so hard.
What confuses me most is why those who already have had the test feel the need to tell you things like “OH MAN, you are going to HATE the night before! It’s just brutal. In fact, the worst was when I—–”
Thank you, that’ll be fine. I get the idea.
The entire Journey to the Center of Christopher Gabriel can be broken up into three very simple expeditions:
- Preparation: The Walk to the Cave
- Procedure: The Darkness Within
- Postscript: The Voice of Sunshine
The Walk to the Cave
Have you ever drank from the ocean? Welcome to The Day Before, or, Prep Day. I was given four little pills that look like mini M&M’s along with a 4-liter jug containing some white powder at the bottom. That powder might as well be called Devil’s Dust. This was to be mixed with lukewarm water and then chilled. The chilling procedure is to help it taste better. “Better” is a relative term.
You drink this stuff down in 8-ounce glasses every 15 minutes until half the container has been consumed. The other half is finished up the next morning. All told, this works out to about 16 glasses.
The whole point of the pill-liquid entree is to cleanse your colon. And let’s be clear, “cleansing” doesn’t quite do this mixture justice. Think OxiClean. When this stuff is finished with you, you’re colon is cleaner than a new hardwood floor. And isn’t that what all of us want?
To understand the mixture’s burst of flavor is to digest the warning on your instructions: “If nausea or vominting occurs…” Anytime those words appear with something I need to consume, I have some concerns.
Bartender: And what’ll you have?
Me: Let’s see…. how ’bout that fish oil/ocean water daiquiri.
Bartender: Excellent choice sir. It’ll make you clean.
And then… you wait. It’s like watching The Weather Channel and seeing a huge line of severe storms coming straight at you. One way or another, those storms are on the way and you have to deal with them.
But like anything else uncomfortable, the storm passes. Until the next morning when a new line of storms show up on your personal Doppler.
The Darkness Within
My procedure was scheduled for Methodist Hospital in suburban Minneapolis. This is where both of my daughters were born so even driving by the place always makes me smile. I wasn’t smiling today. Although calling it a “procedure” makes it sound a little more pleasant, doesn’t it?
The folks there, namely my nurse (Pam Geiger, RN) and doctor (Dr. Michael Shaw, MD), went out of their way to make me comfortable. This is no small task in light of having a colo… procedure.
The bed was very comfortable, better than some I’ve slept in at nice hotels. The room, cozy and warm. Pam was delightful, explaining everything to me in great detail. Her voice was soothing, her overall demeanor exactly what you hope for when going to a doctor’s office or hospital.
And then, I noticed the equipment to be used in the procedure. Suddenly, all bets were off.
This was no longer a procedure, it was a colonoscopy. One look to my right and I got the idea I was in the private studio of a master gardener. I thought to myself, ‘that thing isn’t for me, is it?’ That “thing” looked like a long, garden hose. My Doppler lit up with major storm activity.
When Dr. Shaw came in, the storms actually took a sharp turn to the south and off they went. He had that air about him that screamed “No worries, it’s all under control.” That’s the kind of doctor I want performing what was once again a procedure.
While I can say with great certainty this doesn’t qualify as something I’d want to do on a regular basis, watching it on the monitor was a remarkable experience. It was like watching a team of explorers carrying lanterns as they journeyed beneath the earth’s surface exploring caves. Around every corner was something new. At one point I was sure I saw a sign that read “Made in China.” Then I saw a small penguin. I’m guessing it was the drugs. If it wasn’t, I need another procedure.
The Voice of Sunshine
When it was over they wheeled me to the recovery area. I was in my own space with a huge window, nice view and brilliant sunlight shining through. A pair of sunglasses and a little sunscreen would have worked but this was a hospital, not a Hyatt.
The results were excellent which made any discomfort I felt moments earlier well worth it. My wife entered the room and suddenly, all was right with the world again.
Lying there in a hospital gown and slipper-socks, I had my wife take a picture of me to show my daughters when we got back home. Right on cue my older one got a puzzled look on her face, paused for a good 10 seconds and said, “Daddy, why are you wearing a dress?”
illustration credit: mac mcrae
About the Author: Christopher Gabriel is the host of the cleverly named Christopher Gabriel Program on AM 970 WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota. You can hear him weekdays from 9 to Noon. As a writer and humorist, his work has been been published online by the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters and publications within the Sun-Times News Group.