I had the first procedure back in July because of some family history. I remember waking up from the anesthesia, feeling fine and all ready to get something to eat after being on a liquid diet the day before, when the doctor came storming in and told me, “You ruined my day!”
This took the mood in the room down a notch, I can assure you. I’ll spare you the full details, but there were some polyps that resulted in some unexpected complications (which in my heavily sedated state I had no knowledge of until that moment) and, well, I ruined the doctor’s day. This meant two things:
1) So that he could find the spot where the main issue occurred later, the doctor gave me a blue tattoo. Like, on the inside of me. So far the ink hasn’t leaked out and given me the use of 100% of my brain yet, but it does mean I automatically win every “you’ll never guess where my tattoo is” contest ever. Except, well, after this post, I suppose.
2) In six months, he told me sternly, I had to come back for another colonoscopy just so he could make sure everything that got resolved stayed resolved. Yay.
Thus, after another liquid diet day yesterday, there I was this morning, at an ungodly hour when most other people were still in bed, in the waiting room ready for my six-month followup. First one there. Filled out some forms, watched the early morning news for a few minutes. Waited.
The next patient came in, a young woman. She looked frail and too young to be having a colonoscopy. She seemed to fill in the same forms I did, got the same wrist bands as well – one that listed what procedure we were having, another for our allergies (me: codeine, her: latex). Still, I thought, maybe she was there for some other reason.
Eventually they took us back to a second waiting area. Here you get changed (again sparing the details of the luxurious – and I do mean luxurious – gown they give you…) and wait for the nurse to come and run a needle into the back of your hand, followed the anesthesiologist conducting an interview with you. I got put in one “room,” the young woman in the next. Only a thin curtain separated us.
That’s why I couldn’t help but overhear some of her answers to the doctor’s questions.
Have you had a colonoscopy before? Yes, this is my fifth.
And the previous were due to your…? Crohn’s disease, yes.
I closed my eyes. See, my nephew had Crohn’s disease, too. Because of this, I should probably know more about it, but I confess I’m hardly an expert.
What I do know is his life was harder than it should have been. Harder than he deserved.
What I do know is that he suffered. Almost every day.
What I do know is that he died way too young. Unfairly young.
And this woman. Can I call her a girl? Is that okay? Because suddenly I was thinking about her in those terms as I remembered watching her enter the first waiting room. She was maybe 5’2″? Lucky to be a hundred pounds, for sure. And, now that I pictured her again, I saw her more clearly: the slumped posture, the bags under her eyes, the lock of gray hair threatening her forehead.
I had seen it before, the results of the stress a disease like Crohn’s puts on a human being, the weight the person is forced to bear. I wanted to see her again, to say something, but what could I say?
The nurse came and wheeled me back. Next thing I knew, I was under…then, waking. This time the doctor was happy. So was I. No ruined days.
I never saw that young woman again. I keep thinking about her. I hope her results were as positive as mine.
About that family history. My sister has – had – colon cancer. That’s why I got the first check up. She, too, had complications that put a lot of stress on her body. I’m happy to report she recently finished her chemotherapy and the initial indications are that she is “stable,” which is a good thing.
Where’s all this going? I’m not 100% sure. I guess I’d like to say – especially for the men out there who probably keep putting it off – guys, getting a colonoscopy ain’t so bad. If your doctor’s recommending it, please follow through. It’s worth it. I’ve seen enough misery. Let’s turn this thing around.
Also, ever since it came out, my Amazon Smile (you do use that when you buy from Amazon, right?) has been pointed at the Colon Cancer Coalition Foundation, for my sister. Today, at least for a bit, I re-pointed it to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. For my nephew, and that young woman whose name I’ll never know.
If you don’t have a charity that’s close to your heart, please consider one of these. The people suffering from these diseases need all the help they can get from us.
And, not to rub your nose in it or anything, but you might as well acknowledge now you’re never gonna have a tattoo as cool as mine. Nev-ahhh.