Lots of people are doing it. Nobody particularly likes it but it’s something that, sooner or later, everybody should do.
I’m talking, of course, about cheering for the Calgary Flames. Nah. . . I’m kidding — no one in their right mind would do that.
What I’m referring to is that infamous medical procedure that up until recently has been taboo-talk, a subject that was guaranteed to stop any conversation stone cold faster than you can say “colonoscopy.”
I got seriously probed this week. It wasn’t an alien space ship doing scary experiments, but some people look at it that way.
What used to be as awkward as a whoopee cushion at a funeral service is now a subject that is no longer the awkward topic whispered only in the dark and secret confines of the far corners of hospitals.
Several high profile TV celebs like journalist Katie Couric and Oprah fave Dr. Oz have not only spoken out on the importance of getting a colonoscopy, they have bent over backwards (well, forwards more to the point) to demonstrate this potentially life-saving procedure by undergoing a colon screening (i.e. getting probed) live, on television.
Those who may poo poo a public colonoscopy as some sort of weird publicity stunt underestimate how many lives this procedure saves every year. Still, it’s a bit scary on account of a colonoscopy involves such ominous medical terms as: “internal probe” with “several metres of rubber tubing” “up the hiney region.”
For years, the only colon I knew about was the piece of punctuation nobody used until they discovered they could make a smiley face with it on their emails and texts 🙂
Turns out, there’s a much different kind of colon that we all carry around, hidden from view, so that we can eat a lot of bad food and then give toilet manufacturers and plumbers a booming business.
The problem is this particular type of colon can be a haven where very bad diseases like to attack because the contents are gross and we humans don’t like to have embarrassing body parts probed — or even discussed for that matter — so the diseases like cancer know they have a safe place to go to be undetected and where they can cause potentially fatal damage.
So a special doctor, called an gastroenterologist, who’s training includes mastering Nintendo Wii Mario Carts, uses a remote controller to send a video camera (don’t worry, it’s not quite as big as a regular-sized handicam) deep into the bowels of the body (literally) by way of the hiney region, to make a movie of your colon, which he then posts on YouTube.
In fact, I think my recent colonoscopy movie was possibly better than a couple of the short movies I made for film festivals.
In my case, the procedure went something like this:
l At the clinic I put on one of those mortifying hospital gowns with no back. I thought about fooling them by leaving all my clothes on underneath. It didn’t work.
l Several nice nurses visit my curtained booth and read me my rights and hook my arms up to stuff, and take my blood pressure, which was somewhere in the 300 over 150 range. “You must be a little nervous,” the nurse said. I try a little non-nervous laugh. It didn’t work.
l They wheel my bed (with me in it) into another room where my colon is scheduled to meet the Mario Cart scope.
l A nurse who seems to be having a bad day looks at me in the bed and says to the other nurse, “Is this the colon?” I say, “No I’m the human, and this is the colon.” And I point to my abdominal region where I’m guessing my colon I currently residing.
l Somebody chuckles politely and it turns out to be Dr. Ward, the gastroenterologist. He introduces himself and he seems to be a very nice fellow. I consider asking him if he’s good at Nintendo but by this time the other nurse is injecting something into my IV. Then things get a little foggy and I am suddenly very fond of everyone in the room, and when the procedure starts I don’t feel a thing.
l I attempt to chat with Dr. Ward, who is busy somewhere behind me, and then the TV screen in front of me lights up with what looks like outtakes from the cheesy 1959 movie Journey to the Center of the Earth.
l Then, the next thing I know it’s an hour later I’m waking up from a lovely snooze in my curtain booth and Dr. Ward is telling me all is well with me and my colon.
I felt the way Pulitzer Prize-winning humour writer and my personal hero Dave Barry said he felt when he got his healthy colonoscopy results: “I’ve never been prouder of an internal organ.”
My Better Half drove me home while I smiled a lot. It could have been the medication or it could have been the good news about the results, but the point is, no one should be afraid of having the colonoscopy procedure.
It’s no big deal and it could save your life, yet people are still embarrassed or afraid of anything that has anything to do with colons or oscopies.
Besides, being probed is way better than cheering for the Calgary Flames.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.