My Personal Side

By Craig Hastings
Eleven years ago I wrote a story similar to this one tonight. I hesitated because then it was indeed something just about as close to “My Personal Side” as I could tell you. Well here I go again because I think it’s important. I have “wellness checks” every three months here at the local Christie Clinic and have had ever since I busted myself up back in 2004. I see Dr. Lee at Christie and I trust his judgement when he tells me I need to change this or that or not do so much of the same. Dr. Lee keeps pretty close tabs on what I need and when. Well, three months ago I had one of these appointments and Dr. Lee reminded me once again, a little more insistent this time, that I was overdue for a test for nearly a year now. Of course I was putting this test off for as long as I dare. You can probably guess which dreaded test.

Yep, I’ll just say it…colonoscopy! Any of you close or past the age of fifty know the drill. Every ten years starting at age fifty we get these. If nothing too much is discovered during that first scope then in ten years you get to do it all over again. More than four or five polyps are discovered then you’ll be asked to return to the table in five years. Any family history of colon cancer might also qualify you for a five year repeat. That I don’t have. Well it’s been eleven years now so I caved. My scope would be scheduled three weeks out and so for three weeks I was at times, a wreck. I’d be having a good day and then all of a sudden it would hit me…colonoscopy December 14! Argh!!! So what’s so bad about a colonoscopy?

First, I’m a keep to myself guy that doesn’t share much of my personal life with anyone. For me the process is embarrassing. You see, I don’t want any of you to know that I had to do what it takes to complete the process of a colonoscopy. If it’s your turn I want to encourage you to please, get it done, your health is important. I’m told by professionals that know all about these that a majority of internal cancers start or can first be detected in our colons. This is a big deal. If you’re a current member of the colonoscopy club you know the drill but, I’m going to tell the tale to those of you that haven’t gotten a membership to this elite club of humiliated humans.

From my perspective, here’s how it starts. Like I said earlier, from the first day, the day I agreed to let Dr. Lee get the process going, it was another three weeks before I was going to actually strip down, gown up, and “Please turn over on your left side Mr. Hastings.” Me, I can’t help but punish myself with worry until the whole thing is over. Three weeks of sudden, “Damn I gotta have a colonoscopy on the 14th” moments nearly every day. An instruction packet will be mailed to your house with all of the what to do when and what will happen during and after instructions. I remember the day my packet came. Hmmm, much thicker than I remember eleven years ago. Eleven years ago I remember two pages of information. Be here on this day at this time, bring a driver, and buy two four ounce bottles of consumable WD-40. (Not really WD-40 but, this stuff does to your bowel what WD-40 does to a stuck nut on a rusted bolt!) Magnesium citrate is the miracle madness in this process.

That was it, eleven years ago anyway. Things change, right? So how did my instructions change from eleven years ago? A few pages of statements that I read and agree that I understood, check. The time and place, check. (Carle Hospital, first floor.) The doctor who would be manipulating about three or four feet of 3/4 diameter tubing up my….., check. But first Mr. Hastings; COVID 19 test the Friday before! Not check! What!? I’ve done four of these tests to date! Sorry, it doesn’t matter. Be at such and such parking lot on Friday before noon, wait in line for thirty minutes, swab your own nostrils and we’ll call you in 24 hours. Self quarantine until after your procedure! Now here’s the shocker; two ten ounce bottles of magnesium citrate and four Dulcolax pills! The instructions for this concoction are; the day before, at noon drink one ten ounce bottle of magnesium citrate and swallow two Dulcolax pills. Five hours later drink the second bottle and take the other two laxative pills! Now I know my body pretty well and if I subject my internals to these instructions I’ll need an ambulance to transport me to the hospital due to severe dehydration!

Nope not doing that! Shannon did her best to convince me to follow the instructions so not to have to do it all over again because I didn’t clean myself out well enough. Nope. I know what I need to do and this isn’t it. Eleven years ago those first instructions worked fine for me. Why the double and even triple dosing today? Here’s what I did eleven years ago and I was completely prepared for the scope and this is what I did last Sunday. My advice to you; eat very light and dry on Friday. Saturday, eat just two light meals of dry anything. I ate two small turkey sandwiches with only the bread and meat with a few saltine crackers and chased them with a small cup of applesauce. One mid morning and the other mid evening. Of course I’m starving but trust me it’s worth it. On Sunday you’re instructed to eat (drink) only broth, jello, or soup. A list of specific drinks are provided that you can have to help you maintain some sense of fullness. That’s only until 10:00 p.m. At 10:00 p.m. you can’t have anything by mouth until the procedure is complete the next morning. I woke up about 9:00 a.m. on Sunday and ate a cinnamon Poptart anyway with ice tea. The rest of the day nothing but ice tea until…

At 1:00 p.m. I drank one of the ten ounce bottles of magnesium citrate in four equal gulps fifteen minutes apart. No Dulcolax laxatives! At 4:00 p.m. it happened! Niagara Falls and bathroom confinement! Four hours later I was done. But what about the four Dulcolax pills and the other ten ounce bottle of slick em juice!? Never consumed them. According to my instructions and through my internet research, I was ready and good to go. Without getting into too much detail, the color, the amount of fluid, and how often determine when you can be confident you’re ready for your scope the next morning. I had to be at the hospital an hour early to check in and answer another barrage of health questions. Then it was off to the Digestive Health Office where it was clothes off, gown on, then rolled over. A couple of quick pops of sleepy juice in my IV port they inserted on my right hand and I was out. And of course it had to be a nurse that helped turn me over, lift my gown, and position my legs! Argh! Embarrassing! But why, you ask? Because that’s just me! I don’t share well! I woke up in what seemed like just a couple of minutes later back in the space from which I was wheeled from to have my colonoscopy performed.  

I think mine took about thirty minutes to do. The doctor discovered two very small polyps, which were considered normal for someone my age, which he removed and sent to a lab for analysis. (Twenty-four hours later I received the lab report via an email. The biopsies were normal.) Was I properly cleaned out? I asked and yes, I was and given eight color pictures of the procedure which prove I was! Clean! One bottle! Small meals the two days before! It works! Had I to do it over I would have spread the ten ounce bottle over an hour. You’re forewarned this stuff can cause nausea and even vomiting if consumed too fast. I was slightly nauseated for about two hours after drinking the ten ounces of magnesium citrate.

Seriously, the instruction dose of “Set Me Free” aids would have dehydrated me to a point of distress. Maybe if you’re someone that struggles with going to the restroom it would take this mega dose to get you clean but not me. I’ve never taken a laxative pill in my life. Eat light and dry for forty-eight hours prior, consume the laxatives that work best for you, and get it done. The procedure is nothing. It’s the days before, especially the day before when you’re married to your bathroom for an hour or so that’s bad. Embarrassing and humiliating for me. Yeah go ahead! Some of you are laughing at me because these things don’t bother you one bit. I have to interject some humor in this story in order to report my results to you. I’m doing it because I want you to get it done if you need to and haven’t yet. When it’s over you will feel a sense of great relief even if you might need further treatment and attention. See ya in ten years. That might be my last one because after 75 years they are not usually recommended anymore.

(The views and opinions expressed in the submitted columns are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Journal.)

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