Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 9, 2013

HOPKINS: A life-saver, no butts about it

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — As we get older, there are certain things we must do in life to ensure good health. Some of these things we don’t necessarily want to do. We put them off as long as we can but in the end, we get it done.

Friday marked one of those occasions for me. When I went to see my doctor last November he directed me to see a proctologist after learning that my mother had colon cancer. I didn’t go. He scolded me during my visit to him in May, especially in light of my mom’s passing.

So, I dutifully scheduled an appointment with the specialist. First it had to be cleared through my insurance because I’m only 42. Once I got approval, I was mailed instructions on how to prepare for my exam.

Five days prior, I was to stop taking certain medications. No problem. The tough part started the day before, on Thursday. I was restricted to a liquid diet all day, then nothing after midnight. At 4 p.m. Thursday I was to take two Ducolax tablets. Two hours later I was to mix the entire contents of a 238-mg bottle of MiraLAX into 64 ounces of Gatorade, then drink three-quarters of that; I was to get up at 4:30 a.m. Friday and finish off the rest of the Gator-lax concoction.

I was also advised to stay near a bathroom.

Before I continue, I’d like to say I was amazed at how many people readily volunteered tips or stories about their own colonoscopies. It was a little bizarre but also comforting, in a we’re-all-in-this-together type of way.

Both of my sisters have had them recently. One stayed awake through it, and watched the proceedings on a screen. Some people said they felt nauseous afterward. Others were tired the rest of the day. Many said that the Gatorade version is much easier to handle than a nasty prep drink most doctors used to prescribe.

I shared my upcoming appointment with my Facebook friends. It’s not that bad, one friend offered. Yes it is, replied another.

The all-liquid diet allowed for Jell-o and sherbet. Coffee was also permitted, along with clear soft drinks and clear broth. Curiously, red and purple products are to be avoided. My sister said the broth and sherbet makes it a lot easier to get through the day. She was right.

I took a half day off from work Thursday. At 4 p.m. I took the tablets. Nothing, At 6 p.m., I started on the Gatorade. I used some advise that the doctor’s office gave me: drink it a glass at a time, every 15 minutes.

It wasn’t that bad. It still tasted like Gatorade, but with a little aftertaste and something I can’t quite describe. I was fine until about 9 p.m., when I jumped off the couch and headed toward the bathroom. At 4:30 a.m., I awoke and chugged the last of the Gator-lax and went back to bed. The alarm went off at 7.

My wife dropped me off at the hospital for my 8 a.m. appointment and they took me in right away. I was set up with an I.V. and a nurse told me that the medication he was going to give me was “like drinking half a case of beer without the hangover.” I asked if I could get a couple of them “to-go.” There were also jokes about my name associated with the famous medical school in Baltimore.

I was told not to drive for 24 hours, and I might have some amnesia. Considering what was about to be done to me, I figured that wasn’t a bad thing. The nurse explained to me that he heard of a guy who was taken home by his wife after the procedure and then awoke in the afternoon to find two snowmobiles parked in the driveway. Where did they come from, he asked his wife. She told him he made her stop on the way home and he bought them. The man didn’t remember any of that.

Whether or not that’s a true story, it’s still kind of funny.

However, there’s nothing funny about cancer. It’s a terrible disease and if you’ve ever watched a loved one suffer through it, you know that it’s gut-wrenching. There are many cancer fund-raising events coming up in the next few weeks and months, and if you can, please help out by making a donation.

If you’re advised to have a procedure such as a colonoscopy, get it done. Usually colonoscopies are reserved for people 50 and older, but I was fast-tracked because of the familial link. Most people are told to have them done every five years. I’ve been told to get it done again in three years.

I awoke and a nurse told me the procedure was over and my ride was waiting for me. Everything went well. I know people who were told, after a colonoscopy, that they had cancer. They’re still alive to talk about it.

A colonoscopy and other procedures can help prevent cancer. That doesn’t mean that you won’t get cancer at some point in your life, but please take the preventative measures. They can give you peace of mind. They may also detect something that needs to be examined or removed.

And they can save your life.