The “Behindular Zone”
When you get past the age of 50 you may as well get the second half-century off to the correct start and begin by getting a colonoscopy. I finally did it and survived. Come a little closer and I’ll tell you all about it.
All right, maybe not ALL about it… After all, this is a family friendly column.
If courage is having done it before, I’ve mustered the fortitude to tell you all about – in the words of humor columnist Dave Berry – having a complete stranger stick a 17,000-foot tube up my “behindular zone.”
No, this was not at a public meeting, that’s different – well sort of. I’m talking about having the colonoscopy. Let me show you some pictures...
On second thought, maybe not.
Like many people, after I hit 50 I put off having the exam for as long as possible. Then the evitable happened. It was near the end of a recent annual check-up when my family physician, Dr. Tariq Mahmood, uttered the word, “colonoscopy” as casually as suggesting that it’s time to comb my hair – and face my fears of joining Dante on his journey through the three realms of Hell.
I was calm. “You want me do what,” I said in a controlled voice, as the cold sweat instantly began rolling off my forehead.
He reassured me that the procedure was nothing worse than some of my experiences chairing public hearings in Carroll County – and he was right.
As an aside, I’m here to tell you that getting older is not for sissies. The prodding and probing into delicate personal areas of one’s body only increases, as do the indignities associated with such indelicate procedures. That said, proper maintenance of a half-century-old body is much better than the alternative.
Meanwhile, Mr. Berry explained all my reasons for not having the procedure earlier: “1. You've been busy. 2. You don't have a history of cancer in your family. 3. You haven't noticed any problems.”
Moreover, just like Mr. Berry, “when I turned 50, everybody told me I should get a colonoscopy. I agreed that I definitely should, but not right away. By following this policy, I reached age 55 without having had a colonoscopy…”
Mr. Berry even signed a pledge stating that he would get one. But he still put it off, to which he admitted: “I was a fraud, a hypocrite, a liar. I was practically a member of Congress.”
Actually, in reading about the recent death of Tony Snow from complications of colon cancer, I had come across a number of statistics which were foreboding.
I read of famous individuals who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actress Elizabeth Montgomery, Coach Vince Lombardi, and Ozzie’s wife Sharon Osbourne.
So far, Ms. Ginsburg and Ms. Osbourne have beaten it. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) colon cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in the world, claiming 677,000 lives every year.
Yet, according to a number of staid medical reports, colon cancer is easily survived if caught early – and that’s where a colonoscopy comes into the picture.
WHO reports that about “one-third of the cancer burden could be decreased if cases were detected and treated early... The aim is to detect the cancer when it is localized (before metastasis). There are two components of early detection efforts” – education and screening.
I’m hoping this column will help with the education part of the program; however, for the observing and screening, you are on your own.
After I decided to go ahead with the procedure, I interviewed a number of friends, all of whom begged me not to mention their names. Seems there is a cottage industry in Carroll County for performing colonoscopies. I gathered the names of almost as many gastroenterologists who perform the procedure as friends I interviewed.
I decided on Dr. Alfred Lee-Young because numerous friends told me that he was the friendliest. Hey, if you’re going to have a 17,000-foot garden hose shoved up your “behindular zone,” you may as well have a friendly person do it. Yes, some friends volunteered to assist…
Besides, I subscribe to the Dr. Ben Carson theory of choosing a medical professional; it’s not good enough to be the best, you have to be nice.
Just as veterans of the procedure told me, the preparation is worse than the procedure. It involves not eating any solid food for 24 hours and drinking a fruit flavored cocktail of nuclear goat spit developed by NASA. Then you spend lots of time in the contemplation room after you’ve warned the guys down at the wastewater treatment plant to prepare for a surge.
For the procedure, all the professionals in Dr. Lee-Young’s office were efficiently friendly. Just before the examination began I laid there and kept thinking of “Fantastic Voyage.”
Oh, you remember that sci-fi classic from 1966? It was about the adventurers who board a submarine named “Proteus” and are then miniaturized and injected into a human body. They travel through the heart, lungs, and inner ear on their way to the subject’s brain…
Only I don’t recall them making a perilous journey through the colon…
The procedure was piece of cake. Dr. Lee-Young hid the 17,000 feet of hose from me and one minute I was listening to music and the next thing I knew I was looking up at a smiling, kind wife. I was delightfully knocked out for most of the procedure.
Mr. Berry said it best. “Here's the deal: Either you have colorectal cancer or you don't. If you do, a colonoscopy will enable doctors to find it and do something about it. And if you don't have cancer, believe me, it's very reassuring to know you don't.
There is no sane reason for anyone to forego this procedure. Besides, just like Mr. Berry said: “If I can do it, you can do it. Don't put it off. Just do it.”
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(From Publisher John W. Ashbury! On August 25, 1997, I had surgery for colon cancer. It had been discovered through a routine colonoscopy. Because it was discovered prior to its penetration of all the layers of the colon wall, I did not have to have chemotherapy or radiation treatments. You would be surprised at how fast you recover from the surgery when you know you won’t have to have any further treatments.)