Colonoscopy. The word triggers more terror in some people than a Steven King novel, more anxiety than learning your airline pilot’s name is Captain Crash Killmore, and more fear than an uncircumcised man feels at a nude butchers convention.
But not me. I’ve gone through the colonoscopy routine a few times. Yes, it was a bit inconvenient, but relatively simple. And the results were always positive, problem-free, and left me without a worry.
My recent colonoscopy, however, was a different experience. Certainly much of that was because it took place in Mexico where my language skills are limited and I am not familiar with the details of the medical system and Mexico’s methods of performing this procedure. I, perhaps, went into this examination with expectations higher than they should have been based on my past colonoscopies.
In the past, in Seattle, I fasted for 24 hours prior to a colonoscopy. Therefore, I always scheduled mine as early in the morning as I could. For me 7:30-8:00 was ideal and the norm. But, of course, I worked the day I was fasting so by lunchtime I was beginning to feel hunger. By dinner time, however, I was ravenous, so much so that news anchors began looking delectable to me. Especially those on Fox News. Now, why, you might ask, would I have been watching Fox News? I wasn’t. I was channel surfing, and by the time I landed on Fox, I was so famished my strength had run out and I was too weak to hit the channel button again. Luckily, I dropped the remote face down and apparently it landed on the power button, silencing whichever liar was anchoring at that time. Then the purging procedure began. No. Not the cleansing of my digestive tract, the purging of what I had heard and seen on Fox.
In Mexico, however, the fasting began only 12 hours prior to the 10a.m. procedure. But the tradeoff was that I had to drink more of the obnoxious concoction that empties your innards than I had in the States. And more often. I had to down this vile solution thrice, first at 10p.m. which I did, 1a.m., and at 6a.m. This meant I had to set my alarm for 1a.m. As I have stated before, I am not technically savvy. Something as simple as setting a clock-radio challenges all 9 of my DIY brain cells. And because of my sleeping habits, I rarely have had to set an alarm clock. But I did manage to set the clock to wake me at 1a.m. It only took three frustrating hours. And I also finally figured out how to stop the “12:00” from its continuous blinking, which it had been doing since I bought the clock-radio in 2009.
I awoke at 1:00 to the loud unnerving sound of radio static. Who knew you were supposed to select a radio station and a pleasing volume when setting the alarm? I then guzzled disgusting drink #2. At 3a.m. I awoke with my stomach and intestines gurgling louder than my radio’s static wake-up call had been. Well, you know what happened next.
I released more chocolate syrup than Walmart’s warehouses store. I just wish I had made it to the toilet for the first explosion. This continued until about 5a.m. when I went back to bed. But knowing I had to administer the third dosage at 6, I left the light on and turned on my bedroom TV so I would not fall asleep.
I awoke at 7:10.
“Holy shit,” I screamed appropriately. And I drank the third installment of the liquid torture. Better late than never, I thought. The challenge now was to process this last drink through me by my 8:30 pickup. Well, thanks to my prayers to Barbra, it worked.
I was accompanied on the 75 minute rush hour trek to Guadalajara’s St.Ignacio de Rectalia Hospital by the extremely helpful Alejandro I. Caramba who not only speaks both Spanish and English but has a medical background. He was a godsend, a blessing, and again I thanked Barbra profusely for answering my prayers. Once at the hospital forms had to be completed, partial payment made, and—oh yes—one more thing—a sudden final race to the toilet. This ultimate discharge, however, was so clear I would describe it as rectal Evian.
Within minutes Alejandro and I were led to the preparation room where I exchanged my clothes for a stylish hospital gown which was to be tied in the back. Like that is possible. I was pleased mine had vertical stripes, which I thought was important, because that would make me appear taller and slimmer to the medical team. Vitals were taken, questions asked, and my personal doctor, Diego Suarez, M.D. arrived. The presence of one’s personal doctor at surgeries or simpler procedures is a common practice in Mexico, where they participate in or observe the event. Then an unfamiliar Latina arrived. We were introduced. Her name was Anna Sthesiologist, not a Hispanic surname, but, perhaps she had married an East European. She was beautiful, stunning. In fact, her beauty knocked me out. I later learned she was an anesthesiologist. What a coincidence, I thought, and what a perfect career choice for her.
I should mention that my blood pressure was slightly higher than normal, an indication that the stress of the situation was beginning to affect me. A lot was happening around me. I was dealing with a medical situation, albeit routine, in a foreign land, the constant flow of Spanish-speaking nurses, assistants, and doctors, and the pained shrieks of recovering colostomy patients who had gone before me was taking its toll. I began getting frightened and, perhaps, a bit confused.
