I am scheduled for a tri-annual colonoscopy soon and like most people, I buy into the statistics of cancer prevention, though it is not an event most people anticipate with joy. I have waited for my appointment for six months and at that have been squeezed into the hours of operation at 7:15 a.m. on Tuesday.
Though our lives are for the most part based on past experiences, anticipation, by definition, deals with the unknowable future. We may not categorize anticipation as an emotion, but it can be emotional. Think of the hope of the person buying a Mega-millions ticket, or of a mother giving birth; think of the fear of a parent not knowing the fate of their child after a school shooting. The taxonomy of anticipation may include expectation, prospect, faith, confidence, foreboding, intuition, or a sixth sense.
I may not be fiercely indifferent, but I am not bothered by the experience having gone through it several times before. I have faith in the science of it: my body dignity or mental privacy is not violated or infringed. I surely do not want the possible consequences of NOT having the procedure done.
Of course, the outpatient procedure for seeing the inside of a patient is neatly taken care of by the anesthesiologist. Anyone over forty-five years old should know that the unpleasant clean-out happens at home.
One can anticipate the preparation more than the procedure itself. The Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” is usually taken as a positive, even as a wise dictum. Preparation is not necessarily anticipation, the former being positive and the latter negative, perhaps. I gulp the Suprep solution of chemicals, no doubt referred to by the staff as a brand of plumber’s helper, a solution some people can’t stomach. I chase that with a bucket of well water as if swabbing the decks.
My biggest worry in all this is how to best balance my diabetic meds as I ‘fast.’ My PCP has guided me through the process of cutting pills in half, dispensing fewer of them as I no longer require their assistance. I am still apprehensive.
I arrive with my wife, as designated driver, in a pre-dawn February chill. With medical care (I’m sincere) and efficiency, I am eventually wheeled back into the halls whose gallery of oil paintings are of riverscapes and green forest abundance. The flow is less than dream as I drift into the future.
The actual experience is never remembered, the future having done its duty and having moved on to another patient. But it is done! The artifact of that future is printed, complete with rose-colored snaps: the only time one truly has a peek inside one’s self, belying the “Look inside yourself” of self-help, poetry critique group, rhetoric.
But it is done! My innards are changed only slightly, the five-millimeter polyp “removed with a cold snare,” changed by the clean reassurance of the doctor’s summary talk. I trust implicitly those who know more than I do about such a subject despite my firm belief that one has to be one’s own health advocate. I have an Advance Directive just in case.
I am unplugged from various monitors, get dressed, have an exotic tasting cracker and generic ginger ale. We thank the nurses floating room to room like butterflies. My wife is somewhat disappointed how quickly it all happened, only a few pages into her exciting new book. We gather our things to leave. “Happy Anniversary,” I say to her on our fifty-third.
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