We clutched hands and gazed intently into each other’s eyes.
“I’ve long known your heart, my love,” I said. “And, now, I will know your colon.”
And then the orderlies came in and wheeled her out of the room.
I’m writing this in a hospital room while my spouse is getting a colonoscopy. This procedure is one of the presents you get on your 50th birthday. You get your AARP card in the mail and a prescription to have a tube shoved up your butt.
Up until recently, I’ve avoided getting to know the colon. If I had met the colon at a cocktail party, I would nod at it politely and then spend the rest of the evening avoiding eye contact for fear of being locked into conversation with this glum and tedious organ.
Anytime I hear the colon mentioned, it’s always associated with bad news. It is frequently described as “spastic,” “irritable,” or “intolerant.” I imagine that its peevishness makes it a social outcast among the body’s sexier and less-cranky organs.
I just read a description of the colon that made me think of it in a different light, though. The following minor bit of poetry comes from the brochure I was given when I entered the waiting room: “The large intestine, also called the colon, is part of the final stages of digestion. It is a large tube that escorts waste from the body.”
It makes the colon seem like a southern gentleman, mercifully taking the arm of an ugly duckling that no one wanted to dance with, and gracefully waltzing it to the exit.
I want to think of the colon as a friendly gent. A helper who only wants the best for me and my loved ones. But I don’t trust the colon. Four years ago, it killed my mother. So, no, I don’t trust it at all.
Public service announcement: colon cancer is one of the few cancers that can be detected early through regular testing after age 50. So, as much as you don’t want to have a tube shoved up your butt, it’s stupid not to do it.
Even though this is a routine procedure, we’ve been nervous about my spouse undergoing it. It requires the use of an anesthetic designed to lull you into “twilight,” a word that can be interpreted as romantic or a harbinger of imminent decline, depending on your outlook.
Before my spouse was carted away, I was told that the doctor would visit me after the procedure to explain the findings. My spouse would be too stoned on propofol to comprehend the news.
“Isn’t propofol the drug that killed Michael Jackson?” I asked brightly.
When faced with a health crisis, I find it comforting to connect the health issue to a celebrity. I inherited this weird trait from my mom. When my uncle was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, my mother’s first response was an awestruck: “That’s what Jackie Kennedy had!” Then, when a physician delivered the grim news that my mother had stage four colon cancer, my mom brightened for a moment when I asked the doctor, “Isn’t that what Audrey Hepburn died from?”
Just now, a doctor walked into the room to report on my beloved’s nether-regions. He beamed as he showed me pictures of my spouse’s colon. “Just a couple of benign polyps,” he said. “Nothing to worry about. But I have a question. How long have you been married?”
“Three months,” I said. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, she’ll be very, very gassy for the next few days,” he said. “So the honeymoon is officially over.”