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Marcia Kester Doyle Headshot

I Need a What?

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A colonoscopy. The scary "C" word. Something I've been putting off for a while. This is what you get for your birthday once you hit 50. "Hey, happy birthday! Here's your present -- a gift-wrapped colonoscopy!" Fortunately, they don't sell home kits for that sort of stuff, or else everyone would lie about their birthday and stay 49 forever. My husband had to drag me kicking and screaming into the doctor's office because I seriously rebelled the idea of a camera being shoved up my you-know-what. Who the heck wants that? "Wow! What a gorgeous morning! It's a great day for a colonoscopy!"

Unfortunately, it's a fact of life once you reach your middle-age years. The only way I agreed to do it was if my husband scheduled his procedure the same day as mine. "The family that has a colonoscopy together, stays together!" My husband was four years overdue, so he was anxious to get it done. He has a history of polyps, so he needed the double whammy -- a camera shoved into two orifices for the price of one. His first question to the doctor was to make sure that the camera they used to explore his colon wasn't going to be the same one they used down his throat. The grinning doctor assured him that, yes, it was indeed the same camera, but not to worry because they would explore the throat first before heading south. That's when I interrupted the conversation and said, "No way are you using the same camera on me! Schedule me first!"

After much ribbing from our friends and a lot of great advice ("Use Gatorade to mix the powdered medicine." "Use wet wipes for your back side, because trust me, you'll need it by the end of the day"), we faced the daunting task of getting through the "day of preparation," which is the day before the procedure. No food allowed for 24 hours, just clear fluids. Oh, and this nasty powdered medicine you mix with liquid and drink gallons of to clear out your colon. In other words, don't leave home because your derrière is going to take you on a wild ride at the speed of light. Another word of advice: If you have to go through this little exercise in colon gymnastics, do not eat corn the week of your procedure -- trust me, you'll be sorry if you do.

On the prep day, I felt like a contestant on Survivor. No food to a "foodie" like me is the equivalent of serving a jail term where 24 hours seems like 24 years. I started chugging chicken broth and apple juice until I felt like I was going to start clucking and pecking at fruit. My husband was just as miserable. I've never seen him look so longingly at the handful of pretzels my son was munching on in front of us. I was dying of starvation, ready to forage in the flower beds in my garden or gnaw on the wood sofa legs. Even the dog started to look pretty tasty. The doctor said, "Only clear fluids." I idly wondered if that included gin or vodka.

At 2:00 p.m. that day we were due to start drinking the "special cleansing fluid," the stuff that cleans out your system. We mixed the powder prescription with lemon-lime Gatorade and began chugging. It was like the games we played in college -- my husband and I stood side by side at the sink and tried to out-chug one another. I could just hear the frat boys chanting, "Go, go, go!"

So far, so good.

Fifteen minutes later as we sat on the sofa and watched the food channel (we were gluttons for punishment), I heard the first rumbling. It sounded like Mount Vesuvius getting ready to explode. I turned to my husband. "Was that your stomach or mine?" Gurgle, gurgle, then, "OH MY GAWD!" and the race to the bathroom began. Thank goodness we have two toilets in the house because if we didn't, someone would be sticking their fanny in a bucket. These were not bowel "urges," these were bowel demands, screaming "NOW!" Too bad we didn't have a television in our bathroom because I sure could have used one after sitting in there for five hours.

The day of the procedure, I no longer feared what was going to be done to me since I was so hyper-focused on what I was going to eat once I woke up from the anesthesia. I wondered if they'd serve me steak and a big baked potato in the recovery room. That would be a nice thing to wake up to after being molested by a small camera.

As promised, I was wheeled into the surgical room before my husband. I feebly waved "goodbye" to him as I rolled past, and he gave me the thumbs-up. It was a bit disconcerting to see so many doctors and nurses waiting in the room for me -- like this was major surgery or something. That's when I glanced over at a partially hidden closet and saw some long, black, snake-like tubes hanging from hooks. The tubes looked long enough to stretch all the way to Russia. They were going to put that thing up my what? Before I could rip out my IV and run for the hills, the anesthesiologist patted my shoulder and sent me off to La La Land with Propofol.

Next thing I knew, these very kind nurses -- more like angels -- gently woke me and asked if I'd like some coffee and graham crackers. I sat up like a seal and clapped my hands. Food! Food! Graham crackers had never tasted so good.

As soon as we got home (polyp-free), my husband and I raided the refrigerator. We didn't even shut the door -- we just stood there in its light, snacking on lunch meat and cheese sticks with the cool air hitting our faces.

All in all, a colonoscopy is not as bad or scary as you might think. At least you can drop a few pounds in the process. It should be called "the colonoscopy diet" because you starve and then lose everything in the bathroom that you've eaten for the last month. Everyone should be awarded a souvenir once they finish this procedure. An "I survived a colonoscopy!" T-shirt would be nice. Or maybe just hand the survivor a steak.

This post originally appeared on Marcia's blog:

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