Colonoscopy: Reflections and a Poem

ZinniaLately, it seems as if everyone is getting a colonoscopy. Of course, I have a distorted view of reality, since I move in circles of people of a certain age. But still, it appears to me that the procedure has fairly broad acceptance among seniors these days. I haven’t been able to find a recent scholarly article confirming this, although a 2013 poll showed that 58 percent of Americans approved of colonoscopies more than they approved of Congress. The significance of this finding was clouded by the fact that 67 percent approved of lice more than Congress.

Still, I had friends in years past who said they could not envision undergoing a colonoscopy under any circumstances. I don’t hear that any more. Nor do people seem reluctant to talk about their upcoming procedure or joke about the preparation. This openness in a good thing, since colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths for both women and men.

Colonoscopy is the only cancer diagnostic procedure I can think of that can also prevent cancer. This happens when the gastroenterologist discovers pre-cancerous polyps and removes them. If colorectal cancer is discovered, the chances of successful treatment are good, with a 90 percent survival rate after five years.

If you search online, it’s easy to find sites offering scare stories about the risks of colonoscopy, but I find these seriously misguided. The scientific literature reports the risks to be quite low. Doctors I know and trust assure me that the literature is accurate. Nor do I know anyone personally who has run into a problem.

Before my recent colonoscopy, I checked the qualifications of the gastroenterologists in the area and chose one with an excellent background. All went well. Afterward a friend commented that he found the moments before being wheeled in for a colonoscopy to be a sort of “Zen experience.” I realized he was right and was inspired to write a poem.

A Modern Rite for Seniors

I completed the purification
On the morning of the ceremony
I faced the day with resolve

Fasting still, I made pilgrimage to the site
Stripped naked and donned the proper robe
Myself along the table

An acolyte, a woman fair and kind
Draped me in a blanket light, but warm
I focused on my breathing

The magus came for my interrogation
Had I obeyed his will in fast and purge?
As faithful follower, I waited more

Till came two acolytes to wheel me in
Room cool, jazz soft, choice of the magus
On my side, doing as told

An acolyte said I would now go to sleep
And I did, just as well, for I knew I’d be
If I knew too much of the ritual

“Negative” – a voice, as pleasant I woke
And soon came the magus to confirm I was
Showed me photos and proclaimed them good

A sweet meal was prepared of foods I don’t touch
On unhallowed days. Then forth I was sent
For five years, should I live so long


2 thoughts on “Colonoscopy: Reflections and a Poem

  1. Joan Mistretta

    I loved this — not only the reports of people’s relative approval of colonoscopies, lice and Congress. Restores my faith in people. You will see that I am posting the poem to see whether people can guess what it is about — though actually I think it’s pretty obvious. Unless maybe they can see this. I forget.


  2. Richard

    I have had many colonoscopies over the years since I have Ulcerative Colitis. For a while, I was having them done every 6 months. I got so used to them that I would have them done without any sedation and liked to watch the monitor as my gastroenterologist explained what he observed. In my last one the doctor concluded that it was time to have my colon removed due to deterioration of the colon and beginnings of dysplasia. I had that done 7 years ago. It prevented me from getting colon cancer or a ruptured colon.
    For me, it was the cleaning out ahead of time that I didn’t look forward to. But the whole procedure is well worth the discomfort to catch a problem before it goes too far.



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