This is one of my more unconventional posts. Perhaps a little awkward. It’s about that thing you should do when you hit 50. Or, in my case, much earlier if you have family history.
Get your Colonoscopy.
This isn’t exactly fodder for compelling writing, but days after my procedure during my debrief call (and notification of clean bill of health) I was talking with the physician who performed the procedure, Dr. Roger Kao, who shared with me that many individuals don’t get this done because of the fear factor.
After some reading, I learned that getting a colonoscopy carries such a stigma and perceived ick-factor that many–around 40%–of those who should be getting one don’t. I’m not quite as passionate about this as Katie Couric, but I wanted to personally share a few reasons why you–both men and women–should go get your colonoscopy when it’s your time. If you don’t know your full family history, ask your doc if you should get screened earlier.
1. Colon cancer is essentially asymptomatic until it’s in advanced stages. An early colonoscopy can detect problems far in advance, and polyps (some of which are pre-cancerous if left untreated) can easily be removed during the procedure. The whole ounce of prevention thing applies here…in spades.
2. Prep is really not that big of a deal. Have you ever had a rough day after eating bad street cart food? Well, it’s better than that. I’m not suggesting it’s fun. But it is predictable. The stuff you drink tastes less than great. What happens after the drink is also less great than that. But it’s not horrible. From 4pm onwards the day prior to my procedure (“prep day”) I continued to work from home until late in the evening without much nuisance.
3. It’ll set your mind at ease. Or, if something more serious presents, it will give you a very early opportunity to address it. which, especially if detected early, usually has a very positive outcome.
4. Finally, you might get propofol! Or some other anesthesia if you live in the U.S.–as some countries don’t use any. And propofol is really good stuff, though tragically it is also the drug Michael Jackson was on for sleep sedation that led to his way-too-early death. So, obviously it should only be used in the right setting for the right reasons and under the care of a medical physician. But when it is, well, it’s pretty amazing. Especially when you’re getting a six foot tube shoved up your…it’s not thad bad, people. Seriously, it’s not that bad (but, it is six feet…that part is true).
Apparently propofol turned me into both an entertaining and outrageously happy patient. When I was floating in and out, I shared some ridiculously silly childhood stories followed by my theories around managing costs of skyrocketing medical care and whether the United States should move to a national health insurance plan. It seems I know far more about national health insurance under the influence of propofol than when I am not. As they were winding things down, I specifically instructed the doctor and anesthesiologist–repeatedly and with quite a bit of enthusiasm–to keep the propofol flowing until the last possible second.
My recovery ended with me gleefully yelling down the hall to the doctor from the recovery area “You, my friend, are the BEST DOCTOR EVER with great bedside manner! I LOVE YOU!” And for all my anxiety around the entire procedure, it’s ironic but that was basically the worst of it.
Not so bad, especially for something that is such a critical preventive tool.