“Why no, there isn’t a bug up my ass, I’m just having a colonoscopy.”
Doug types too much...
August 30, 2020
The weekend I was finishing this piece, actor Chadwick Boseman, who inspired many as the iconic Black Panther, died from colon cancer. He’d known for 4 years and kept it secret. He was 43.
In early 2000, Charles Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown and his gang, died from colon cancer. I had a friend at the time who confided to me he didn’t care how he died, he just didn’t want to go from “ass cancer” like Charles Schulz – to my friend, that was the worst calamity that could befall you.
I had my first colonoscopy when I was in my mid-50s, so I was already several years past the milestone of 50 when colonoscopies are recommended. However, I must admit that from 50 on, that ass cancer cloud was hanging over my head.
I’d talked with a friend who’d had a bad colonoscopy experience with the VA. But then I talked to friends who didn’t use the VA and their experiences were all good.
So, after shopping around, I made an appointment with a specialist who was highly recommended. When my general physician found out who was doing my colonoscopy, he said, “Oh, she wrote the book on it.” And she literally has. As a matter of fact, she’s written books about it. I was in capable hands. And you want that when those hands are stuffing a humming cylindrical device attached to a garden hose up your butt without you being able to dissent. I definitely want the expert for that.
My second colonoscopy came 5 years after the first one. Normally you don’t go back for 10 years, but in my case, I had pre-cancerous polyps removed during the procedure, so I get to go every 5 years. But, hey. Beats getting ass cancer. Just ask Charles Schulz. Oh, but you can’t. That sounds a little cold, but trust me, it’s worth it to get checked out. He’d tell you the same thing if he could.
The process is pretty straight forward. You drink a couple of liters of chemical elimination water mixed with Crystal Light and evacuate your system over a 24-hour period. During the 24 hours, you can’t eat. They tell you to drink lots of clear fluids in addition to the 2 liters of high-test, just as long as there are no red or purple colors involved. And I’m with that. If there’s blood, I want it to be real and not a false positive from some cranberry juice.
No alcohol consumption allowed. You’d think you could reason that vodka and gin are both clear liquids. You can’t. They frown on that.
After I was wheeled in on a gurney for my first colonoscopy, a nurse ran through my medical history with me. One of the questions was: What drugs do you take on a regular basis?
“Occasionally, I’ll take an antihistamine for allergies. Maybe once a year if that. Some Advil if I have a headache, but that’s rare.”
She waited for more responses and got none. She paused. “Do you know how rare it is for a person your age to not be on some sort of steady medication?”
In fact, I do. Most of the people I know in my age group are not on one medication, they’re on multiple ones. When I went to my wife Judy’s high school reunion a few years back, it was a little scary looking around the room. I was very thankful for all the things that haven’t happened to me.
While I was on the gurney waiting for prep to be finished, I caught sight of the coil they were going to stick inside of me. I didn’t have long to think about it. They put me out.
“Count backwards from 100.”
I made it to 96.
I woke up in the middle of it. I am a natural redhead and this is one of my biggest fears. There are studies showing how gingers respond differently to medication. They can incur more pain than the average bear, but it takes a lot more to keep them down as well. There are documented cases of gingers half-waking up during surgery and being unable to tell the operating staff they could feel what was going on.
The most surgery I’ve ever had was getting snipped and having my wisdom teeth pulled. I was awake for both of those surgeries. That’s different. If things get too intense, you can still tell people to cut the sh*t.
But my first colonoscopy was my first time being under under. And I woke up with this coil humming in my butt. I’ve related to friends that I had this moment where I was surfacing and I realized I was still being probed. In my mind, I thought, “Well, this isn’t so bad. Should I say anything?”
I wasn’t sure. Like I said, it wasn’t so bad. But then I reasoned with myself that maybe I was in a part of the process that didn’t hurt. What if a bump in the road was readily at hand?
I heard myself mumble, “I can feel that.”
The nurse looked down at me and smiled. “Can you?”
She pushed something and I was gone again. Instantly.
You’re totally un-drugged by the time you get to the lobby to go home. That was a bit of a disappointment. If you’re going to get the drugs, you want to feel them, don’t you? You know, as long as they’re “free.” Shouldn’t there be some cool floating on air stuff while you fall asleep in front of a Love Boat re-run? Shouldn’t there be? Well, there isn’t.
