Apr 29, 2022

Even Those of Us with Semi-Colons Should Get A Colonoscopy

…In which we proceed to describe how procedural a procedure can be

By Ed Goldman

I’m reasonably certain that the next big show to take Broadway by storm will not be titled “Colonoscopy—The Musical!”

It appears further unlikely that the show will spawn a video game. Or be adapted as an anime epic, graphic novel. Or puppet show. And though I was trying to resist the urge to say “or that it will stream on Netflix” obviously I lost the battle, for which I apologize.

Edgy Cartoon

Possible Cell Damage

As you might have deduced, using the process of elimination (oops, I did it again!), I recently underwent the aforementioned procedure. To be precise, the day before yesterday. 

I do this every five years or so—though this time I’d left nine years lapse—because my dad died of colon cancer at 60 and it’s appallingly logical to give up fewer than two days of my comfort to possibly extend my life. I’m already 11 years older than he was when he died.

One of those two days I was “giving up” was to prepare: to go on a liquid diet and drink the worst cocktail ever concocted since hemlock. The medical test itself took only around 15 minutes the following day, which is supposedly a quarter of the time it takes to get your glasses or contacts from Lens Crafters (though never in my experience). 

Calculated another way, think about what a small percentage of your life even two full days amount to: slightly less than .005 percent of a year. To make it really interesting, multiply your age by the 365 days in most years, then divide the number two by that number.

—Okay, I’ll do the math, since I hate telling anyone else, “Do the math.” I’ll use my own age (71.5 years old) as our base line:

365 days in a year multiplied by the approximately 71.5 years I’ve lived so far equal 26,097.5 days—of which two days represent roughly .00008 percent of my life. Ergo: I figure that if having this preventive procedure adds even five minutes to my life, it’s a pretty solid investment.

Having undergone this test three times before—the most recent time a year after a related operation had left me with only a semi-colon, something I try to use sparingly, but only in my writing—I didn’t experience the usual, expected, understandable anxiety most newcomers do. The procedure is usually pain-free and as aforementioned, a model of medical brevity.

This time around, however, it required my first taking a COVID test, which I did about 48 hours in advance. I think that having a nurse slide a Q-tip up each of my nostrils may have been more of an ordeal than drinking that pre-procedure hemlock. (I’m exaggerating. It took her all of three seconds, each nostril. Far more tortuous was when I used to trim my nose hairs using a rotary clipper, the world’s most sadomasochistic implement since the rack, Judas Cradle and heretic’s fork went out of style.)

Anyway, my sincere thanks to Dr. Roger Edward Mendis and nurses Rick, Anadee, Tammy, Laurie and a player yet to be identified. They made what could have been a scary procedure feel very procedural.

If you’re 50 years old—and younger than that if colon cancer runs in your family—you really ought to have get a colonoscopy. Well, what you really should do is check with your physician. Either way, just don’t wait for the musical.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).