A voyage to the End of the Colon

Behind: The Scenes

 A voyage to the End of the ColonIn a contest between a root canal, a tax audit and a colon­oscopy, which one really brings the fun? As a recent survivor of all three, I declare the last experience the hands-down, pants-down champ.

My doctor broached the prospect of the procedure in jaunty nautical terms, pitching the colonoscopy as a journey of discovery-a cruise where a periscope would peruse 1,500 millimetres of previously uncharted territory. Somehow, the distance covered by that virgin voyage sounded even further than the Vancouver-to-Honolulu cruise I’d once considered. Plus, who really wants a snapshot of their sigmoid colon? I told the doctor I’d always thought of Freud as more of a psychoanalytical guy. How’d he manage to get a below-the-belt
body part named after him?

Lacking a funny bone in his own anatomy, my physician replied that the sigmoid-the part of the large intestine that connects the descending colon to the rectum-was only a  minor part of his planned photo shoot. No short jaunts for him. He clearly intended to max out his points on this endoscopic expedition. And just my luck: a cancellation had freed up a cabin with a view.

“Be prepped by Monday,” said Dour Doc.

“Prepped?”

“A well-prepared colon is a well-cleansed colon.”

Ah.

When it comes to the buffet offerings, your standard colonoscopy cruise cannot compete with the luxury liners. Care for clear consommé? A plop of yellow Jell-O? (There’s no crow’s nest bar or lido deck either.)

The purification process is fast-tracked by pick-me-ups with cheery names along the lines of “Clenzo-Prep.” Don’t be misled by luscious-looking orange slices or bestseller claims on product packaging-“Clenzo” and its cohorts are oral purgatives, a term as close to purgatory as it sounds.

“Clenzo” consists of citric acid (see tarted-up orange slice) complemented by magnesium oxide and sodium picosulfate. One moonlights as an insulator in industrial cables; the other tastes of crushed submarine parts.

When I first dumped this seemingly benign powder into water, I was surprised to see it fizz. The label warned: “Rarely, mixture may heat up. Allow to cool before drinking.” Listen up, those who snoozed through chemistry class. Nuclear fission is happening right here in your glass! Swallow, and the contents are en route to distant, unsuspecting parts.

In the mother of understatements, the box advised maintaining powder-room access. Dawn found me two pounds lighter, clean as the proverbial whistle and ready to board. Anchors aweigh!

My good humour lasted until a nurse came to hook up my IV. They’re going to goof around in my gastrointestinal tract! I demanded to know which painkillers had been prescribed, grabbed my phone and googled. One was more potent than morphine, the other “sometimes used in executions by lethal injection.” That ought to do the trick.

The next thing I remember is expounding on the merits of the best pumpkin loaf I’d ever tasted. “We do hear that a lot,” said the amiable nurse. Okay, I seemed to still be tripping. At least I hadn’t felt a thing, and better yet, Doc said I’d sailed through the examination.

Considering booking a cabin on a colonoscopy cruise? If your doctor says you’re a candidate for a sigmoid snap, smile. You’re going to love the pumpkin loaf-and the peace of mind when it’s all, ahem, behind you.

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