Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Colonoscopy: Getting To The Bottom of the Problem!
As a follow up to having the procedure done (for the second time since I turned 50), I did a little research on the topic and as you an see, even buttheads are getting colonoscopies! I turned to resident expert, Dave Barry for help, and what follows should help you with the difficult decision of should I or shouldn't I. Mr. Barry, if you please -- the floor is yours:
Sunday, April 27, 2003
THE MIAMI HERALD
GETTING THE INSIDE STORY ON HEALTH OF YOUR COLON
BY DAVE BARRY
So there I was, on hands and knees, crawling through a 40-foot long, four-foot-high, human colon.
It wasn't a real colon, of course. No human has a colon that size, except maybe Marlon Brando, and I'm sure he has security people to prevent media access.
No, this was a replica. It's called the Colossal Colon, and I'm not making it up. It was conceived of by a 26-year-old cancer survivor named Molly McMaster as a way to get people to talk about their colons. This is a topic that most people don't even like to THINK about. I sure don't, and I bet you don't. But if you never talk to your doctor about your colon, you might never get screened for colon cancer - the second leading cause of cancer death, though it's preventable - and you could die, and THEN think how you'd feel.
That's the idea behind the Colossal Colon, which is currently traveling around the nation on a 20-city tour (to see if it's coming to your area, check ColossalColon.com). I caught up with the colon in South Beach, a part of Miami Beach known for sophistication and glamour. You can barely swing your arms there without striking an international supermodel, or a Rolling Stone, or, at the bare minimum, a Baldwin brother. I felt that the Colossal Colon fit right in.
The colon was set up inside an air-conditioned tent, along with displays of helpful information, including a list of "DOs" and "DON'Ts" for visitors. Among the DON'Ts were: "DON'T stop for long periods of time inside of the Colossal Colon" and "DON'T horseplay inside of the Colossal Colon." I thought the wisest advice was: "DON'T leave your children unattended."
If you're a parent, there are few experiences more embarrassing than when you report a missing child to the police, and the officer asks you where you last saw little Tiffany, and you have to answer: "She was entering a giant colon."
The Colossal Colon, shaped like huge "C, " is made from plywood and polyurethane foam. It has been sculpted and painted to look very realistic, so much so that I was frankly reluctant to crawl inside. I was worried about how far they carried the realism. I mean, what if you got deep inside there, and you suddenly were confronted, fun-house-style, by some guy wearing a costume depicting an educational colon-dwelling character, such as Tommy Tapeworm, or, God forbid, Fred Food?
Fortunately, this did not happen. But the journey through the Colossal Colon is no walk in the park. You start out at the end labeled "Healthy Colon, " and for a short while it's a pleasant enough crawl. But pretty soon you start running into bad things: first Crohn's disease, then diverticulosis, then polyps, then precancerous polyps, then colon cancer, then advanced colon cancer, and finally - just when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, and start to think you're safe - you find yourself face to face (so to speak) with one of mankind's worst nightmares: Hemorrhoids the size of regulation NFL footballs.
Shaken? You bet I was shaken. It was with weak knees that I emerged from the end of the colon (medical name: "The Geraldo"). There I was asked by a member of the Colossal Colon's entourage (yes, it has an entourage) to sign a pledge promising to consult with my doctor about my colon. I signed the pledge, although to be honest, I did not consult with my doctor. I consulted instead with my friend and longtime medical advisor Gene Weingarten, who is widely acknowledged to be the foremost hypochondriac practicing in America today.
Gene told me that he'd been screened for colon cancer, and that the procedure was not nearly as bad as I imagined. This is good, because I imagined that it involved a large, cruel medical technician named "Horst" and 70,000 feet of chairlift cable. But Gene assured me that it's nothing like that, and that they make you very comfortable (by which I mean "give you drugs"). Gene says they make you so comfortable that you'll be laughing and exchanging "high fives" with Horst (make sure he washes his hands first).
So I'm going to get the screening, darn it. I hope you do, too, assuming you actually get to see this column. I suspect some editors will decide not to print it, because it contains explicit words that some readers may find distasteful, such as "Geraldo." If you're one of those readers, I apologize if I offended you. But remember: I'm writing this because maybe - just maybe - it will save your life.
Ha ha! Not really. I'm writing this because I'm a humor columnist, and there was a giant colon in town.
But get yourself screened anyway.
However, Mr, Barry -- he did tarry -- read on:
Dave Berry on Colonoscopies
OK. You turned 50. You know you're supposed to get a colonoscopy. But
you haven't. Here are your reasons:
1. You've been busy.
2. You don't have a history of cancer in your family.
3. You haven't noticed any problems.
4. You don't want a doctor to stick a tube 17,000 feet up your butt.
Let's examine these reasons one at a time. No, wait, let's not.
Because you and I both know that the only real reason is No. 4. This
is natural. The idea of having another human, even a medical human,
becoming deeply involved in what is technically known as your
''behindular zone'' gives you the creeping willies. I know this
because I am like you, except worse. I yield to nobody in the field of
being a pathetic weenie medical coward. I become faint and nauseous
during even very minor medical procedures, such as making an
appointment by phone. It's much worse when I come into physical
contact with the medical profession. More than one doctor's office has
a dent in the floor caused by my forehead striking it seconds after I
got a shot. In 1997, when I turned 50, everybody told me I should get
a colonoscopy. I agreed that I definitely should, but not right away.
