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EXPLORING WHERE
NO MAN HAS
GONE BEFORE
By Frank Kaiser
My first colonoscopy (an intimate tour of the colon and large intestine) took place long before Suddenly Senior was born in 1999. My first endoscopy (esophagus, stomach and duodenum) was over 20 years ago.

Still, in the spirit of "Truth in Aging" — a promise I made at the beginning of this journey with you — I considered writing a piece on the ins and outs of probing one's personal plumbing system.

After lung cancer, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US. Diagnosed early, there's an excellent change of survival.

That's why you too will almost certainly undergo at least one of these procedures sooner or later.

Last Tuesday, I did both.

Briefly, the procedures break down into three stages: Bathroom; Biopsy; and Babbling.

"Bathroom" begins when you are forced to drink a gallon of a super-turbo laxative called Nulytely® ($36.89 at Walgreen's; $30.49 at Costco), eight ounces every 15 minutes. A combination of Rotor-Rooter® and Plumber's Helper™, I started drinking mine at 5 p.m. By seven, I looked and felt like a beached blue whale, bloated and half-dead, but still "full of it" as my wife is wont to say.

Then, at exactly 7:07, the floodgates opened. For the next three hours I sat in the bathroom. Just when you think you're through, you're not. As one veteran reader advised, at this point never, ever trust a fart.

"No Bigger Than My Finger"

At the five-hour mark, I'd gone through a roll and a half of toilet paper and a bar of soap. Sore, I took a few quick sitz baths. This is highly recommended.

By midnight, I was ready for Stage Two, which began at 7:40 the next morning at my friendly local endoscopy center.

Your doctor will explain, as mine did, that the colonoscope and endoscope — the vehicles used for this bit of dark inner-exploration — are "no bigger than my finger." Each, however, contains a camera and lights for recording, shears or wires for clipping polyps and taking biopsies, a blowtorch for cauterizing the resulting wounds, a broom to collect cells for analysis, and a kind of snow blower that dilates the area about to be examined.

That's some finger!

Fortunately, great drugs are involved. You're in La-La Land, just where you want to be at a time like this.

A word of caution from one Suddenly Senior reader who apparently was speaking from personal experience: Saying "I love you" to your gastroenterologist in the middle of the procedure is considered poor form and not recommended.

To that, I can add the following: When you awaken into the Babbling Stage, you'll be giddy as grandma with a winning Bingo card.

You'll be full of gas, feeling no pain, and think everything you say is hilarious. Don't, as I did, ask everyone who comes within earshot to pull on your finger. You won't remember, but everyone else will.

The bottom line*? Do it! These procedures could save your life.

And here's a word of advice that I received too late: Unless you enjoy feeling like the world's most prodigiously pounded human, or have no pity on those to whom you will tell your tale of inner exploration, ask your physician about a pill that can be taken instead of the gallon of laxative.

Bottoms up!

Copyright © 2003 – Frank Kaiser

For others in this series, "The Real Truth About Getting Old," go to http://www.suddenlysenior.com/healthissues.html


* AFTER I INFORMED READERS that my "Monday's Best Jokes of the Week" wouldn't be sent because of my imminent procedures, I got 587 e-mails, each apparently trying out-pun all the others. Talk about "dark" humor. Here are a few about down yonder:

  • I hope that you are up and "running" soon!

  • It's just a colonoscopy. It's not the end!

  • You will "end" up better than ever before.

  • This too shall pass.

  • Glad to hear that everything "came out OK!"

  • Hope everything turns out OK in the "end."

  • Go boldly where man has never gone before.

  • Have a sphincter-riffic time!

  • Tell the doc, "If your hand doesn't fit, you must acquit."

  • Ask anyone around, "Can you hear me now?“

AND, READER RON FIELDS, SR.
SENT THE FOLLOWING VERY TOUCHING POEM:

We praise the colorectal surgeon
Misunderstood and much maligned
Slaving away in the heart of darkness
Working where the sun don't shine

Respect the colorectal surgeon
It's a calling few would crave
Lift up your hands and join us
Let's all do the finger wave

When it comes to spreading joy
There are many techniques
Some spread joy to the world
And others just spread cheeks
Some may think the cardiologist
Is their best friend
But the colorectal surgeon knows...
He'll get you in the end!

Why the colorectal surgeon?
It's one of those mysterious things.
Is it because in that profession
There are always openings?

When I first met a colorectal surgeon
He did not quite understand;
I said, "Hey nice to meet you
But do you mind? We don't shake hands."

He sailed right through medical school
Because he was a whiz
Oh but he never thought of psychology
Though he read passages
A doctor he wanted to be
For golf he loved to play
But this is not quite what he meant...
By eighteen holes a day!

Praise the colorectal surgeon
Misunderstood and much maligned
Slaving away in the heart of darkness
Working where the sun don't shine!

Copyright held by the Canadian comedy team, Bowser and Blue, whose website is www.bowserandblue.com

NOT ALLOWED UNDER MEDICARE

I begged my gastroenterologist to write a note for those Suddenly Senior readers who believe that my head is up my butt — existing photos to the contrary. [See rare photo at left.]

(By the way, my readers tell me that the current PC on this is "Cranial/Rectal inversion.")

My doc wouldn't do it. Medicare only goes so far.

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Read last week's column:

MY 15 SECONDS OF FAME

Andy Warhol was right. My 15 minutes of fame came just last week when I was on national CBS Evening News. What's it like to go from anonymous old coot to Wunderkind, and live to tell about it? Perhaps not what you'd think. CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY.

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