Getting old isn’t for sissies. So I figure I might as well laugh about it—and maybe share a laugh with you. If you are squeamish, or if you are terribly opposed to possible TMI, you might want to stop reading here.
I used to think that the mammogram machine was the most barbaric test known to man—or woman really. It is especially awful when they get those small paddles out to squeeze down a small section of your boob to get a closer look at one small area. I mean, I start sweating when I see them reach for the shelf with those little paddles. And they don’t let you wear deodorant for mammograms so if you get called back in from the tiny closet changing/waiting room they have you wait in to do a second round it can get a bit stinky.
I’ve been getting these torturous tests for over a decade. And I did think nothing could be worse—enter the decade that suggests that it is time for a colonoscopy. And really it’s not the test itself that is so bad as long as you don’t think too hard about what happens when they knock you out. It’s the prep day that is pure evil torture. I’ve been sort of avoiding getting a colonoscopy, with great Catholic upbringing guilt, for the past two years. But this year my PC warned me that avoidance was futile and I gave in.
I had prepped for prep day. I purchased a lovely broth from the farmers market, picked all sorts of non-red drinks listed on the approved liquid list, and bought a package of Dulcolax and a 14 dose bottle of Miralax. No one warned me that prep for prep day should include industrial size toilet paper rolls—but alas I shop at Costco so I was prepared.
I decided that it would be wise to work from home on prep day. Okay, but let’s just be honest here, I planned on working from home on prep day. Reality was that shortly after starting the doctor prescribed prep cocktails it was all over. Because prep basically includes taking 4 doses of Dulcolax and 14 doses of Miralax over less than an 18 hour period of time. My plans went out the window—or down the toilet—and I basically got no work done.
What did I do? I made 5700 urgent trips to the bathroom. I went through 2 large rolls of industrial toilet paper. My head pounded so I mostly just moaned. They tell you that you can have your coffee as long as it has no cream…but they don’t warn you that coffee only adds jet fuel to the 18 doses worth of laxatives and that coffee leaves your system without a hint of caffeine left behind in your body. I literally haven’t had another cup of coffee since experiencing that toxic combination. I now have new level of sympathy for the lady from my Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Literally Crappy Day.
They have you put the Dulcolax in a Gatorade. While attempting to drink the syrupy sweet concoction I vaguely recalled that the nurse had suggested that I buy sugar-free Gatorade. I skipped that because ick chemicals….don’t skip that suggestion! Those chemical would have lasted in my body for only a matter of seconds so no damage would have been done. Literally—the Dulcolax Gatorade cocktail hits your lips and within moments you are dashing for the restroom. Drink the sugar-free chemicals. Since I didn’t heed that suggestion I instead felt like I was in the movie Elf and Buddy was force feeding me a maple syrup and sugar cocktail. My head spun even harder with every sip.
Finally after I was mostly spent, I passed out for the night with an alarm set for 5:30 a.m. to drink more sugary sweet prep. But alas at 2:43 a.m. I flew out of bed when suddenly the TV in the loft living space blared to life at decibels rarely heard in this house. I don’t know what happened—maybe a cat stepped on a remote or the TV got turned off wrong, but I was awake for the rest of the night with my head pounding, stomach spinning, feet racing for a few more runs to the bathroom, all while a super happy collection of cats thought it was a party and demanded attention. It was a LONG night.
Finally my alarm went off and I got through more prep and more bathroom runs. I like how humorist Dave Barry explained that second dose of prep, “You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.”
As I waited to leave for the hospital I was certain I was dying of thirst since after all that liquid that I had consumed, I now couldn’t drink anything. Considering that I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome I couldn’t have the test at the outpatient clinic and was scheduled for the hospital. I was prepared for hours of waiting. Instead I was all hooked up and heading into the procedure within a half hour of my arrival time. And like magic I was waking up to the good news that it was over and all was clear. They handed me a beloved glass of water and told me they’d see me in 10 years. I grumbled that I wasn’t coming back.
But reality is that I will be back. I will do it again in 10 years. I will be wiser. I will buy the sugar-free Gatorade and drink my coffee before I start the prep procedures. And I will show up for my mammogram next month. Why? Because preventative care is priceless—and quit honestly painless in comparison to a missed diagnosis.
Growing old isn’t for sissies—but oh what a privilege.
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