Rejoice, for life is good, and the colon is good. And no man should travel down that alimentary road unless he is a vindaloo curry or a Panko-breaded sand dab made by Jane. At least not for the next 10 years. In short, the colonoscopy is behind me. No pun intended.
What lingers, of course, are the questions. There are so many. Why did I not envision doing this with Jane at my side? She was there, of course, and it made all the difference. Most important, why did I not envision something closer to the reality? After all, I was fully conscious of the links to the past. Marlou’s colon cancer, of course. Being examined by precisely the same doctor who had discovered her cancer did add to the frisson. But there was more than that. A sense of fated inevitability, a.k.a., doom. The intimation that I was facing something horrible and something horrible would happen. There wasn’t even much of a mixture, say 25% fear and 75% well-being. No, it felt unshakably grim and frightening and without any logical basis. Still, there it was, basis-free. Me and my date with the colon.
I had to be careful not to undermine the examination, making the sort of ‘accidental’ slipup that scuttles the test. Such as drinking or eating within three hours of colonoscopy kickoff. Even taking aspirin too close to the date. Much to be said for consciousness. I did have to watch it, and I did watch it. In fact, I followed instructions, did just what was required, without excessive dotting of the i’s or crossing of the t’s. Don’t eat tomatoes, for example. Silly.
And right on schedule I began guzzling – and there is no other word – this noxious liquid that is designed to, speaking euphemistically, clean out the system. No cleaning seemed to be occurring, so after a couple of hours I called the gastroenterology nurse. Not to worry, she said. Indeed. The ‘cleaning’ got under way and continued for the next three or four hours, all of the latter spent on the toilet, naturally. Very well. When it was over it was over. I slept rather well, got up the next morning, and there was even time for Jane to take care of a few matters at work.
Stanford University Medical Center. It giveth and it taketh away. I visited Marlou several times here. Fortunately, her imprint is not that strong. She sickened and died at home. Lots has gone on here. Lots goes on here every day, that is the astonishing thing. In many ways this is the most urban phenomenon in and around Menlo Park and Palo Alto, the mid-Peninsula, so-called. This place feels truly city. Humming and urban. Anonymous, and for this purpose, that’s fine. The Endoscopy waiting room is straight out of a mid-grade Hilton. I sat there pretending to read The New Yorker, while feeling the gurgling and general queasiness of my innards and praying that there would be no more unwanted evidence of ‘cleaning’ en route to the colonoscopy room. Funny, the things we worry about.
Donning a hospital gown, getting into a rolling hospital bed, all of this is unpleasantly familiar to me, and I could feel myself shaking as the medical crew went about its tasks. A heart monitor, why me? Do these people know something I don’t? A real, true, bona fide intravenous into the back of the hand. Oy. Far too serious, if you ask me, and is there still some way not to do this? One of those clothespin-type clamps on the index finger, monitoring God knows what. Yes, a bit of minor shaking, the body knowing something dire and fearful is imminent. The nurse, one of several, but the nurse for the moment, muttered about giving me a little tranquilizer through her IV. I was no more tranquil than a captured convict.
Then into the breach. An operating room, or a farm-league version, with various medical personnel talking about rolling me on my side. I offered some small advice, positioning a pillow between my knees. And there I was in place for the horrible next stage. Bottom exposed. Not even want to think about the fiber-optic version of Roto-Rooter. So, instead, I was thinking about household matters. That is to say, the mundanities of tomorrow. I was having a handyman over to do a few things around the apartment. Fix a door. Move furniture for the carpet cleaning guys. Dr. Rubinstein had already been by to say hello a few minutes earlier, both of us signing the usual hospital pre-surgery release form. I could hear him in the background. Never mind. I could also get the handyman to replace a lightbulb in the bathroom. Fifty milligrams, someone said. Also, ask him to install some new loudspeakers. All done, someone said.
What? I recall this mundane daydreaming over domestic matters. That’s it. Later, Jane told me that the nurse had mentioned the amnesiac properties of the sedative. Naturally, I don’t recall. I don’t recall the colonoscopy, for that matter, or even much leading up to it. Rolled back on my side, recovering apparently where I was before…although I must have been somewhere else. And feeling rather pleasant. Dangerously pleasant, in fact. I had the sense that anything was possible. I could, for example, slide off the hospital bed and into my wheelchair with the greatest of ease. Already, I was mentally adjusting for drug-induced unreality. The truth being that I was weak. My balance terrible. Not to worry, for I was rolling my electric wheelchair back to the car, returned to my home within minutes.
Later that afternoon I had a small experience. Tiny. But microcosmic. The very sort of thing that the Psychologist I Happen To Bump into on Mondays was discussing just the other, well, Monday. The small experience? I had, let us say, a leakage. Nothing very much. Just a slight amount of the body continuing to ‘clean’ itself. Of course, I hadn’t had the gallon of diarrhea-inducing liquid for almost 24 hours. I had not eaten in more than an entire day. I was eating now, of course, and such leakage should be behind me, shouldn’t it? And forget the pun. No, I was in no mood for punning. I was beginning to worry. What permanent thing had gone wrong with my digestive system? This should have stopped, this kind of elimination. I had to collect my wits, what was left of them. Colon cancer? No, we had just ruled that out, in fact banned its possibility for the next decade. Some other horrible structural physiological thingy?
Oh, who knows? By nightfall, my innards were settling down. After all, when one’s intestinal tract has just experienced Sherman’s March there is bound to be a bit of disruption. But the fear. This, I am realizing, comes from a childhood of unrelenting upset. My mother ranged from emotional outburst to emotional absence. There were no neighbors in our part of the desert. Just long stretches of things being bad without much chance of relief. A pattern, I am learning. Things are supposed to get bad and stay bad. A pattern. Oh well, time for another pattern. Whatever happened to Paisley?