Getting a colonoscopy is better than sex…

… with an elephant. I would put it right up there among the most unpleasant experiences I’ve ever had to endure, tied with having a root canal or listening to a life insurance sales presentation about the benefits of whole life versus term. Recently, I had a colonoscopy.  It’s one of those milestone events in life that apparently you’re supposed to do every few years once you hit 50, like starting to think about retirement planning, only a lot messier and more humiliating.

If you have never had a colonoscopy, let me give you a preview of what you’re in for. It’s no fun. They call it a “minor procedure.” But there’s nothing minor about it if you ask my colon. A doctor shoves a 142-foot tube called an endoscope up your butt to check out your insides. Essentially, it’s the same as the Roto-Rooter guy, but without the clipboard and baseball cap, and in this case, the backed-up pipe they’re inspecting is your intestinal tract. And this is one serious tube they insert. I am not completely sure of the exact route the endoscope took inside me, but I believe it included a side trip to my spleen before moseying to take a peek at my left ear canal.

Most qualified colonoscoptologists (at least I’m pretty sure that’s what they prefer to be called) will take careful safety measures to ensure they don’t jam the tube in so far that it might come out a facial orifice. Avoid any doctor who refuses to make that assurance. Before last week, if you told me that I was going to voluntarily succumb to allowing a complete stranger to stick a tube the length of a basketball court up my back side and take pictures of my interior (probably to post on Facebook), I would have laughed my ass off. Perhaps I should have rephrased the previous sentence.

But here I was, in a flimsy patient’s gown with a lame butterfly pattern, with my backside completely exposed, waiting for my anal probe. I sure hope my doctor wasn’t working for aliens. Aliens love to do this sort of thing, you know. I’ve read about it in the grocery store checkout. But that’s not even the worst part. The worst part began 24 hours earlier.

First, you’re not allowed to eat any solid food the entire day before the colonoscopy. Then there’s this special elixir they make you consume the day before your procedure to clean out your pipes. It’s called MoviPrep. What a terribly misleading name – MoviPrep. The only movie that I was getting prepped for was a movie about the inside of my colon. And I wasn’t even allowed to have any buttered popcorn, raisinettes or gummy bears before the show.  A more accurate name for this foul solution would have been ColonErupt or perhaps SphincterSpew. You mix two white powders with water in a plastic container to make 64 ounces of the most vile-tasting liquid ever created by mankind.

The employee behind the pharmacy counter lied to me when he said, “it doesn’t taste bad. It’s sort of lemony.” Yes, it does have a sort of lemony flavor, if by lemony you mean lemon-flavored pig vomit. A much more accurate description of its taste would be a combination of liquid Draino and strained cat intestines – with a hint of lemon-flavored pig vomit.

This was unquestionably the most disgusting concoction I have ever been forced to swallow – even worse than Old Milwaukee Bacon & Mint-Flavored herbal champagne. If our military is not currently applying MoviPrep to pressure captured Al Qaeda terrorists to confess, they are missing a huge opportunity to secure our nation’s safety. I would have confessed to stealing the Lindbergh baby if I thought it could get me out of having to take another sip of this God-awful crap.

I had to take not one, not three, but eight 8-ounce glasses of this stuff. But I still have not gotten to the worst part: what happens approximately 27 minutes and 35 seconds after you have consumed your fourth 8-ounce glass of this devil’s brew. Imagine Mt. Vesuvius erupting, only in this case, playing the part of Pompeii would be your toilet bowl, and the locus of the volcanic eruption would be your derriere. If you will recall your ancient Roman history, Vesuvius erupted not once but multiple times over several days. That’s pretty much the scene I went through, only in my case, it involved panicked, adrenaline-pumping sprints to the toilet for the better part of seven hours.

On the bright side, I’m pretty sure I lost six pounds that evening. FYI, if you’re looking for a weight loss plan that does not require any exercise or long-term starvation dieting, and you’d like to lose up to eight pounds in a 12-hour period, I think I’ve found your solution, so to speak.

I would like to shift my focus now to what happened the next morning in the operating room, as the doctor prepared to take a journey to the center of my bowels. But to be honest, I can’t remember a thing that happened after they started sedating me. The entire colonoscopy took about an hour. I have no memory of anything that happened during the procedure, or for that matter, the next two hours afterward.

My wife tells me that the first words I incoherently slurred when she met me in the recovery room – and I’m not making this up – were about the drug they used to sedate me: “Wow. They should give this drug to everybody, and no wars would ever get started.”

I am glad that this whole disgusting episode is behind me. Again, perhaps I chose my phrasing poorly in that last sentence. They recommend I have another colonoscopy in five years. The good news is that after my tenth colonoscopy, I just present my punch card and the eleventh one is free.

