Liza Minnelli, daughter of Judy Garland, (you wouldn’t think a column on a colonoscopy would begin with any reference to Liza Minelli) was often asked if she would sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” She always answered, “It’s been sung before.”
It is therefore with great trepidation that I write about my recent colonoscopy, since the humor columnist Dave Barry already wrote the definitive comic piece on colonoscopies, called “A journey into my colon,” which appeared in the Miami Herald on Feb. 2, 2008. If you enjoy a good laugh, it is must-read.
Since my columns are predominantly autobiographical, and a colonoscopy was unfortunately part of my life not too long ago, I shall proceed with the telling of this sad tale.
If I were to rank preparation for my colonoscopy on a scale of one to 100 with one being the low point, then I would give it a solid minus-30—make that minus-100.
For one thing, you can’t eat anything for over a day unless you consider clear broth or green jello food. I don’t. What is strange about fasting is how the desire for food quickly takes over everything. After a few hours, all I could think of was pizza and steak and almost anything that could conceivably be called food. I never hankered for broccoli or Brussels sprouts even then. We all have our limits.
I started to wonder whether I could do some atoning while fasting and consider it my Yom Kippur a couple of months ahead of schedule. I even thought about calling an observant friend of mine to get dispensation, but I could hear his answer before I even asked the question: “Nice try Burt, but that won’t cut it.”
Fasting is not remotely the worst part of the preparation. You actually have to drink a pool-full of Gatorade mixed with a toxic powder called MiraLax. The first couple of glasses go down relatively quickly, and then you hit a wall as the realization sinks in that you are not close to the halfway mark.
Finally the intended result takes place—you look down and see that your stomach looks like it has swallowed a basketball. All of a sudden you hear gurgling and bubbling sounds of a frightening nature and then, as George W. said, “Mission Accomplished.” The whole experience is most cathartic.
The actual procedure the following morning is anti-climatic. The medical team puts you out for a half an hour or so, and when you come to, you ask rather quizzically, “Have you done it yet?” Before you leave, the doctor does something that I find rather disconcerting. First, he says, “You are as clean as a whistle.” I will never use a whistle again. Then he actually hands me a photo of my colon. Or, at least, it is supposed to be my colon.
As a born cynic, I believe it is perfectly possible that after I was put into Never Never Land, the doctor went home, had a beer and watched a few innings of the Dodgers game, and never really did the procedure. For all I know, the photo he gave me could be a photo of anyone’s colon. As far as my untrained eye can see, all colons look exactly alike.
When he gives me the photo, he smiles and says, “I’ll see you in five years.” I don’t think so. As far as I’m concerned, if I happen to “check out” four years and 11 months from now, I will consider it perfect timing.