Recently one of my staff had a few medical exams. This reminded me of a plea by Col. Tim Gann (not Brig. Gen. Gann), who came to the USAF Doctrine Center in 1997. Col. Gann stated a prostate exam had saved a fellow Army War College student’s life by catching the student’s prostate cancer. Col. Gann swore by this exam as a result. Later our PA, Col. Randy Dobbins, proceeded to stress anyone over age 50 must also get a colonoscopy.
Thus, when one of my staff underwent a colonoscopy I asked them, weeks later, to discuss this procedure to help others understand the procedure and the merits of having these exams. So without any further lead-in, their story:

I recently went for my first colonoscopy. They recommend them regularly after you reach 50 years of age. I have had several flexible sigmoidoscopies since I turned 50 but not the BIG C.

The colonoscopy has become an urban legend. It is viewed by most laymen as the ultimate in humiliation and pain. Mind you, those who haven’t had them have listened to the horror stories of their friends and decided this particular test is not for them even though they have had one themselves.

I have to admit; I put off having mine until I was having recurring abdominal pain and decided (in my imagination) that I had terminal colon cancer. I decided the ultimate in humiliation and pain may not be as bad as having an advanced case of colon cancer so I scheduled an appointment with a Gastroenterologist. That doctor specializes in diseases of the gastrointestinal system. You have to wonder what kind of weirdo goes into that medical specialty. Oh well, I digress.

I met with my doctor, who was a female, and she indicated I needed both a colonoscopy AND an upper endoscopy because of my long term symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. I was not a happy camper. Not only was I going to have a colonoscopy from a female doctor, now I had to have both the upper and lower done. To top that, she indicated she wanted to do both tests at the SAME TIME!!!!!

Now I’m as brave as the next guy but both upper and lower together? I was not “feeling the love”. I agreed to having both tests done when my doctor, a really nice young lady, indicated because of my other health issues (diabetes, sleep apnea and heart disease) they didn’t want to have to put me under anesthesia any more than necessary. In fact, she ordered an anesthesiologist be there during my tests. I saw my life pass in front of my eyes.

Man was I getting paranoid. About a week before the test I had to modify my medication routine. I couldn’t take any aspirin. The day before the test I had to start the “clean out” process as they call it. You take several gallons of laxatives and spend all day and night before the test on the toilet. That was an unpleasant experience. I mean it was REALLY an unpleasant experience. I must have been very diligent at this task because when I reported the next morning and was asked if I got “cleaned out”, I said yes and they ask the most bizarre questions like, color, consistency, etc. I must have done a good job because everytime I answered one of their questions they would nod and goooood!!!!

They made me strip down to my socks and gave me one of those hospital gowns that open in the back. It didn’t take me long to realize in my case that was a very good thing, given what they were about to do to me. But the really neat part was they gave a heated gown. They keep the gowns in some sort of heated storage cabinet to keep the gowns warm. After spending the entire night sitting on a toilet with little or no sleep, you can’t imagine how warm and fuzzy it felt to have a toasty warm gown. Even if it did let in a draft in the back.

Next they took to the endoscopy suite and tried to give me anesthesia. The first IV didn’t work and they scrambled to get a second one going. Then the anesthesiologist put a needle and syringe into the IV and the next thing I knew a nurse was asking me how I was doing and I needed to start passing gas.

That, my friends, was not a problem. I felt remarkably well and had no ill effects from the anesthesia or the tests. No residual pain, no soreness, no discomfort, no nothing. They brought me a soda and my clothes and told me as soon as I felt comfortable I could get dressed. I got dressed and sat in a chair waiting on my doctor.

The first question I asked the doctor was “you didn’t use the same scope for both procedures did you?” It is amazing why one thinks making jokes to the person who just saw you in your most naked state is a good idea. My doctor offered a patronizing smile and said, ” no sir, we use different scopes”. I bet she hears that hundreds of time a month. Oh well, after letting her do to me what she did to me the least she could do is listen to my jokes.

Bottom line – it was not that bad. I had some polyps and she took those out. I’m waiting to hear on the pathology report. I didn’t have any residual pain. This test is one of the easiest and most effective ways to screen for and detect early, one of the country’s most deadly diseases -colon cancer. If your over fifty and your doctor recommends the colonoscopy, have it done. It’s not as bad as you’ve heard and it may save your life.

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