The colonoscoptometrist arrived. I believe that is the correct medical title for a person who looks up peoples’ asses and into their colons. His name was either Oscar de la Hoya or Sir Laurence Olivier, or may have been a woman; like I said, I was getting rather confused. As I was wheeled into the surgery room a Mariachi band lined the hall and played Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love” and a vendor with a table of ceramic Day of the Dead death masks and skeletons tried to sell me one. Irony or omen? I thought. But I was whisked away before I could search my hospital gown for my wallet.
And then I was in “the room.” Someone, possibly one of the Mariachi band members, asked me to roll onto my side…the left, thank god, because I would never turn to the right… and that is all I remember.
When I awoke, I was in my original space in the preparation room, which is called, after the procedure, the fart room. Alejandro was standing next to the bed looking like he was posing for the photograph that would go next to the word “concern” in the dictionary. I think he said something; he may have even touched me. But all I know for certain was I felt horrible, not slightly sleepy like I had when I had awakened from my previous colonoscopies. I felt quite woozy, drugged, and the gas pressure I had was more painful and stronger than I had experienced in my two prior colonoscopies. Alejandro said, “Go ahead and fart if you have to. Don’t be embarrassed.” I think I followed his orders, but I didn’t feel any better. A second fart also failed to relieve the pressure.
It was then I released a fart so powerful, it knocked a painting of the wall. In an office in Mexico City. It shook the room so much one of the nurses dropped her margarita. Alejandro fell to the floor, pulled himself up by the untied drawstring of my hospital gown and said something soothing like, “They found polyps.” I farted again with such force my bed rolled backwards into the wall, propelling the bed forward down the hall and crashing into the vendor’s table of ceramic death symbols. Or should I say former ceramic items.
Once staff members pushed my bed back into position, Alejandro explained that the doctors had found three polyps and had had to sedate me again to take biopsies. Dr. Suarez appeared and told me the sedative they had used was strong, but rather short lived. Therefore, when the polyps were discovered and extra time was needed to perform biopsies, I was given a second, smaller dose of the sedative. He also explained that they had blown air in me and that had caused the extra-pressured gas pains I was experiencing.
The sedative used, he said, was propofol, Michael Jackson’s notorious drug. The second dose, although small, hadn’t worn off when I awoke, causing my discomfort and disorientation. But it had by the time my final farts had done their damage and the doctor had explained the details to me. I was beginning to feel relatively normal. Within minutes I was able to stand up and I was given a folder with photographs of the procedure with a written explanation in Spanish, of course. Moments later, Alejandro and I were on our home.
I had expected to be ravenous after the colonoscopy. After all, I had not eaten in about 18-20 hours and my stomach and intestines were as empty as a Republican caucus in Seattle. But I wasn’t hungry. When I got home, common sense dictated I make myself some coffee and a small sandwich and I then studied the pictures of the colonoscopy and what the doctors had found.
I was stunned by what I saw. While I had been told three polyps had been discovered, there were eight pictures. Several showed large polyps with large black areas on them, crater like areas. “Oh, my god,” I concluded, “that’s cancer. Some are so serious, they took pictures from different angles.” I immediately called Dr. Suarez’s and scheduled an appointment for as soon as possible.
Exhausted from the poor night‘s sleep I had and the ordeal I had gone through, I went to bed. I awoke after an hour’s nap and walked to the bathroom and peed. When I looked into the mirror a moment later, I was startled. I looked like Michael Jackson. Well, I looked as much like him as a 69-year-old white Jew can. But my skin had developed vitiligo. My hair was in Michael’s modified Jhery Curl style. My military-styled sleeping gown had epaulets on the shoulders. And I was wearing one white sequined glove. I picked up my hair brush, held it like a microphone, and sang “Man in the Mirror” to my freaky reflection. I then moonwalked back to bed and slept again.
I saw Dr. Suarez at 9:30 the next morning. “How are you doing?” he asked cheerfully.
“Terrible,” I responded. “I’m freaked out.”
“Well, first the propofol did a number on me. I woke up from a nap thinking I was Michael Jackson.” I started crying.
“What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” the doctor asked.
“I miss Michael.” Then I remembered why I had so urgently made the appointment to see him. “The photos, Doctor. They don’t look good.”
“Let me see them,” he said.
I showed him the pictures. “Look how dark and deep those areas on the polyps are. That’s cancer, right?”
He started laughing. ”Those aren’t pictures of your polyps. They’re looking up your colon. The pink areas around the dark areas are your colon walls. The dark areas are the tunnel.”
“But the report said the polyps are 60, 20, and 10 centimeters in size. That much Spanish I can understand. Sixty is huge, isn’t it?”
Dr. Suarez laughed again. ”The report says the first polyp is 10 centimeters from the anal opening, the next 20, and the third 60. And they are tiny, the size of a pin-point. We took biopsies only because they were there, but they look fine, normal, and are very common. We’ll get the results in a week or so. But, even though things look fine, we want you to have another colonoscopy in six months, not the usual five years, so we can monitor them.”
I was so relieved and happy I began to cry again and wiped my tears with the palm side of my one white sequined glove.