My point is that if you’re fifty or older and you’ve never had a colonoscopy, I urge you to get this done as soon as possible. Oh, not because it’s the medically smart thing to do at this stage of your life. Mainly, I would just like to feel like I’m not the only sucker who has had to endure this humiliating midlife rite of passage. On reflection, perhaps I should have rephrased that last sentence as well.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2012

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  • Published On Feb. 16, 2012 by TEJ

    1. Frank Snyder

      The colonoscopy is a great equalizer…Those great will be humbled…Those already humble will crawl into a corner and cry. But it DOESN’T have to be a “Bad Time”. I fortunately was born with a gene that allows a higher pain tolerance. In fact, I was thinking about writing an article on, “How to LMAO during a colonoscopy”, then figured, “Nahhh… let’s run it by Tim first…”
      To get to the point, do you remember the penlights that doctors used to carry? Where they squeeze the clip and the light comes on? Well…the night prior to my colonoscopy, doing my 1/2 bathroom sprints… I saw one of these very same penlights I had left on my kitchen counter. Having performed some 400 sigmoidoscopies, I knew what a colonoscope looked like, and lo and behold, the penlight appeared to be the same diameter. The Cartoon Light Bulb went on over my head, and an evil grin graced my lips. The next step was to find a black magic marker to match the color of the colonoscope, as the diameter was identical. Black rubber bands over the clip, completed the autonomous lighting of the device.
      Long story short. I placed it in my shirt pocket, refusing to remove my shirt for the event as I was “cold”. Halfway through, (I watched the entire event on the TV screen, refusing any meds), I placed the device in one nostril with the light on, a recently practiced maneuver. Conveniently named, “Dr. Joe Payne”, (an oxymoron, he is very kind and keeps his patients out of pain…), I looked over my shoulder at him and said, “Hey Joe!! I think you went a little too far!!!” He looked at me and the screen alternately 3 times before he said, “That’s not funny, Frank!!!” However, the nurse had already fallen on the floor laughing and was crawling out the door on her hands and knees as she couldn’t stand. Needless to say, the rest of the procedure was anticlimactic, but my reputation was made for life. The next year, I was made Chief of Medicine for the hospital. However, I don’t think there’s any connection….
      Wish I’d taken him up on the drugs after hearing you talk about it though…

    2. 2/16/12

      Well, Tim, consider yourself lucky. Being the son of a colon cancer survivor, I had to start the colonoscopy follies ten years ago. In early March I’ll be doing Colonoscopy Part III: Revenge of the Sh*ts. I consider myself a Dark Lord of the Sh*ts, although I am considering dropping the Dark from my title.

      I can attest that Moviprep tastes even worse the second time around. So I am prepared to guzzle my gallon for the third time with dread.

      You did a nice job of describing the eruptive properties of Moviprep. I actually have launched off the toilet seat a couple of times. Whoever said “white men can’t jump” never drank Moviprep. They don’t call me Dr. J in our house for nothing.

      Glad to hear your experience was so delightful.

    3. RichardK

      ROTFLMAO Ummm. Yeah.

      Hilarious as usual. But serious at the same time.
      Hey….. this post is proof you have at least 3 readers, Tim!
      [I’ll drop by later to collect my check]

    4. Jim Hayden

      You youngster you. I have had the pleasure (to each his own) three times now. The good news is….never again. They stop after a certain age because they figure you will die before anyhing in there will grow to the point of harming you.Now about your headline. I can’t say for sure because it has been so long that I honestly don’t remember.

    5. Eleanor

      Hey Tim! If you thinhk having a colonoscopy is uncomfortable, painful and degrading, you’re fortunate that you can’t have a baby. It is a long nine month term of body disfiguration, weight gain that you cannot reverse, a hideous body that looks like it swallowed a balloon and it continued to be inflated. Looks and questions from innocent youngsters about why you have such a big stomach and feet so swollen that you have to wear army boots. But, that is only the beginning of the story. I won’t go into the aftermath of birth….but you get the picture.
      A very funny blog though. I was LOL right to the end….sorry about the pun.

      Yer ever lovin’ MIL.

    6. Tracy

      I can relate, Tim. I had my “humiliating experience” in October. As you said, the bright side is losing a few pounds, which I have yet to gain back. FYI, for next time, ask your GI about a different prep. I only had to drink two 10-oz bottles of something–one the evening before and one the morning of, in addition to a special diet starting about 4 days before and the liquid diet the day before. Thanks to a polyp (benign), I get to do it again in 3 years!! I definitely recommend total sedation, although I started to wake up a few minutes before the doctor was finished, which was a little disturbing.

    7. […] from how to become a Tiger Mother parent to my fleeting friendship with an internet scammer; from my recent colonoscopy to my solution for the US debt crisis; from how the iPad compares to Jesus Christ to my exploration […]

    8. formerpatient

      I enjoyed Franks post of 2/16 and noted that he did his colonoscopy without meds. I’m high-risk for colon cancer, so colonoscopy is imperative, but I don’t wan’t the so-called “conscious sedation” which almost involves giving the patient an amnesia-inducing drug (Versed/midazolam) then expecting them to believe that they slept thru the exam when they were actually quite awake and often in significant distress. All goes well as the patient is rushed out the door; then at home the fun starts when the procedural amnesia lasts for days, weeks and sometimes forever. A healthy adult has colonoscopy sedation with Versed and suddenly she can’t remember PIN numbers, her kid’s birthdays etc many weeks later? Sorry for the rant, but I have seen this in all too many patients and the internet is replete with complaints about this most commonly used drug. Check out askapatient dot com (remove spaces and use a dot) for Versed horror stories; a patient gave me this website and I was shocked. Thousands of complaints.

    9. Jacob

      What of your best Tim 🙂

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