One Reporter's Opinion

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Friday, April 04, 2003

My dad died of colon cancer at the age of 43. This came two years after he had been given a six-week prognosis, thus:

[Surgeon to my stepmother, 8 months with child]: "Your husband has advanced metastatic cancer. My advice would be to get in the car and take a long vacation."

I'm paraphrasing somewhat, but you get the idea.

I figure I am not inclined to take an early exit myself, so a while back, I scheduled a date with a gastroenterologist.

I'll fast forward to the end here: My exam signalled the "all clear." No polyps, nothing untoward.

However... and this is a big however... I was scared shitless (literally) that this might not be the result. OK, I wasn't "scared" shitless, but I was medically made shitless through a regimen of turbo-laxatives which I would not wish upon anyone but a Republican. I don't know what biomedical alchemy causes phosphates to require your bowels to retain water, but suffice it to say that the ingestion and excretion processes that follow from adherence to the label's instructions are neither pleasant nor short. Imagine, if you will, a concoction of moldy plywood squeezin' & wet dog concentrate, with a slight tang of Comet, in a base of refrigerated lakewater. One gallon of this mixture must be drank, 8 oz. at a time, at 10-15 minute intervals, over a 3-4 hour period.

I about made a call to Geneva to inquire about international treaties regarding medical practice at hour 3.25, but my trip to the phone was interrupted by a biological imperative issuing forth from my stomach. "Awright! Everybody OUT!!! Two exits. No waiting!" Perhaps worse than drinking this stuff to purge my intestines was projectile hurling it across the guest bathroom. Insult to injury? I had only just finished a bowl of chicken broth -- the meager sustenance which I would be allowed during this 24-hour period. By the time I had finished retching, I was in no mood to eat, and drinking anything would be verboten in about an hour. Urgh.

OK, so... I have to be at the admitting desk by 7:15 the next day. I'm there, but only in body. My mind is elsewhere, and at no time was this more apparent than when I was cloaked in hospital robes, reading an "informed consent" release form, and I'm being told that it's time for my I.V. Jesus H. Christ, I hate needles. My mind is reeling with about 20 things at once. There's the diagnosis... all the things that could go wrong... this shit about to be stuck into my veins... the drugs I'm going to be shot full of...

But then, there is the fact that my dad died at the age of 43 from a disease for which the cure rate is over 90% with early detection.

And there, standing right next to me, is my wonderful fiancee, telling the nurses how tough that I really am, when all I can stammer out, in so many words, "I don't know if I can get through this."

And I'm thinking, you know, I really don't want to leave my soon-to-be wife without her husband. And there is a whole helluva lot of stuff I plan on doing into my sixties, if I can manage it.

As the prep nurse is wheeling me into endoscopy, she says, "Take good care of him. He's the only one I've got."

About the last thing I recall clearly was being fed drugs that made me feel instantly drunk. I watched the monitor as my heart rate slowed a couple of beats...

And then I awoke to a cup of Sprite and a couple of graham crackers -- and the news that they didn't find anything but a mess of hemorrhoids.

I think I got off light, compared to the guy behind the curtain to my right. As my drugged self is being escorted to my locker, ol' Doc Caudill is giving the business to an alcoholic in denial about his condition.

See ya in five years, you ol' sawbones.

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