By following this policy, I reached age 55 without having had a
colonoscopy. Then I did something so pathetic and embarrassing that I
am frankly ashamed to tell you about it. What happened was, a giant
40-foot replica of a human colon came to Miami Beach. Really. It's an
educational exhibit called the Colossal Colon, and it was on a
nationwide tour to promote awareness of colo-rectal cancer. The idea
is, you crawl through the Colossal Colon, and you encounter various
educational items in there, such as polyps, cancer and hemorrhoids the
size of regulation volleyballs, and you go, ''Whoa, I better find out
if I contain any of these things,'' and you get a colonoscopy. If you
are as a professional humor writer, and there is a giant colon within
a 200-mile radius, you are legally obligated to go see it. So I went
to Miami Beach and crawled through the Colossal Colon. I wrote a
column about it, making tasteless colon jokes. But I also urged
everyone to get a colonoscopy. I even, when I emerged from the
Colossal Colon, signed a pledge stating that I would get one. But I
didn't get one. I was a fraud, a hypocrite, a liar. I was practically
a member of Congress. Five more years passed. I turned 60, and I still
hadn't gotten a colonoscopy. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got an
e-mail from my brother Sam, who is 10 years younger than I am, but
more mature. The email was addressed to me and my middle brother,
Phil. It said: "Dear Brothers, I went in for a routine colonoscopy and
got the dreaded diagnosis: cancer. We're told it's early and that
there is a good prognosis that they can get it all out, so, fingers
crossed, knock on wood, and all that. And of course they told me to
tell my siblings to get screened. I imagine you both have.'' Um. Well.
First I called Sam. He was hopeful, but scared. We talked for a while,
and when we hung up, I called my friend Andy Sable, a
gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few
days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the
colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one
point passing briefly through Minneapolis. Then Andy explained the
colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient
manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he
said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, "HE'S GOING TO STICK A
TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BUTT!'' I left Andy's office with some
written instructions, and a prescription for a product called
''MoviPrep,'' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave
oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to
say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America's
enemies. I spent the next several days productively sitting around
being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my
preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any
solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically
water, only with less flavor. Then, in the evening, I took the
MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter
plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those
unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) Then
you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because
MoviPrep tastes -- and here I am being kind -- like a mixture of goat
spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.
The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a
great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, ''a loose watery
bowel movement may result.'' This is kind of like saying that after
you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.
MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here,
but: Have you ever seen a space shuttle launch? This is pretty much
the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when
you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty
much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate
everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you
have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I
can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating
food that you have not even eaten yet. After an action-packed evening,
I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the
clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the
procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of
MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, ''What if I spurt on Andy?'' How do
you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not
be enough. At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I
understood and totally agreed with whatever the hell the forms said.
Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I
went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put
on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the
kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than
when you are actually naked. Then a nurse named Eddie put a little
needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but
Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me
that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked
off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would
happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so
you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no
choice but to burn your house. When everything was ready, Eddie
wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a
nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but
I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously
nervous at this point. Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the
anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand.
There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was
Dancing Queen by Abba. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that
could be playing during this particular procedure, Dancing Queen has
to be the least appropriate. ''You want me to turn it up?'' said Andy,
from somewhere behind me. ''Ha ha,'' I said. And then it was time, the
moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are
squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in
explicit detail, exactly what it was like. I have no idea. Really. I
slept through it. One moment, Abba was shrieking "Dancing Queen! Feel
the beat from the tambourine . . .'' . . . and the next moment, I was
back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. Andy was
looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt
even more excellent when Andy told me that it was all over, and that
my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of
an internal organ. But my point is this: In addition to being a
pathetic medical weenie, I was a complete moron. For more than a
decade I avoided getting a procedure that was, essentially, nothing.
There was no pain and, except for the MoviPrep, no discomfort. I was
risking my life for nothing. If my brother Sam had been as stupid as I
was -- if, when he turned 50, he had ignored all the medical advice
and avoided getting screened -- he still would have had cancer. He
just wouldn't have known. And by the time he did know -- by the time
he felt symptoms -- his situation would have been much, much more
serious. But because he was a grown-up, the doctors caught the cancer
early, and they operated and took it out. Sam is now recovering and
eating what he describes as ''really, really boring food.'' His
prognosis is good, and everybody is optimistic, fingers crossed, knock
on wood, and all that. Which brings us to you, Mr. or Mrs. or Miss or
Ms. Over-50-And-Hasn't-Had-a-Colonoscopy. Here's the deal: You either
have colo-rectal cancer, or you don't. If you do, a colonoscopy will
enable doctors to find it and do something about it. And if you don't
have cancer, believe me, it's very reassuring to know you don't. There
is no sane reason for you not to have it done. I am so eager for you
to do this that I am going to induce you with an Exclusive Limited
Time Offer. If you, after reading this, get a colonoscopy, let me know
by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to Dave Barry Colonoscopy
Inducement, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. I will
send you back a certificate, signed by me and suitable for framing if
you don't mind framing a cheesy certificate, stating that you are a
grown-up who got a colonoscopy. Accompanying this certificate will be
a square of limited-edition custom-printed toilet paper with an image
of Miss Paris Hilton on it. You may frame this also, or use it in
whatever other way you deem fit. But even if you don't want this
inducement, please get a colonoscopy. If I can do it, you can do it.
Don't put it off. Just do it. Be sure to stress that you want the