Colonoscopy. Anyone over 50 knows what that is, knows it can cut your chances of dying of colon cancer by two-thirds and knows it is a pain in the you-know-what. I have had my share of them, but at 83 I thought I was done with drinking gallons of vile stuff to make yourself violently ill so that you won’t get violently ill and die of cancer. But when my stomach acted up, my doctor said, “We’d better take another look.”
I told him, “I’ll think about it.”
After a week in the Adirondacks, two at Chautauqua Lake and my friend’s 90th birthday party, my stomach was still troublesome so I told my doctor, “Let’s do it.”
I was given a choice of venues. Buffalo General had served me well for previous similar ordeals and its familiarity was comforting. A polite and considerate receptionist called in advance to preregister me and save time on the day of the test. She also informed me that I was eligible for valet parking for $6. My wife, Lyn, who would be the driver, quickly calculated that cost to be less than the parking garage so she snapped it up. I would have preferred it if the receptionist had not concluded the interview with, “Are you receiving Hospice services?”
I snapped back, “Not yet,” and was tempted to add, “Honey.”
Either I overdid that vile liquid or I neglected to consume enough Gatorade, Jell-O, apple juice and Popsicles because I felt dizzy. At 7:30 a.m., I was told to report early for rehydration with IV fluids.
The waiting room was filled with glum patients taking turns in the restroom and upbeat nurses checking us in. The requirement for IV fluids gave me the opportunity of an extended stay in the staging area outside the procedure room. I lay there with the IV running, curtains partially closed around me and nothing to do. I closed my eyes and listened. It was a peculiar sensation, like the “locked-in syndrome” in which a person is conscious but unable to move or communicate.
Cheerful nurses took histories from patients and chatted with each other oblivious of me. I heard patients’ birthdays in 1942, ’47 and ’56, all younger than me. I thought, “I’ve outlived them so far. I’ve got that going for me.”
The inheritance of red hair in families was discussed. One patient worked at Hens and Kelly department store downtown. His nurse remembered S&H Green Stamps and the Tea Room there. As the head nurse set up lunch schedules for the staff, I tuned out and started touring old downtown Buffalo in my head: Laube’s Old Spain restaurant, the Palace Burlesque, Kleinhans, J.N.’s, AM&A’s and City Hall.
Suddenly they were wheeling me into the procedure room. The cheerful nurse said, “How are you, Laurence? Oh, you’re a doctor, I see. How do you like to be called, Larry or doctor?”
I thought a minute and answered, “Doctor would be nice. It’s been a while since I’ve heard that.” She said, “Too bad. I was going to call you ‘Honey.’ ”
I replied, “How about, ‘Doctor Honey,’ ” and then things went blank.
Soon after, half recovered from the anesthetic, I was aware of my doctor saying, “looks good” as he departed, handing me a picture of my insides. I’m sure he told me more. Lyn filled in the details later, including his remark, “See you in 10 years.” Neither of us could figure out if he was kidding or not.