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Southern Oregon Journal - Inner babies and the colonoscopy

When it comes to doctors, we men are closet babies.

Finally, we reach that age, when an occasional medical checkup seems like a good idea. We say seems, because most of us would rather cut off a finger than visit a doctor.

"I'm scheduling you for a colonoscopy," said my doctor.

For a moment, my internal toddler caught his breath and began to cry. "Oh," was all I could say.

I was here for a cholesterol check and a glucose test. Now we're talking about areas of my body I wasn't sure I wanted to talk about.

Colon cancer kills 48,000 people in the U.S. every year, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in the country. Doctors tell us that it is preventable, with simple changes in diet and physical activity, and through regular screening. Being tested only makes sense.

My doctor told me that someone would call to schedule a consultation visit before the procedure. "If they don't call within two weeks, you call them," he said.

A month went by with no call. My toddler secretly celebrated, but I felt guilty. Not guilty enough to pick up the phone, you understand, but guilty.

When the consultation nurse called, she told me the best time for a colonoscopy was early in the morning. "You can't eat for 24 hours," she said. "So you might as well sleep through the hunger pangs."

Although I didn't know it at the time, the day before the procedure was the worst that it would ever get. I drank clear liquids for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I thought I would be hungry, but with a stomach filled with liquid, my biggest problem was the bathroom. At six o'clock that evening I guzzled 10 ounces of magnesium citrate, which the nurse assured me would "clean out whatever remains." Let's just say she was correct.

At the clinic, they handed out one of those fashionable gowns with the slit all the way up the back. An I.V. was attached to an arm, and wires taped to my chest to monitor my heart.

The gurney was wheeled into the procedure room. The nurse put the I.V. vial on the rail next to my eyes. "You'll be out in less than a minute," she said.

I stared at the white liquid in the vial and remember saying, "This is what everyone talks about - counting backwards from 100. I'm not going to count because "...."

"All done," said the doctor as the nurse rubbed my forehead. Fifteen minutes of my life had disappeared like a good night's sleep.

Twenty minutes later, I was leaving with my wife, the designated driver. "That sure was easy," I said.

They handed me a paper that read: "Normal Colon. Repeat in 10 years."

"Ten years?" I thought. "No problem. I should be grown up by then."

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove.