Tea can cure many ills – emotional as well as physical – and Senna tea was my Good Friend for about a year, until even its magic stopped working. By then I had become an expert on all things digestible (and not): fruits, vegetables, fiber, water, watery fiber, fibery water… It is a moving tale. HaHaHa. Bathroom Joke #1, if you’re counting. This is where you laugh – ESPECIALLY because it is ME and not you.
First, Lucky Me: my new over-achieving UCLA Gastroenterologist likes her patients CLEEEEEAN. And my not so private when it counts medical recs ratted me out, revealing that my last prep ended the morning of in a UCLA restroom with an al fresco Fleet Enema purchased from a CVS drive-thru. So my way-too-young-to-know-what-she-was-asking Gastrointerrogator cheerfully informed me that I was now a TWO Jug Patient. TWO. I almost cried. TWO of those salt-infused Jugs O’Kool-Aid from Hell?! Who could endure this assignment? Certainly I must be the first. I’ll just do quick google… Nope. Oh, great, ANOTHER Facebook group to join.
Even my local pharmacist was impressed:
“TWO? – I’ll have to check my stock to see if I can fill this,” he said. Later, as the jugs groaned down the checkout conveyor belt eclipsing the pathetically small cache of diversionary groceries I had purchased in an attempt at retail camouflage, the boxboy informed me that I had nothing to worry about. His dad had just done The Procedure and the propofol they gave him knocked him right out. Propofol? Wasn’t that a designer label celebrity drug? Isn’t that how Kim Kardashian made it through her vows? Where had we all heard that drug name before… OH. RIGHT. The boxboy broke eye contact.
So, for seven hours that night (7:00 PM to 3:00 AM), I so did not want to be me. We live in a two-story house and as strange as it may sound, the TV, toilet, and fridge are all in different rooms. And – once again I know I’m not being trendy here – our fridge is also not on the same floor as our bathrooms. Get the picture? TV and fridge O’Liquid Nightmare upstairs. My Ultimate Destiny downstairs. So, six hours of upanddownupanddownupanddown every 10 minutes – with a one-hour breather in the middle to contemplate suicide – like Sisyphus trudging the Bermuda Triangle of Stairmaster Hell. Drink the stuff, watch TV, run downstairs, climb back up. Drink the stuff, watch TV, run downstairs, climb back up.
Halfway through my legs went all rubbery (you do the muscle math) and I gained a new artistic appreciation for the inherent subtleties of “all clear or with a little yellow” – and I don’t mean the sunrise that was hot on my heels. When, I wondered, does brownish-yellow become yellowish-brown? And WTF do color-blind patients do? Or even blind-blind ones? Surely there is not an app for THAT. In Gracious Summary, let me just say that I will NEVER be able to watch the movies “Due Date” or “Love and Other Drugs” again – not that this is any great Cinematic Hardship – and colonoscopy prep may be the only way to watch a Judd Apatow movie and NOT be grossed out. Also, as much as I’d like to imagine convalescing in Jake Gyllenhaal’s arms, I’m not sure I can stand Ann Hathaway’s toothy smile ever again without flashing on “Lemon Flavor Packet.” And not even REMOTELY in a Good Way.
OK, so having survived The Night-Before Stair Marathon, I arrived at the Procedure Unit completely cleaned out – oh, look: there’s that missing set of car keys! – but with a Splitting Headache and Freezing to Death. Just like my last awful colonoscopy. DAMN! I didn’t expect this since I had tried really hard on The Last Day of Liquid Foods to Jello-load as well as guzzle apple juice and broth to avoid The Dreaded Hunger Headache. I had also scheduled The Procedure at 9:00 AM to minimize my low blood sugar window. Oh well. Of course, I was The ONLY One Suffering pre-Procedure: all around me I heard Happy Campers check in whilst I huddled in nauseous pain with a pillow over my head:
“Wow, I can’t believe I finished the jug – took me two whole hours!”
“I must have lost 5 lbs. yesterday!”
“I’m celebrating with lunch – at Disneyland!”
After check-in, Nurse #1- who was Russian – brought me heat packs and blankets and made sure I was Worthy:
“Are you ‘clean’?” she asked.
“YES – and I can’t believe I drank TWO jugs of that stuff and lived.”
“Oh, did you really keep it all down?”
“What?! Of course! – There were other options?!”
“Oh yes, many patients throw it all up and then just quit.”
