Beats the Alternative

Apr 23 2011 Published by under [Medicine&Pharma]

My birth occurred 5 months before our current President's, so I get to experience half-century-hood and give him advice. He may not have time for a mid-life crisis, but I assure him that a red sports car is unnecessary. Really, 50 is no big deal. I feel good, my work and personal lives are happy, and I am looking forward to my empty nest. Besides, the only alternative to turning 50 is dying first; I would rather be 50, thank you!

Mr. Obama may not have the time or inclination for a pierced ear, motorcycle, or blonde paramour, but one thing he should make time for is a screening colonoscopy. I had mine yesterday, and it simply wasn't as bad as it sounds.

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You will receive instructions from your doctor. In general, any drug that my interfere with blood clotting is off-limits for 3 to 5 days prior to the procedure. Recent clots, stents, or other cardiovascular events may warrant a delay in the colonoscopy. You will also be instructed to avoid red, blue, or purple liquids for several days ahead of the scope. About 24 hours before, you stop solid food and drink only clear liquids, ones through which you can read a paper. Now, vodka and gin may be clear, but they also forbid alcohol. Probably not a bad idea with what the evening holds; believe me, you want your judgement and your aim unimpaired.

The worst part of the procedure involves cleaning out your colon. Some spas offer all sorts of "colonic irrigations" but no enemas cleanse as thoroughly as our "friend" GoLytely. This solution includes a bunch of electrolytes and poly-ethylene glycol, a nonabsorbable agent that induces explosive diarrhea. The standard jug, shown in the photo, mixes up into 4 liters (~1 gallon) of the dreaded "internal dynamite." The standard solution can be mixed with warm water and refrigerated the night before; I have been told it is most palatable when chilled. I also drank it with a straw. It felt and tasted like thick water with a slightly salty aftertaste. GoLytely will not replace bourbon and Diet Coke in my life, but it certainly was not the most vile concoction I have consumed.

The biggest problem is that you must consume a gallon of this stuff in 2 to 3 hours. The first 3 liters went down pretty easily. By the last glass, I wanted nothing more than to curl up and sleep. Of course, at that point, sleep was impossible because other things were happening. Big time. No cramping occurred, but the "outflow area" got irritated. I highly recommend a package of the soft, soothing wet-wipes they sell next to the toilet paper in your local store. They also said I could use Vaseline to soothe the area, but it was on another floor of the house. I also suggest good books or a television in the bathroom for distraction during your bowel scrub.

About 5 hours after starting to "drink the Kool Aid" I went to bed with a clean conscience and even cleaner colon. About 2 hours of those 5 involved direct contact with the toilet, with another 1.5 hours of not walking too far away. Experiences may vary; my "onset of action" occurred much longer after the first sip than many others. I also felt very cold with chills during the last half of potty-time; keeping an extra hoody near the the bathroom would have helped.

The next morning I went in to the endoscopy suite, received some really nice drugs through my IV, and woke up less than an hour later with a clean bill of health. After a friend drove me home, my parents brought lunch over, and I watched old Doris Day movies on TCM for most of the afternoon. Last night I fell asleep earlier than usual. Today, it's like the whole thing never happened, other than my smug attitude toward my peers who have refused to do it yet. Wimps!

So Barack, please get your colon checked. It's important for your health and you could set a great example for the whole country. And knowing a bit about colon cancer, I assure you, it beats the alternative.

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