Spoiler alert. This post is about to get nasty. Delicate souls should stop reading now because no good will come of it. Trust me, you won’t be enlightened, just horrified. Now you Schizer fans, well, pull up a chair and make yourselves comfy.
*For those of you unfamiliar with what a Schizer film is, the Land Manatee’s legal team advises against Googling it at work or around people whose opinion of you matters. You might also want to clean out your browser history. Just sayin’.
Didn’t I just get one of these?
So this past summer, I had to get a colonoscopy. For those of you not familiar with the term, a colonoscopy is an endoscopic examination of your colon, and you’re supposed to start getting them when you hit 50, but because my dad had colon cancer, I got to start mine at age 40 and instead of a ten-year follow up, I get to have them at three-year intervals. (Thanks for the jacked-up genes, Dad.)
Anyway, I was overdue for my next one by a year, and I was kind of concerned. A friend of mine waited till he was 51 and the doctor discovered he had colon cancer (the good news is he’s doing okay now). Since I was leaving my job, I figured I’d better schedule it while I still had health insurance, which was kind of a dumb idea in retrospect — what if they’d found something? Nothing like having colon cancer and being unable to pay the outrageous cost to treat it because you no longer have insurance.
I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy (okay, maybe my worst enemy)
If you’ve never had a colonoscopy, well, you’re in for a treat some day. Basically, they give you this vile concoction to take at home to clear out your colon for its on-camera appearance. Once you’re prepped, you go to the gastroenterology center, they put you under, pump a bunch of pressurized air up your butt to turn your lower intestine into a party ballon so the doc can see what’s going on as he muscles a long, flexible tube with an integrated camera up your rectum and through the bends of your large intestine. (If you’ve ever wondered why gastroenterologists typically have well-developed arms, well now you know). That’s got to take a lot of lube — makes me wonder how much they billed me for it.
Anyway, luckily, you’re unconscious through the process, but they thoughtfully take action shots from inside your colon to commemorate the occasion. It’s like being shown the embarrassing pictures that someone took of you after a bad college party where you were blackout drunk, the ones you never wanted to see in the first place and now occasionally pop up online.
No matter how you look at it, a colonoscopy is no fun. Necessary and potentially life-saving, yes. Fun, no.
(I guess a modern colonoscopy beats what they used to do in the old days. According to some random person I met — so take this with a grain of salt — the doctor would insert a large metal probe up your rectum looking for blood, which in hindsight seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy.)
The Devil’s Brew
When I think about it, I’m not sure which part of the colonoscopy prep is worse: The vile concoction you have to drink ahead of time or the hideous effect it has on you, which is a horror show of abdominal cramping and uncontrollable shitting.
If you’ve ever read a historical novel where there is a cholera epidemic and you wondered what cholera is, drink this nasty brew and wait an hour and you’ll have a pretty fair approximation. Okay, I don’t know why I’m even debating it — the vile concoction is definitely way worse. I mean, the sustained and uncontrollable diarrhea isn’t exactly a day in the park, but that colon prep is a noxious potion you mix with what seems like a bathtub worth of water that you have to get down your gullet in a relatively short period. Trying not to throw up while quaffing a literal gallon of the foul brew is a real challenge for some people, including yours truly. (Ughh, I almost retched thinking about it.) My first couple of colonoscopies, I had to drink the whole disgusting gallon of solution in 15-minute increments. It was like some hellish magical cup out of Harry Potter that never runs dry.
This last time, they gave me a different, yet equally vile prep product, but it was divided into two doses, which I thought would be better since I was drinking only one half the night before, but which actually sucked in a totally different way, because after barely being able to choke down the first dose, when I went to take the second dose the next morning, I knew what was coming down the pike and started gagging just mixing the stuff up. Plus, now there was a second round of uncontrollable power shitting to get through, which is an awesome way to start your day leading up to getting sodomized by a burly-armed doctor wielding a colon-cam.
I advised the Houseguest ahead of time she might want to vacate the house for a while.
A hell of a trip
The first time I had a colonoscopy, the anesthesia they gave me was hardcore. One second I was lying on a gurney in the procedure room with an IV in my arm, chatting with Team Colon and waiting for the party to get started and the next second I had teleported into the lobby, fully dressed, standing at the counter with no idea how I’d gotten there; I felt like I’d taken a hit off the most powerful joint on the planet, and was out of it for a good chunk of the day. Now, they have a new twilight anesthesia that you recover from quickly, but, of course, that’s an upgrade and more expensive, plus, the anesthesiologist for my latest procedure didn’t use it. (Thanks a lot, you bastard.)