I then attempted to cope with the pain by chatting her up. Did she know any of MY Russian Friends? I helpfully reeled off five names. Nope – not a one. Over the years, Russia had sent me Khilkeviches, Pinskys, and Petrovas galore who, despite the cozy confines of its borders, were all Completely Unknown to the Medical Profession. Do these people never say “hi” as they pass the Kremlin? Where did that word “comrade” come from, anyway? The next nurse, who inserted my IV, was also Russian. Svetlana the II proclaimed my problem was caffeine withdrawal. But the Anesthesiologist (ALSO Spookily Russian) chalked it up to low sodium and said that Next Time – AS EFFING IF – I should load up on broth the day before. Jello was a waste of time, except for vodka shots. We then had a lively discussion about Hangover Remedies, during which she explained the Chemical Healing Properties of Tomato Juice and Vodka. As she left, she PROMISED that when I woke up the pain would be gone – yes, PROMISED. Remember in High School English when we learned about foreshadowing – well, Pay Attention, because this might be on the midterm…
So, they Drugged Me Up with propofol – HOW did the boxboy know? – and I was Finally Free Free Free of pain – and consciousness – only to wake up two hours later (thank you, foreshadowing) WITH AN EFFING HEADACHE.
Various Very Nice Natashas tried to help me. There was nothing with caffeine, so they brought me apple juice – headache at DEFCON 5 and rising – and my husband, Bill, went downstairs to the gift shop for Pepsi. The doctor said that to avoid bleeding I could only have Tylenol, so I took two. After I immediately threw it all up, she relented, and said I could take My Beloved Excedrin – Patron Saint To Headache Sufferers – but I had to wait four LOOOOONG hours for the Tylenol to wear off. WEAR off? I could BRUSH it off my gown if she wanted.
As I got worse and worse, everyone in Recovery was baffled. Nobody else was sick. All around me Happy Happy HAPPY Campers were coming back and planning on Big Breakfasts and getting Good News: No Polyps For You! See you in 10 years! You Look SO Skinny!
My Industrious Doctor Won The Lottery with me: two polyps and “…an interesting bumpy area…” was her report. So interesting I threw up again. By now I was on my knees in the bed with my head buried in the pillow in an effort to shut out the pain. The nurses closed my curtains since I’m sure the sight of me was cheering everyone up too much. After awhile, I decided that my Only Hope was to pull a Dorothy since There’s No Place Like an Excedrin.
So, the Maids from Minsk made me an ice-pack for my head and sent me off in a wheelchair with their Hugest Barf Bucket of Excellence, which I christened as we got off the elevator, giving a Spectacular Performance underneath the “UCLA Hospital: Best in the West” sign, wearing my Gutty Little Bruin – gastronomical pun #2 if you’re keeping score – Rose Bowl sweatshirt that is so old the cuffs are frayed from frenzied clutches during one too many shanked Field Goals. This was right next to the Main Information Desk, which (Fun Fact) is secretly very well-stocked with paper towels. Are you taking notes, USC?
Anyway, as you can tell by my advanced usage of words and such, I DID survive. At home, waiting for the God Damned Doctor Ordered four hours to expire, I actually hit a 13 on the Pain Scale (13 is the new 11). I told Bill that the only thing more painful than the knife blade sticking in my right temple, was Childbirth. Even my emergency appendectomy at age 16 had been more enjoyable – although it DID cause major teen angst when it ruined my bikini tan. But Today was Not A Good Day To Die: my publisher friend, Steve, had just sent me hot-off-the-press Review Copies of our first publication (The RoadMap®: Baby’s First Year) and I hadn’t had a chance to memorize my ISBN number yet – ISBN 978-0-9843732-9-1. Shocked and amazed? Me too!
In the END (*ding* – #3!) I was saved by two Excedrin, three cans of Ginger Ale, 44 Saltine Crackers, and a HUGE mug of sweet sweet sweet hot tea – the kind my mom used to bring me when I stayed home sick from school. I went from a 13 to a 1 in 20 minutes…
Moral of the Story: When it comes to your over-all well-being, Gastroenterologists tend to have Tunnel Vision (Get it? Get it? #4 and blessedly the LAST), AND: Never underestimate the power of a soothing cup of Hot Tea served with LOTS of sugar, BUSHELS of Saltines, and an Excedrin chaser!
Epilog (and that is so NOT Pun #5 – don’t even TRY): Sometimes in a True Story everything does not come out alright (OK, I lied: THIS is Officially #5 and truly truly truly the last). Although I am cancer-free, I am “at risk” and, acco
rding to my doctor, was still NOT squeaky clean even after channeling half of Hoover Dam. So I have to do this all over again in five years – SOONER if I have any Special Symptoms – AS IF I would tell HER. But she promised (there’s that word again) me I would never again have to drink that icky salty stuff because of the way it affected me. Apparently there are Secret Other More Humane Methods – one nurse had hinted at horse-sized pills, but in my delirium I assumed she was describing some Russian delicacy. Also, next time if I awoke suffering, my doctor said she would send me across the street to the Ronald Reagan Emergency Room where they are better equipped to stabilize patients. (Here’s where you DO NOT want to flash on that word propofol again.)
But, BEST OF ALL, since she had ruled out all physical causes for my affliction, she gave me a referral to a HypnoTherapist and explained that sometimes your gut needs some psychological help to Just Let Things Go… OK, OK, you’re right: that’s Number Six! But now I’m REALLY done. PROMISE.