In a span of six months I saw two gastroenterologists (GE). Nothing was wrong with me. I had no symptoms. It was just that my doctors kept referring me to other doctors and I did not argue because I’m retired. I need to supplement my recreational activities with educational ones.
My oncologist (Onc) referred me to the first GE, whom I never met. His registered nurse interviewed me and concluded that nothing should be done to me but her boss the GE always made the final decision on the matter. Sure enough he said nothing should be done to me. Onc was happy but my Primary Care Physician (PCP) was not. He referred me to the second GE and told me for the nth time me I should get a colonoscopy because of my cancer history. I finally caved in and agreed.
So off to GE#2 I shuffled. My insurance company gladly notified me of their approval of PCP’s request: a 30-minute face-to-face interview between GE#2 and me.
GE#2 is another one of those young, suntanned and handsome Southern Orange County physicians to whom I’ve grown accustomed. He definitely descended from one of the failed Hollywood star wannabes of Bugsy’s era.
He had 30 minutes so he went straight to business and asked me what symptoms I had that brought me to him. I told the truth: no symptoms. He gave me two options. Option number 1 screening, which is usually given to people with no symptoms. It would require checking of the stool by PCP through lab test results. Option number 2 diagnostic colonoscopy entails him sending a camera through the rear-end orifice and analyzing every nook and cranny of my large intestine, also called the colon. A camera? I asked, with feigned terror in my eyes. How big is this camera you’re talking about? He chuckled and clarified: It’s tiny and you’ll be under anesthesia. You will not know what’s happening and it will take only about 45 minutes. I’ll look for polyps or cancer signs. If I see polyps, I’ll remove them there and then. I said, I have no symptoms, I’ll take Option 1. What happens next? His response: Your PCP will just keep telling you to have Colonoscopy.
I decided to cut out the PCP agony and go for the colonoscopy experience or Option 2.
GE#2’s battery of assistants went to work. The tech scheduled a date for my colonoscopy procedure to be performed as an outpatient in a facility where mostly elderly men and women allow the gastroenterologist surgeon to insert this tiny camera in the rear end for a scenic tour of the large intestine. It would be like a small train entering a dark tunnel that has 4 bends, each one almost 90 degrees, forming an open square. The camera takes photographs at points chosen by GE. But first, the patient’s large intestine must go through a thorough cleansing to get rid of any caca that might block the camera and a clear view of whatever adorns the innards.
The nurse gave me a page long of must-do things: buy 32-oz bottle of gatorade and a bottle of a laxative; mix the two fluids; take three laxative tablets two different times; drink the gatorade mixture along with a liquid diet at certain times all day before the day of the procedure and hours just before the actual colonoscopy.
All told, I dedicated 3 days of my leisurely life for the project. Day 1 for shopping, Day 2 for cleansing, Day 3 for the colonoscopy. Retirement is awesome. It allows time for this kind of experience. I was not even thinking of results, bad or good.
Day 2 was the toughest, definitely not a time to visit Disneyland. I had to stay home, prepared to plant myself on the commode at all times. Laxative overload owned me!
Day 3 proved to be anti-climactic. I was told to lie down sideways on the gurney and relax. A nurse installed an Intra-Vein line in front of my elbow and inserted an oxygen thingy in my nose. Next thing I knew I was waking up. Okay! Chop, chop. I joyfully exclaimed. Are we ever going to start the colonoscopy? The head nurse responded, All done. You’ve been asleep for 2-1/2 hours. I was stunned. I had no pain anywhere, no bleeding, no discomfort, nothing. Whoa! I could have dropped dead and entered the pearly gates without any knowledge of colonoscopy. I missed out on the event totally.
Everything went well, the handsome devil Dr GE#2 assured me and handed me a sheet of photographs of certain scenic spots inside my large intestine. I studied each ghastly image with mixed disgust and curiosity. They looked kind of gross, really, but the pictures of the inside of my colon brought good news: no polyps, no cancer signs.
The clinic’s post-colonoscopy written instructions were pretty serious: No walking home, no bus, no taxi. Someone must drive the patient home and the driver must be physically presented during the check in otherwise the procedure will be cancelled. Good for them but I had my own agenda. I convinced a male friend to accompany me and pretend to be my driver. I wanted to go home by myself.
After an hour of my coming to, the staff noticed that no one with car keys had arrived for me. They became suspicious. They wheeled me to a corner of the recovery room and held me hostage. No car, no release. While buying time for the anesthesia to wear off, I stared at the door and the exit sign. They beckoned me. But the nurses could read the glitter of excitement of escape in my eyes. They took turns talking to me, still hoping someone would show up with car keys. Finally, they gave up. The head nurse instructed a young man to drive me home and walk me to the door of my manor.
Don’t we just love happy endings? Happy dance, senior string-bikini babe!