By odd coincidence I scheduled my first colonoscopy the Monday after Father’s Day. I was still able to bask in my dadness and take in all due tributes in the form of foot rubs and handmaidens.
But in lieu of grilled meat or chocolate cake, this year’s Feast For Dad was a clear liquid diet and 64 staged ounces of a tangy, salty intestine-flushing lemon-lime prep-mixture designed to insure that medical professionals got my best look when they went all paparazzi on my innards the next day.
In an enduring public affairs career I’ve spread the word about colon cancer more than a few times, specifically about the importance of getting screened. Like many cancers, if your doctor catches it early your prognosis is good.
If you wait for symptoms you can see or feel, you might well be left in a bad place. A properly timed colonoscopy screen can be a rare magic bullet in your personal fight to outrun the Grim Reaper. But still.
The last thing in the world a manly man wants to consider is having a device inserted where G*d only intended for things to come out. Consenting to a colonoscopy tweaks and offends our long-entrenched male sensibilities and insecurities.
Most men grow up making fun of things being stuck where they aren’t supposed to go. The goings on about your bowels was the stuff of Freud after all. There is no more incendiary playground assertion, guaranteed to produce a round of teen-age male shoving and fronting if threatened in a ball game or at a school bus stop.
Over time those clichés and stereotypes can freeze our minds in the face of overwhelming logic. A colonoscopy can save your life and spare pain and grief to all those in your circle.
More women seem to get it and get on with it. They’ve dealt with life-long invasive procedures as a matter of anatomy and don’t see the big deal. But it’s a decision and a buildup that pricks in the back of the mind of men when they hit five-o. So here’s the secret knowledge, bro—it’s no big deal.
If you’ve put it off due to fear and trepidation relax, it’s a minor price to pay. I’ve had car repairs that were more painful. The medical practice I use put me efficiently to sleep throughout the process and woke me up immediately afterwards.
I never felt or heard a thing, and the aftermath was no worse than a mild hangover easily slept off. The only pain or discomfort came with inserting an IV needle for the sedation line.
When my doc came in later he played it real Steve McQueen. “You’re going to get colon cancer.” My mind, already reeling from my Propofol mickey, took a great existential gulp as he continued: “But that’s OK because I know about it.”
His exploration of my innermost parts showed that genetics and a lifetime of questionable eating and drinking habits left my digestive tract well scoured and bumpy, with about a half dozen pre-cancerous polyps. They were removed during the procedure before they could grow into something deadly down the line. If you’ve spent time in the sun or have a history of melanoma in your family you do the same thing to your bared skin at the dermatologist all the time.
So now I’m on the colonoscopy fast track. Thank you Doc, I’ll have another, due in a year, to see if anything’s changed. Depending on what he sees then it might be three years until the next one.
But I won’t be missing the appointment. A colonoscopy is expensive and inconvenient, but it’s not painful, creepy or humiliating in any way. You need to have one when you turn 50, earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer or bowel problems. So went my Father’s Day Celebration.