But I felt compensated that they’d caught some pre-cancerous stuff in time. I’m lucky to have health care.
I came home and passed gas for a while. Much of that side effect comes from air being pumped in to bloat your large intestine so the doctor can see and maneuver the garden hose which is actually a light fiber with the ability to burn off pre-cancerous polyps.
The wind you break doesn’t smell. There’s nothing to smell. You’re just there to amuse your wife and the dog.
I never felt discomfort, nor were there any side effects. You’d think your butt would be sore. Nope. Back at work the next day, fit as a fiddle.
The procedure takes about an hour.
My second colonoscopy went well like the first one. I ate my last food before lunch – scrambled eggs and white toast. I did have coffee with Judy that morning, but only water and yellow Gatorade after that. Started drinking the chemical water at 6 PM.
You’re stuck at home. Waiting. You get bored mostly, until about 7:30 PM or so.
That’s when you begin the purge. And after yellow water runs out of your butt on a frequent basis leading up to bedtime, you know you’re basically cleaned out, but you question whether you’re “safe” going to sleep. You are.
On the morning of the procedure, you drink the second round of your elimination concoction about 8 AM as instructed. More yellow water. Absolutely clear at this point, but tinged yellow because of the Crystal Light. And you do want the Crystal Light component because the purging potion you have to drink tastes pretty awful without it.
Nothing to drink at all two hours before the procedure.
My wife Judy accompanied me to both visits. After the second one, we walked out and got in the car – Judy carried my copies of the medical records. Just like the first time, I wanted a big juicy cheeseburger after having fasted for 24 hours. Before she started the car, Judy sat behind the wheel going over what had been done to me.
That’s when she turned to me and said, “They gave you the same drug that killed Prince.”
Prince ODed shortly before I had my second colonoscopy. The main complication seemed to be too much Fentanyl in his system. For those of you not familiar with the drug, it’s an opioid used for pain medication. It’s powerful mojo – 100 times the punch of morphine.
When I asked my specialist later why anyone would take Fentanyl when all it did was knock me out, she said that wasn’t the Fentanyl. That was the amnesia drug they give you. You know, like a roofie, only it’s not in my drink at the bar.
We saw Prince. Once. In 1999. Columbia, South Carolina. He’d announced it would be the last tour EVER where he would sing 1999.
We were out of town when tickets went on sale. A friend of ours was given the task of getting us tickets in our absence. The seats were in the nosebleed section.
The morning of the concert, Prince got on a local radio station and denounced Columbia for not selling out his show. He went on to announce that this part of his tour was the “pity” part of his tour. He closed by saying he would specifically NOT sing 1999 or give us an encore because the arena did not sell out.
The night of the concert, we traipsed our way up to our nosebleed seats. We sat there for a minute or two. Judy spied some great seats down near the front that were empty.
“C’mon, let’s go.”
This was pre-9/11. We made our way down to the lower level and no one questioned us as we made our way to the choice seats we had not purchased. The people who rightfully belonged to those seats never showed up.
We listened for an HOUR past the start time with no warm-up band. During that 60 minutes, a loop played excruciatingly loud – “Go to my website and buy all my stuff!”
Eventually the lights dimmed and he showed. I must tell you, we were totally prepared to hate everything about him. F*ck you, you pompous MF.
And then he killed. I mean, killed. Judy and I will both tell you we have never, ever seen a live performance with such command. And we’ve seen a lot in our time.
He played every instrument on stage like he slept with them.
His vocals were spot-on.
At certain points, you wondered if a fan was needed to blow the smoke away from the strings as he wailed soulfully on his guitar.
By my count, he did 8 effortless splits, bounced up after banging his crotch solid on the floor, and popped back up in front of the mike singing without missing a beat.
Despite our status as pity tour folks, Prince managed to show a humorous side. In the middle of the show, he sat down at the piano and played the opening notes of Darling Nikki which is a bit rude lyrically. He heard the cheer of recognition rise from the crowd. He stopped playing, turned to us and smiled a wicked Prince smile.
“Oh, you like the nasty stuff!” he mused.
He was SO effing good.
Best. Live. Performer. Ever.
