Opinion

OPINION | Gwen Rockwood: Earn your nagging rights, get the medical test done

BEFORE

I had lime Jello for breakfast today. Guess what I'm having for lunch? Lime Jello. And dinner? You guessed it. Lime Jello is on repeat today unless I get crazy and have a little chicken broth before the Jello. I'm also drinking water, white grape juice, Sprite, and tea.

If you recognize this odd diet, you've probably realized I'm 50. And when you turn 50, you don't get your driver's license, vote in your first election, or order your first fancy cocktail. You get your first colonoscopy. Tomorrow is the big event, and I'm a little terrified.

I started the mandatory "clear liquids diet" last night, and I'm continuing it today. Even though my stomach has had its share of lime Jello, I've never been more irrationally hungry. Just knowing I can't have chips and cheese dip makes me want to dive headfirst into a giant vat of queso and eat my way out.

If you're a chronic overthinker like me, the "before times" of a colonoscopy are the most challenging part. The worry. The dread. Unfortunately, I compound these emotions by doing extensive research on medical procedures in a vain attempt to alleviate my anxiety with facts and solid preparation. (I just realized that the phrase "solid preparation" probably doesn't belong in this particular column. Let's move on.)

I even read an article by two British gastroenterologists with tips on colonoscopy preparation. I enjoyed the British version because they use charming phrases, including "nip to the loo," instead of the more American version, which sounds more like "go camp out on the toilet."

Just a few hours from now, I have to start the preparation protocol by taking the prescribed laxatives. My doctor gave me the option of drinking the medication, as most people do, or taking it in pill form. I'd already heard from a 50-something friend – whose gag reflex is as overactive as mine – that forcing down the unpleasant drink was a challenge. So, I asked for the pills instead.

Doctor: "Okay, but your insurance only pays for the liquid, not the pills, which cost 60 dollars out-of-pocket. Do you still want the pills?

Me: "Here's my credit card."

If it's possible to be prematurely embarrassed about something, I'm there. I'm painfully aware I'm headed into a highly vulnerable position – literally and figuratively. I've scrubbed myself as clean as possible during an extra-long shower, which I'll probably repeat in the morning. And I may have put some self-tanning lotion on my backside, but not because I'm vain. It's a safety issue. What if the doctor's vision gets impaired by my blindingly white booty, and he takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ends up in my kidney? Could that happen?

What if they find something? What if it's weird? What if pictures of my colon get uploaded to the cloud and then leaked on the Internet with funny captions? What if I'm the one person in the world who's immune to anesthesia, and I feel everything but can't utter the word "stop" for some unimaginable reason? What if, what if, what if.

DURING

Me (one minute before procedure): "Are you sure this anesthesia will work on me?"

Nurse anesthetist: "Yes. Anesthesia always wins."

Me: "Zzzzzzzz."

Nurse: "It's time to wake up. You're all done."

Me: "Best nap of my life. Do you serve cheese dip here?"

AFTER

The doctor says my test is clear of any concerns. He gave me a post-procedure report with photos of my colon, which I unfortunately cannot unsee. (A colon is a highly skilled organ, but it's not winning any beauty contests.) Even better, my colon has the doctor's permission to go back into hiding for 10 years.

As someone who avoided and dreaded this test, I can tell you that getting it over with and having the peace of mind that comes with good results is so much better than the unease and guilt of finding excuses not to do it.

If you're overdue to take this test, do it not only because you know you should but because you want your adult kids and other people you love to get the medical tests they need. If I had kept on dodging my own colonoscopy, I wouldn't have a leg left to nag on.

So, call your doctor, make your lime Jello, and get it done. If a complete scaredy cat like me can do it, I know you can, too.

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