How often do you turn to your doctor and say – please give me a very unpleasant and painful procedure? But that’s pretty much the drill as we hover around the age of 50 and ask our family physicians to schedule a colonoscopy. The health funds recommend that everyone 50 and up get a colonoscopy and then afterward once every 5-10 years.
So that’s how I found myself one morning last week at Sha’arei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem in the gastro clinic, waiting for my turn with no small amount of trepidation. Revise that: make it outright fear. Yes, I know that the anesthesia given for the procedure is supposed to knock you out so completely, you don’t feel a thing. But as a chronic worrier (and a writer who learned the golden axiom), I need to be shown, not just told.
The gastro clinic at Sha’arei Tzedek is being refurbished, so I was temporarily shunted down to what appeared to be a glorified supply closet next to the Emergency Room. That’s where a gruff but efficient nurse hooked me up with an IV in my hand to administer the sedative.
The actual room where the procedure is done was more doctor-friendly. But, as I lay on the table waiting to get started, suddenly a crew of office staff burst in – apparently to install a printer!
The nurses brought in a portable mechitza (not much more than a curtain on wheels) to separate me from the workers. I turned to my doctor in concern. “Would you like me to ask them to leave?” he suggested kindly. Well, um, like, duh, I responded.
I then asked him to please give me extra drugs. “The maximum you can do.”
That was actually the last thing I remember. When I next opened my eyes, I was in the recovery room with my wife Jody at my side. She appeared quite relieved. “You looked like you were dead,” she said.
In truth, the procedure had been as painless as they said. Now, as to the preparation, don’t get me started. You can put all the citrus flavor you want into that purgative drink, but it still tastes like motor oil coated with sewage. Or worse.
How did my colon do? Well, I’m supposed to follow up with my doctor in a month when the results from a biopsy come back, but I assume that if it was anything major, the doctor would have put a rush on it.
Colon cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer and can usually be detected by colonoscopy. I asked for it, I got it, and it wasn’t so terrible after all. If you’re in the appropriate age group, talk to your doctor and don’t be afraid. I won’t be…next time.