And he screwed us exactly like he’d promised. No encore. No 1999. F*ck you.
But, oh, man, was he special.
We drove home that night in a Prince daze.
I am 2 degrees of separation away from Prince.
Judy knew Mayte, Prince’s first wife. Judy and Mayte belly-danced together in Germany when Mayte was pre-teen. I met Mayte when she was 12. She appeared in a dance show Judy had put together for the military – I was the videographer and the MC. You know, back when I had a full head of ginger going.
I can see why Prince married her. She was a beautiful girl who grew up into a beautiful woman. Plus she’d been a talented natural dancer since she was a toddler, to include appearances on TV and interviews on the radio.
Over the years, Judy has seen Mayte in passing at dance festivals – I haven’t seen her since I MCed that show in the mid-‘80s.
Judy and I never got to meet Prince, but we knew a dancing couple that did. Mayte knew they were coming to the show, so she invited them back to meet the man after the concert. What transpired was kind of funny and I don’t know that I could have acted right within the boundaries of Prince’s rules, so maybe it’s best I never got to make contact.
According to our dancing couple friends, the rules were simple. It was like meeting the Queen. Guests backstage had to line up and remain silent. No talking allowed. He went down the line and greeted people, but they were not allowed to respond. And that was that.
Flash forward. In the last 5 years, I’ve heard from 2 different people who reached out to me urging I get a colonoscopy to prevent what had already happened to them. I was happy to tell them I was already on the hunt.
And then a couple of weeks ago, we heard from a friend who had a serious operation to repair his intestines. Not sure a colonoscopy would have indicated a case of diverticulitis, but it made me think about intestines. Colonoscopies. And Prince.
I don’t sleep much. I tend to sleep for about 3 hours and then I’m awake. Judy sleeps like a stone, so the period between roughly midnight and when the sun comes up is mine to do what I want.
I don’t always use that time wisely. I watch movies – all kinds – docs usually being my preference. My eyes have the toughest time focusing at night, so even though this window of opportunity is a gift of sorts, I don’t always appreciate the present.
I should type. Not usually.
I should read a book. Occasionally I will, but my eyes have to agree to play along.
Like I said, the main diet during the wee hours is movies, but I also binge watch TV series that I’ve either heard about or someone has recommended. Even that doesn’t always go splashingly well. I’ve been known to fall asleep on the couch only to awake to rolling credits. I’ve also been known to invest lots of hours of viewing, perhaps even watch an entire season of a show, and then give up on additional content without guilt.
During COVID, I’ve gone through a LOT of programming. Lately, I’ve abandoned my premium channels and Netflix to play around in YouTube land. It’s not as sophisticated to use as Netflix, but man, there is so much content on YouTube, it isn’t funny. I can query almost anything and I get a hit(s).
The other night, thinking about intestines, I went down a rabbit hole watching Prince videos. There are tons of ‘em. You can watch him perform individual songs or entire concerts. There’s videos where they interview people about Prince and they tell funny stories revolving around his eccentricity.
The best video for me was suggested by my son Ivan – you just have to search on “Kevin Smith Prince.”
Prince was notorious about controlling his image. So much so, he was known to personally troll bootleg video uploads of his concerts and aggressively go after the perps. Everyone who came to Prince’s Paisley Park estate was made to sign a nondisclosure agreement. No one was allowed to talk out of school.
Kevin Smith (who made Clerks among other movies) was asked by Prince to film a documentary that Kevin was warned would never see the light of day. Kevin was invited to Paisley Park to spend some time and film the purple one in action.
Upon his arrival, Kevin was approached by a Prince staff member and asked to immediately fill out an NDA. But Kevin and the staff member got distracted by something in the background and Kevin never did sign the NDA. After filming was completed, Kevin angered Prince greatly because Kevin didn’t just talk out of school, he talked INSIDE of schools. Kevin went around to college campuses and spoke of the eccentricity in capital letters. The video I watched was a half-hour long and it was one of the funniest celebrity reveals I’ve ever seen.
So there I was. Lying on the couch watching YouTube. For hours.
Thinking about Prince.
And whether I should have said anything about the buzz in my butt during that first procedure.
You know, sometimes you just have to see where things go.
Humming isn’t always bad.