Anyway, for this exam, the Houseguest, a brave soul, offered to pick me up after the procedure because obviously, I wouldn’t be able to drive, and I didn’t want an Uber driver cleaning out my house while I was in la-la-land. Laughing, she told me later how I was totally out of it at the clinic and any time the staff got in range I’d ask — with a big, dopey grin on my face because I apparently thought I was hilarious — if someone was showing up to give me a sponge bath. Geezus, it was like being in college all over again. (Just to clarify, I’m referring to the alcohol-induced amnesia — not the sponge bath).
“So, during your procedure, I noticed something else…”
I was in the doctor’s office for my post-colonoscopy follow up and those are words you never want to hear in a conversation with the doctor who has been exploring your intestinal tract. He was showing me pictures of my colon. They had found a polyp they’d removed but he didn’t think it was cancerous. The previous gastroenterologist I’d seen had also found a benign one and removed it. But that wasn’t what this doctor wanted to talk about. He said he had noticed something else — something in the rectum at the start of the procedure.
“…it’s probably just a condyloma, so not something to get overly worried about though it will need to be checked out and taken care of.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m not familiar with that term. What’s a condyloma?”
“In layman’s terms, a condyloma is a genital wart — or in this case, an anal wart.”
I looked at him and thought: Whatchu talkin’ bout, Willis?
“Anal wart? But how…how would that be? Isn’t that like an STD?”
He gave me a deadpan look that sure felt like he thought I was a dirty whore who should know better than anyone else how it had gotten there. At this point, I was conflicted as to whether I should fight him or not to defend my honor.
“It might be nothing at all,” he said. “But I can’t be sure. I’m hypothesizing it’s a condyloma. It’s not my area of specialty.”
Really? Day in and day out, this guy makes his living shoving a colonoscope up people’s rectums and suddenly he’s not an expert on assholes?
“I’m going to recommend you see Dr. X. He’s an expert my office works with closely,” he added.
Naturally, he had another expert he would recommend. I’m pretty sure the ‘recommendation game’ is some quid pro quo racket where these doctors who are golfing buddies ping pong patients back and forth to keep the cash flow going. Throw in a little fear mongering and you’re golden because just the hint that something might be wrong is enough to get the panic ball rolling.
So I went to see the expert even though I was still taking exception to the whole anal wart theory. He explained to me that what the gastroenterologist saw was possibly a condyloma or it could be a normal part of a transitional structure, but he wouldn’t know until after an examination (of course). Which meant getting put under and sodomized again — and while he was up there, getting a biopsy.
This is how they get you: Well, it’s probably nothing — but it might be something, and if we don’t take the time to find out if it is something, we can’t catch it early enough and if it does turn out to be something, well…So, the decision is yours.
And you just can’t take that risk. Everyone knows someone who has gambled and lost. So, they got you by the balls.
Is an anal wart dangerous, I wondered? Well, apparently the virus can lead to cancer. And even though it’s classified as an STD, you can get them in other ways not understood yet, which is the theory I was going with.
So, I reluctantly scheduled my procedure. It went smoothly enough, other than waking up with a numb butthole and a shaved ass with a Kotex strapped across it to take care of the bleeding.
The pain from the biopsy wasn’t bad — at first — but it definitely kicked it up a couple notches by the evening. I have to say, not being able to contract my sphincter muscles for a day was really weird and disconcerting. The doctor wrote a prescription for Oxycontin, though I decided to tough it out with just Tylenol. His nurse also gave me some extra Kotex, which I found out the hard way do not stick to boxers very well (apparently ball-huggers are the way to go) and probably why they taped the first one to my ass. I discovered how unsuitable my boxers were when the Kotex slid out (unnoticed at first) of the leg hole of my jeans when I was at Applebee’s, which would have been even more mortifying than it was if anyone else had seen it.
So, what did this anomaly turn out to be? Absolutely fucking nothing. The pathology report came back clean. The surgeon wanted to see me back several weeks later for a follow-up. I figured Dr. X wanted to go to the cash well one last time and get in one final latex glove test for old time’s sake. They scheduled my appointment on the last day of my insurance being active, but then canceled my appointment and wanted to move it further back but no way I was shelling any more out of pocket. So I never got my last meeting. I kind of hope if anything of concern came up, they would have told me, but you never know.
So, the upshot is I spent a couple grand I couldn’t really afford on peace of mind. Oh, and to find out I didn’t have anal warts.