The snap of the latex glove caused me to look for cover, which would have been a good deal easier had I not been attached to an IV stand lying half comatose on a gurney. Glancing at the shadowy figure in the doorway, I unleashed my best axe murderer impression. He snapped the glove again, a slow smile spreading across his chiseled face and I wilted in disgrace.
The events of that morning weren’t the kind you could talk about in polite company. In fact, it wasn’t the kind of experience that one wished to discuss at all.
Actually, it wasn’t that big a deal, except that it was me on the gurney wearing the requisite undersized hospital gown. For that reason, I was mortified to be in the small but brightly lit room with people I barely knew showering cold, unflattering attention on my exposed derriere.
I was introduced to the doctor’s assistant, Helga. No last names were given. Last names implied that there might be occasion for some future meeting, an encounter I wished to avoid at all costs. Her imposing presence suppressed the reality that there were actually three of us in the room: Helga, me and my proctologist.
Statistics say that a significant cause of death in men over 40 is fear of a rubber glove. I’d heard the saying before and laughed, not really understanding what it meant. My understanding improved quickly as my doctor pulled a latex glove from a nearby drawer. I suddenly and vividly recalled Chevy Chase’s stirring rendition of the song "Moon River" from the movie "Fletch." I had laughed uproariously during that scene, but I wasn’t laughing now.
The doctor finally finished his digital journey and removed the glove, tossing it absently in a toxic waste receptacle. I eventually regained my normal voice. His findings were negative. Boy, was that an underassessment, but of course we were evaluating different data at the moment. He recommended that I have a full colonoscopy.
“As opposed to what?” I smirked, “a semi-colonoscopy?” In hindsight, this might have been preferable. It was the hindsight that strikes fear into the hearts of men my age.
I remember little from the actual scope, although the proctologist did send me home with a lovely set of high gloss 5 by 7 photos to share with family, friends and neighbors.
On the night before the scope, I dutifully drank a whole bottle of something called “Fleet,” which I smuggled home from Walgreen’s in a plain brown bag. The label should have read, “Fleet, Breakfast of Champions.” That would have aptly described the reaction that followed and the speed of each trip to the bathroom.
I was so dehydrated by the next morning that I was ready to absorb anything remotely liquid. The liquid my doctor offered came in the form of an IV filled with Valium and Morphine. Did I mention I remember little of the scope?
A day or two after the pharmacology wore off, the proctologist called with comforting news. This is why young aspiring interns go into the highly specialized and fascinating field of proctology, so they can dispense comforting news to their patients.
“You have a perfectly clean colon,” he told me.
I had seen the pictures. I would not have phrased it the same way, but having no experience with how colons are intended to look, I wasn’t in a position to argue.
In spite of the indignity of the experience, the words “clean colon” carry with them a good deal of relief. My mother suffered from colon cancer. The tendency is carried in the family medical history, prompting my regularly scheduled meetings with Helga to hear the dreaded snap of a rubber glove.
Most men shy away in fear of a colonoscopy. They fabricate all kinds of reasons why the procedure and the statistics against which it battles don’t apply to them. Some even make the mistake of telling their children’s mothers how distressing it will be. Expect little sympathy from a woman who has run the gauntlet of pregnancy and childbirth.
When I see Doug Miller’s name on a billboard and read his daughter’s expressed wish that her father’s life had been prolonged, I feel the impact. It takes the sting out of the snapped glove.
Children deserve their father’s presence.
As for me, I’d be happy to share my 5 by 7 glossies with anyone interested, but I’d rather you get your own and live to enjoy the privilege of showing them to family and friends who will thank you for being around.
An unabashed fan of outdoor humorist Patrick F. McManus, Ed Smith is a freelance writer, golfer and flyfisherman. He resides in W. Bountiful with the love of his life, Ann. Ed can be contacted at [email protected]