Did I Mention Prevention?

I take prevention seriously. I’m on the five-year plan in this case. I have the pleasure…no, that’s not quite accurate. I have the privilege…nope, not exactly the right word either, although having health insurance that covers the procedure is a privilege, and I am grateful. I have the practice (that works!) of having a colonoscopy every five years. This was my year. Again.

Prevention is helpful. My mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in her early young 80’s. That gave me the fast pass to more regular (pun intended) colonoscopies. I was fifty-years-old at the time, the expected time to start the exam. I just completed my fourth one. By the way, my mom survived colon cancer, thankfully. People without a family history of colon cancer typically get one every ten years.

Please take prevention seriously. Perhaps you’ve heard about how a colonoscopy can prevent or even treat colon cancer early enough to correct it. Perhaps you agree that it sounds like a good idea. Perhaps you are a procrastinator. It is understandable. Perhaps you should schedule one soon, depending on your age and situation.

Prevention is only good if you take the steps. I want to encourage everyone to do so when it’s your turn. I also hope you have insurance to help cover it. Here is a great four-minute video explaining the procedure and the peace of mind it can bring. If you are unfamiliar with the colonoscopy, this may help you feel more relaxed about getting one.

Let’s switch to the prep part of the experience. The day prior to the procedure, the goal is to clean up your colon for picture day. I’m looking forward to when they make this easier. The first part with a diet of clear liquids, a day that could include jello, apple juice, and broth, goes fine. I had to just get over how much I enjoy three meals a day. I drank extra water and clear beverages all day, which is really helpful for staying full and avoiding dehydration, which helps the nurse find your vein for the IV the next day.

I always use a straw to shoot the prescription laxative right down my throat and shorten the time it spends sliding across my taste buds.

In the evening, it’s showtime. I used the prescription laxative, as always, but this one was new to me. I’m glad they make advances in this category. Someday, if the laxative is a chewable tablet that comes in an easy to tolerate flavor, I’m buying stock in the company.

This time I was happy to find out there was less to drink. That’s a good thing and an advancement since my first one. Let’s just say it really worked well. Don’t picture colon fireworks. Don’t picture the thrust of flames at a rocket launch with the rocket not leaving the toilet seat. Just don’t. It is an exciting time and everything usually comes out alright. In the end. And we get to do it all over again the morning of the procedure. Those prescriptions are effective and a clean colon makes the colonoscopy go better.

My husband surprised me with a package of Charmin. We don’t usually buy that brand. I really appreciated the extra comfort for this event. Very romantic.

Back to the prep. I got my supplies ready and poised near the toilet. I planned to camp out for an hour. Or two. I got some reading done. I played a game on my phone. Time to myself is often a luxury, just not in this situation. It is a good idea to keep friends and relatives away from the bathroom door in case of smells or sounds that could embarrass one. Light a candle in a favorite – or any scent. I’m considering getting a padded toilet seat for my next round.

I was able to sleep fine that night. I had to get up early for round two of the laxative. I was feeling clean and confident by the time I was ready to head over for the procedure. All I could think of was lunch. My colonoscopy was mid-morning, so lunch was my goal. Having something to look forward to, to focus on, is helpful. Mind over matter. I felt proud of my effort once the prep was done and I’m ready for my little inspection and the nap that comes with it.

Every patient gets to wear a face mask this year. No surprise. I wondered if it would feel weird, confining. It did not.

I got wheeled into the procedure room. A team of three men in masks and medical clothes all introduced themselves to me. Not awkward. I was so ready to have it all over with for five more years. After the introductions and pleasantries, I woke up in recovery and felt just fine. It seems to go just that quickly.

The procedure went so fast. My results were all clear. That is tremendous peace of mind. I am thankful to the people who do this for a living. Of course, they send you home with pictures. I’m choosing one now for our family Christmas card photo.

I got a wheelchair ride downstairs where my husband waited outside to take me home. I discipline myself to take it easy for the rest of the day, and that always pays off. And my lunch was delicious. I always choose macaroni and cheese.

Since it is 2020 and things are uncomfortable anyway, why not just add a colonoscopy to the mix and make your intention prevention?

Stay healthy, my friends.

P.S. I have to include this comedian sharing his colonoscopy experience, both the abbreviated version in the video and the full column from the Miami Herald. Here is Dave Barry. If you need a few laughs at this time in your life, this could help.

This is a summary if you prefer watching to reading.

Here is the link to the article: Dave Barry Article, Miami Herald

Panic & Perspective

Do you ever have those moments when you notice something different happening in your body, and suddenly push the health panic button, ready to assume the worst? Maybe it’s just me.

On a recent weekday morning, I was driving to work in a bit of a hurry. Not unusual. I’m usually in a hurry to leave work. I’m rarely in a hurry to get there. Anyway, something caught my eye. Pun intended.

I noticed an unusual level of glare and clarity of focus in one eye. It startled me. The vision in my left eye was oddly sharper and clearer than my right. And the glare made me squint.

This was not normal, and I began to panic. Just a bit. But still, I went down the rabbit hole of concern. I confess that quickness to fear potential health problems has become more natural as I age.

What could this mean, besides a visit to the eye doctor? We all know it is always better to see the expert before diagnosing ourselves, but we worry in the meantime. So helpful. Not helpful.

I continued to worry and wonder what was happening. But I renewed my vow NOT to check online. That always fuels the panic fire in health concerns, since online information can often misdirect in a negative way.

Take a breath. Breathe.

I continued on the route to work, consumed by “what if” thoughts, of course, and the downhill spiral of wondering if it could be something serious. I knew there was nothing I could do in the moment. I tried to relax. Or at least distract myself.

Take a breath. Breathe.

Soon I arrived at work, parked the car, gathered my things, and opened the car door to exit. Worry still rented space in my head, as my husband would say.

Take a breath. Breathe deep. I can call the eye doctor when I get to my desk.

I removed my sunglasses and turned to walk in the building.

Suddenly, a sense of calm moved through my little soul, and I burst into laughter. All worry fled the scene. One of the lenses had popped out of my sunglasses, and I had not noticed. No wonder I had more glare and clarity in one eye without explanation at the time! That immediate sense of relief was awesome, but the little lesson that came with it was even better.

I smiled all the way in to my desk, shaking my head at the simplicity of the explanation, after all my wasted worry and the dread brewing about the “oh, no!” of the unknown.

My eyes were fine. But I was too close to the problem to see it clearly. A good reminder to take a deep breath, and press pause on the panic. This little lesson was a good reminder to wait, move away from the situation, and get some perspective.

Isn’t it true that sometimes we are too close to the problem to see (again, pun intended – forgive me!) what’s really happening, to view the situation with perspective? And a little distance can often help. That truth was glaring to me in the moment. And I continued to laugh for a while. I will remember to keep perspective in problems that come. And to fix my sunglasses.

Have a good week! And stay charming, friends!

P.S. I want to acknowledge some health panics do lead to a serious diagnosis. I want to honor that difficult journey for folks, too. This one just turned out lighthearted, for which I am grateful.