Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Advice for the 50-and-older set

First of all, if discussions of medical procedures are off-putting to you, please move along to the next post here at Hamguin’s or to the next blog you love to follow.

Okay! Now that the folks who think “doctor” is a four-letter word have vacated the premises, here is today’s message.

If you are 50 years old or older and have not had a colonoscopy in the last ten years, talk to your doctor about getting one.

It was my turn yesterday, and I have to tell you that it was so easy that I cannot imagine why I was concerned prior. Let me restate: I can imagine why, I mean, who wouldn’t be apprehensive? The facts, though, may help you make your decision.

Once we hit 50 or so, our bodies become more likely to get little bumps inside our colons known as polyps. These little growths are typically no problem at all, but they have the potential, over a period of years, to become cancerous.

So, to avoid those little things having unlimited opportunity to become a problem, the advice is to have a colonoscopy once a decade to remove any while they are still just little bumps.

When one considers the alternative, the one-day interruption of your routine is well worth it.

I’ll detail all that I had to do and describe yesterday only to alleviate any imaginings of horrible stuff going on which ignorance can allow to flower.

The day before the procedure, I did not eat anything. The list of clear liquids I was okay to consume included things like clear broth and lemon-lime soft drinks, although I stuck strictly to water. Beginning at 6 pm, I drank, over the next hour, a liter of a powder dissolved in water which was designed to act as a roto-rooter for my intestinal tract.

It did what it was supposed to do, and that part was uncomfortable, if only mildly so. Then, at 8 pm, I drank the second liter of the same stuff. By 10 pm, I was no longer feeling any discomfort, and I had no trouble at all sleeping normally.

Yesterday, the day of the procedure, I was not to have anything by mouth at all.

The folks at the outpatient facility were very nice as they prepared me for the procedure. In this case, the traditional hospital gown with the open back makes perfect sense!

They wheeled me into the procedure room where the doc went over, one more time, what the plan was and had me sign a consent form. The anesthesiologist put some stuff into my IV, and about 60 seconds later, I was gone to sleepyland.

The next thing I knew, I was back in the same room where I had changed clothes prior to the procedure. I felt like I was waking from a nap, with no side-effects from the anesthesia at all. Within ten minutes or so, I was able to change back into my own clothes and await my ride home in comfort.

Other than some minor issues with gas which cleared up over the next couple of hours—perfectly normal, as they do inject air so as to make the interior of the colon visible, and all of it doesn’t evacuate right away at the conclusion—the rest of my day was event-free.

I ate a light meal when I got home, took a short nap, and I was feeling fine. Dinner was a typical Hamrick-household meal, and I was back on the regular food train.

This is way more info than most people require, but I wrote it out for those who are not at all sure they want to go through with this.

Bottom line: as detailed above, this is so a non-event as to be, literally, a one-day interruption of your normal life. Not only that, it is a pain-free and only mildly uncomfortable day.

And, people, it can save your life.

To end on a note less serious, here is the tagline on the stationary of the group of doctors of which my gastroenterologist is a member.

“Shedding light on gastrointestinal problems…”



Lynilu said...

I'm due. I have a referral. I'm dragging my feet. I don't mind the colonscopy or the events that are subsequent. But that day before ....

I'll do it and soon. But for now, I'm choosing to wallow in a bit of self-pity over the memories of events past.


Sphincter said...

Rick, I haven't been here in months and I feel right at home already. :) I've got a while to go before this pleasure will be mine, but I WILL uh...face (so to speak) the music when the time comes.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and educational post, Rick! I have had one and I didn't find it to be a big deal at all.

Rick Hamrick said...

Lynilu, here's one way to think about it: as long as you continue to postpone, you have every day to dread what is coming.

If, instead, you go ahead with it, you are done with dreading!

Sphinc! So good to hear from you. And, yes...how appropriate, given the topic.

Kelly--I'm happy to have someone else chime it. In all honesty, one of the reasons I simply got it done was a column Dave Berry wrote some years ago, a column I ran across a few weeks ago.

His column delivered the same message as this blog post does, although he was certainly much funnier in getting the word across.

Thanks to all of you for stopping by and leaving me a little missive so I know you were here!

Julie said...

Another great thing about the big 5..0. eh? At least you don't have to have your boobs squooshed between two cold metal plates. Now THATS fun....

Rick Hamrick said...

Julie, I agree with you that I am lucky to miss that uncomforrtable indignity. At the same time, you never have to hear someone say, someone whose head is down at a level where they can examine parts I don't make a habit of showing people, "Turn your head and cough."

It is not as physically distressing as a mammogram, but no guy really thinks it much fun to have someone ask him to cough while they are checking out his reproductive pieces parts.

I just read of your Asheville adventure: good to know I can simply cadge others' photos of Chimney Rock and save the knees.

Rick Hamrick said...

I'm so glad you wrote this. Don't know if I told you this the other day, but I am one of those rare survivors (7 years NED) of late stage colon cancer.
I was one of those who was "never going to have one of those" screenings.
(No, I wasn't!) I was actually viewing Katie Couric's live c-scope in NYC (on Broadway) and saying (to her)..."I don't care what you say - I'm not having one of those!"
Two or three years later, I was being told by the GI doc "I have good news and bad news".
Good news: ".....you're not going to have to wear a bag." Bad news: "There's tumor there..."
I now say "colonoscopies are fun!".
Because of my own experience, most everyone who surrounds me has had theirs.
Glad you wrote this.

Rick Hamrick said...


Of course, I am first glad you are a survivor, and secondly glad because I never would have met you had you not survived your cancer.

As much time as I spent regretting the need for it, I was completely stunned at how easy it was. Literally, ten times easier than that silly procedure I had five years ago for which I was allowed to remain conscious.

Colonoscopies may not be fun, but they are barely a blip on the radar--one day without food (and a couple of liters of clear-you-out stuff in the evening) and a morning with your hind end exposed in a really unattractive hospital gown, and you're done.

By the way, I was serious about the doc groups' tagline. I gave them shit about it, too, and the guy who was doing my procedure just grinned.