Colonoscopy!

One of the joys of getting older, up there alongside getting shorter and growing hair in all the wrong places, is the dreaded colonoscopy.

Mine is tomorrow.

I don’t know why I feared getting a colonoscopy (mine is tomorrow). We’ve not had colon cancer in the family, and I have no reason to suspect anything is wrong. But something about the whole nature of having a doctor probe you there; it feels a bit like expecting every bad physical you’ve ever had, wrapped into one.

I’m going to admit something. I know some people are going to be very concerned about it, but I’m a big believer in admitting things that make us uncomfortable, especially when we know what we’re feeling is silly. But my doctor is a woman, and I’m a bit uncomfortable with that. Not that I think female doctors are somehow worse than male doctors — I’m not stupid — but I don’t really like being undressed in front of women. And it puzzles me, as a gay man, why that’s so.

I always thought that the reason people we’re prudish, besides from society drilling these silly lessons into your head (don’t show off your body, and NEVER to the opposite sex!), was that there was a bit of a sexual something involved, at least internally on the prude’s side of things. Thus, it would be easier for men to go to men for massages, go to male doctors for physicals, and the like.  (And I realize that women go to male doctors all the time and dont’ have issues with — or do they? Any women out there ever feel this way, or is this a guy thing?)

Digestive tract via Shutterstock.

Digestive tract via Shutterstock.

Here’s why my reticence surprise me. The thing is, I’m gay. So there’s zero sexual tension from my end in this entire experience. Something else is clearly going on inside my head, and I suspect it’s society’s subtle little lessons, built up over 50 years, expressing themself. And logically, it surprises me that it bothers me. But it kind of does. And I’m admitting it, because I know it shouldn’t bother me. So there.

So far so good. I finished about half an hour the first of two nasty little doses you have to drink in order to cleanse your system, as it were, before the procedure. My procedure is 230pm tomorrow, Friday. To prepare, you need to fast, kind of. For breakfast this morning, I was ordered to eat only two eggs, a piece of dry toast, have a cup of coffee if I like, and that’s it. The doc was letting me eat a little something for lunch, as I tend to get low blood sugar. I opted for a slice of turkey from one of those packages.

Otherwise, you can drink clear liquids, and eat clear liquidy things like yellow or green jello, or even clear gummy bears of the same colors. The idea is not to fill your intestines with lots of stuff that might get in the way of the doctor’s scope, with camera attached, looking for polyps, or irregular growths on the inside of your intestines. These growths can, sometimes, but certainly not always, become cancerous.

In addition to not wanting you filled with “stuff,” they also don’t want you drinking anything that isn’t clear, especially things that are blue, red and purple, because the color can look like blood in your intestine, and fool the doctor into thinking something is wrong, or masking that there really is blood, and the doctor can’t see it through the various colors.

So, you drink liquids throughout the day, including Ginger Ale, chicken broth, or green tea. And you can eat jello, but pretty much nothing else.

Then, around 6pm the night before your procedure, you start drinking the first dose of the garbage that empties you out. In my case it’s called Suprep, and it’s supposedly much better than the “other” stuff.  You basically mix 6 oz of Suprep with another 10 oz of water, then guzzle all 16.  After that, over the next hour, you drink 8 oz of water every 15 minutes.  Then, or possibly earlier, the fun starts.  The fun, I’m told, lasts a good two hours, then hopefully you’re free until the next morning.

The next morning, five hours before your procedure (something to keep in mind if you think a morning procedure sounds better, it might not be so good waking up at 3am in order to revisit the Suprep all over again), you do the next dose of Suprep and the fun begins again.

They say drinking some broth right after drinking the Suprep helps to cleanse your mouth of the taste. It does, but only to a degree.  Supposedly eating lemon first helps to kill the taste too. I'll try that one tomorrow.

They say drinking some broth right after drinking the Suprep helps to cleanse your mouth of the taste. It does, but only to a degree. Supposedly eating lemon first helps to kill the taste too. I’ll try that one tomorrow.

I do have to say, the stuff is pretty vile. The taste isn’t that bad, it’s just nasty medicine-y. But 16 oz of the stuff definitely throws your stuff into a tizzy, and can make you a bit nauseous.  Afterwards, you definitely have a queasy feeling that something isn’t quite right.  Then, I’m told, the fun begins.  (Oh, and they say the Suprep goes down a lot better if you mix it with pop instead of water, but someone forgot, and mixed it with water before he remembered.)

I may or may not report back before the procedure. I understand that during the procedure itself they put you under, so once you wake up a friend has to take you home.

Okay, so we’re hitting the one hour mark, and the nausea is definitely building.  I definitely won’t be giving you a blow-by-blow of the next few hours, but I hope to check in between now and the procedure.

It’s funny, but I think the hardest part of this, at the moment, is that I’m under a bit of stress and really want to eat some comfort food.  In my case, homemade chocolate chip cookies or brownies.  And of course, that’s the one thing I can’t do at the moment is eat.

This must be what it feels like to be a smoker.

PS I had considered not writing about this at all — TMI and all — but 1/3 of people who should get colonscopies, don’t. And I figure TMI is worth the price if it takes some of the taboo away from these things. So here you are :)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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