11/14/2014 02:24 pm ET Updated Jan 14, 2015

Colonoscopy Fact and Fiction

Baby Boomers,

An incredibly unique event is happening this weekend in Phoenix.

Have you heard about the "Undy Run 5000" yet?

This is a family-friendly event created by the Colon Cancer Alliance, which encourages participants to run in underwear/boxers to bring attention to colon cancer.

Hey, a fun event that brings attention to a great cause.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

Face it, there is nothing delicate about the subject of colon cancer.

This disease is intrusive, the testing is awkward, a colonoscopy is a test of your humility and just talking about the problem with your doctor is highly embarrassing in itself.

As far as I'm concerned, if it brings attention and focus and donations to the research and cure of colon cancer, then we should run the race naked with plastic pipes hanging out of our butts.

Like the "ALS Ice Water Challenge," the folks at Colon Cancer Alliance have discovered that doing something silly gets people talking about this disease, reducing the sensitivity surrounding the subject and ultimately lives are saved.

There are about 20 events scheduled for next year, so please get involved.

Try to picture sitting in front of the TV snacking on popcorn.

What could possibly be better than a video of thousands of wrinkly old Baby Boomers jogging down the street in their underwear on the 6 o'clock news?

So, let's get serious and talk about this subject a little bit.

This is not a procedure for the timid, bashful or anyone who blushes easily.

I remember my inaugural Colonoscopy, which was 5 years ago just like it happened yesterday.

If my memory isn't playing tricks on me, I recall that the procedure itself wasn't so bad, but there were 4 other things that made this undertaking so "unique".

1. The day before preparation

2. Realizing that there will be an audience watching this all happen

3. Having people put things in your butt with your permission no less

4. Knowing that you will have this same procedure again in 5 or 10 years


For those of you who are rookies on this subject, I just want to let you know what a Colonoscopy is.

A colonoscopy is an exam that views the inside of the colon (large intestine) and rectum, using a tool called a colonoscope.

The colonoscope has a small camera attached to a flexible tube that can reach the length of the colon.

How a Colonoscopy is Performed

You will usually be given a drip medicine into a vein to help you relax.

You should not feel any discomfort.

You will be awake during the test and may even be able to speak, but you probably will not remember anything.

Like I said, the procedure itself is really a breeze.

You will lie on your left side with your knees drawn up toward your chest.

The colonoscope is inserted through the anus.

Just let me add that plenty of lubrication is used.

It is gently moved into the beginning of the large bowel and slowly advanced as far as the lowest part of the small intestine.

Air will be inserted through the scope to provide a better view.

Suction may be used to remove fluid or stool.

The doctor gets a better view as the colonoscope is moved back out.

Therefore, a more careful exam is done while the scope is being pulled back.

The doctor may take tissue samples with tiny biopsy forceps inserted through the scope.

Polyps may be removed with snares, and images may be taken.

1. The Day before the Colonoscopy Preparation

Here's where the fun part of the ride begins.

You will need to completely cleanse your intestines.

Sounds like fun doesn't it?

A problem in your large intestine that needs to be treated may be missed if your intestines are not cleaned out.

Your health care provider will give you the steps for "cleansing" your intestines.

This may include using enemas, not eating solid foods for 2 or 3 days before the test, and taking laxatives.

As the Harvard Medical School describes it:

"What's most off-putting is the purgative part -- taking a powerful bowel-clearing substance and coping with the resulting diarrhea."

That's pretty damn descriptive if I say so myself.

When I had my colonoscopy, I was directed to drink what felt like 500 gallons of a wonderful liquid called "Golytely" in a 6 hour period the day prior to my procedure.

This is a brand name for Polyethylene Glycol (PEG).

Sounds yummy, huh?

Actually, it was only about 1 gallon.

PEG is an electrolyte-balanced solution in which patients drink 8 ounces every 10 minutes until the bowel's output runs clear or the solution is completely consumed.

Holy Crap. Literally!

The "purgative part" is definitely the worst part.

Here are a couple of hints from regular people like you and me on how to handle the "purgative part" of the preparation.

"Don't let anybody cook anything. You can't eat, and when you smell food, it makes you so hungry." - Nancy M.

"Just drink the prep while on the toilet... you'll be there for a while!" - Stacie G.

"Get the softest toilet paper money can buy." - Steve T.

2. The Colonoscopy Procedure

If you survive the "day before" then you've made it through the hard part.

All that is left is the humiliation, indignity and mental discomfort of having to show your backside, up close and personal, to your doctor and anyone else that happens to be lucky enough to be in the room at the time.

Lucky as I am, there were several medical students in attendance while my procedure was performed.

And by students, I mean young men and women in their 20s who are there on their own free will, honing their skills as future doctors and nurses.

It must have been an especially thrilling event for them having the opportunity to view my sexy, hairy ass on such a beautiful Monday morning.

3. The Colonoscope Insertion

There aren't enough jokes in the world (although I will give you the best ones I could find below) to minimize the mental discomfort of having a camera inserted in your anus and pushed all the way up to your belly button.

I am kidding... kind of.

The point I am trying to make it that you probably won't be prepared for this degree of "public exposure."

When it's all said and done, though, it's really not that bad.

We are all human animals, all built the same and really with nothing worth hiding.

Let's face it, Baby Boomers, at our age there is very little humility left in our lives.

Oh ya... you are basically asleep for the entire procedure anyway.

4. When should you have your next Colonoscopy?

All kidding aside for a moment, the Colonoscopy is a very important test especially if colon cancer has reared it's ugly head in your family history.

Why are these tests so important?

Colorectal cancer screening keeps you ahead of the risk and can save your lives.

Regular colorectal cancer testing is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing colorectal cancer or finding it early, when it's easier to treat.

But all too often people don't get any of these screening tests.

Then the cancer can grow and spread without being noticed.

Early on, colorectal cancer doesn't usually exhibit any striking and noticeable symptoms.

In most cases, by the time people do have symptoms the cancer is advanced and very hard to treat.

So, get with your friends and sign up for the "Undy Run" in your city.

And when you finish make sure visit your family doctor and set up an appointment for a colonoscopy.

So, all seriousness aside now, even though Colonoscopies are no joke, there is a lighter side to the whole subject.

Below are some "true life" comments I found on the internet, that were uttered during the exam procedures by regular people like us.

I was silly enough to ask my doctor to look for a set of keys I had misplaced and he was kind enough to laugh at my brutish and uncultured request.

By our discussion of this bedside humor, he has obviously heard (and seen) a few things in the past that would raise eyebrows even on a liberal soul.

This leads me to believe that most of the comments below are true and actual and not created just for humorous purposes.

From the sounds of most of these comments I would venture to guess that the patients that uttered them were males.


1. "Take it easy, Doc. You're boldly going where no man has gone before!

2. "Find Amelia Earhart yet?"

3. "Can you hear me NOW?"

4. "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

5. "You know, in Arkansas, we're now legally married."

6. "Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?"

7. "You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out..."

8. "Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!"

9. "If your hand doesn't fit, you must quit!"

10. "Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity."

11. "You used to be an executive at Enron, didn't you?"

And the best one of all...

12 "Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?"