The Dreaded Colonoscopy: Health Benefits Nobody Mentions—HBNM’s

Most of us grimace when the doctor first tells us that we have reached the golden age for a routine colonoscopy screening. We likely repeat that we have no troubling symptoms, and contort our face with dread and anxiety, thinking: Doctor, seriously, I just don’t want to do it. Of course that carries no weight, so then we go on thinking: I’m a baby boomer, not at all that old, and certainly not at all up for that! As we all know from experience, the doctor insists. We leave the office with trepidation, the paperwork in hand. The appointment is set … in ink. The obvious medical selling point being that this relatively quick 30 to 60 minute outpatient procedure saves many, many lives. It identifies and easily removes for biopsy pre-cancerous or cancerous polyps, identifying causes for unusual bleeding, and specifically diagnoses Diverticular Disease. And the colonoscope is a basically harmless apparatus. After all, it is a flexible and tubular instrument only 1/2 inch in diameter. No big deal!   A Lighthearted Look at Colonoscopy It’s best to take a lighthearted look at what colonoscopy actually involves, so it’s not so daunting. Of course, once given all the facts, we remain steadfast knowing there are tremendous health benefits for having this simple diagnostic procedure. But it’s what you haven’t given much thought to, or yet experienced, that is the most disturbing—the preparation for the colonoscopy! The day before the colonoscopy, no solid foods, clear liquids only. There are a few medicines you can’t take, but they have told you about what is and what isn’t, so now you’re committed and have no excuses left for not having the procedure done. As a mature adult, you think: what’s the big deal? No solid foods might answer that question. But instead, over the next 24 hours, you put on a positive attitude as you eagerly begin to slurp down hot chicken broth and ginger ale with crushed ice to chew on. You’ve purchased the variety of preparations, with a few dollars to spare. The packages have been cluttering the counter for weeks: the tablets, liquid and powder. You’re more than glad to make use of them so you can quit looking at them out of the corner of your eye. The small little tablets, a stimulant laxative, come first, followed by the first dose of the powder preparation. The directions say: after mixing with water, you can drink the prep warm or cold. You have a choice. Delightful, because you get to repeat the tablets and enjoy the liquid prep the next day. Over the next 12 hours you’ve used it all. You are cleaned out completely and “good to go” (no pun intended) to the big “C” appointment.   FIVE HEALTH BENEFITS … nobody mentions! You arrive at the doctor’s office, and the HBNM (Health Benefits Nobody Mentions) begin. As you first step into the reception area, you are embarrassed and don’t quite want to make eye contact, because you know they know why you’re there. Shortly, one person strikes up a conversation, then two, and before you know it you’re exchanging business cards while waiting. They’ll e-mail!   HBNM #1: Human Connection; a bond due to common experience. The nurse calls. Your turn! Hospital gown and footsies, warm and comfortable, which for all who have the privilege of wearing them, are a peculiar fashion statement.   HBNM #2: Wardrobe provided. Absolutely no stress over what you will wear. Everyone is dressed the same. You feel part of the group. You belong. You are asked to sit in a comfortable lounge chair while the nurse does the usual: Blood pressure, IV, answers any last minute questions. Next, the nurse covers you with a warm blanket. There may even be a minute to read a few pages in the book you started two months ago. She encourages you to sit back and relax.   HBNM #3: A few minutes in your day to do absolutely nothing. It feels good, so you know you have to make more time for yourself, especially when the nurse says, “You have to get out more!” After being rolled into the procedure room, you hear a few murmurs, but overall it’s quiet. Hmmm … you feel calm; unwinding … everything is really quite wonderful … and the doctor says it went well, and you’re all done. Really?“Did I talk all the time?” you ask. The doctor laughs and says, “What’s said during colonoscopy, stays in the colonoscopy room!   HBNM #4: Security and confidence in being well taken care of—personally and medically. One half hour and you’re ready to go home, not more than three hours after you arrive. You get home and feel a bit sleepy, so you crawl into the soft down covers and have the first nap you’ve had in the afternoon in a long time.   HBNM #5: Extra rest, and a stomach that is hungry, but when eating again fills up fast. Besides the perfectly normal colonoscopy results, the next best health benefit is a kick-start to the diet you have intended to stick to since New Years! Join me, and schedule your colonoscopy today. It’s a quite simple procedure! You’ll be glad you did. Please comment with more “HBNM” (Health Benefits Nobody Mentions) after reading this article. I’d love to hear your lighthearted/humorous comments.