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First Person: My Semi-Colon Story

Thu, 05/16/2024 - 12:57
Hy Abady

OK. I’m 76. Maybe you're 76, too. Surely, somebody out there reading this is 76. Or, older. Or, more likely, younger.

 So. 76. Not great. I think it was Bette Davis who said, "Old age ain't no place for sissies."

 But 76 is not so very old. I see in The Times's obits that people live to be 101. Or 61. Or less. Or even more!

 But me, speaking as a 76-year-old, having been 36 and 46 and 16, and even 66, find now that 76 comes with certain difficulties, certain issues.

 For instance, my colon. My digestive system. To put it succinctly, my bowel movements.

 You don't think much, if at all, about your colon when you are younger. But after 55, or now even younger, you are asked to face that invisible mass of mess deep inside your body.

 Last summer that I spent languidly in Sag Harbor, I thought a lot about my colon. Constantly. And why is that? One word: constipation. Constantly.

 (If you're having lunch or dinner while reading this I would advise holding off until you are done eating.)


 I believe there are not too many things these days (for me, anyway) that are quite as satisfying as a good dump. But last summer, I never reached that perfection.

 Every other day, and sometimes for days, nothing came out of me. And when it did, well, it was very hard to get out! Constipated! (An awful word, but there it is. Again.)

 I live primarily in Manhattan. So, I texted both my G.P. and my GI (gastroenterologist) from the Hamptons.

 Once I had a polyp removed from that insipid, invisible colon -- but it was clipped during my first colonoscopy. Then I was advised to come again in a year to be sure it hadn’t resurfaced down there. It hadn't. So I could go back to a more-normal three-to-five year recall.

 But sometime last July, and again in August, something was not quite right in there: a gurgling stomach, some groin ache (are you still with me?), and some solid fears. Both doctors by email said: Take Citrucel, take a stool softener. I complied. It did not help much.

 I didn’t necessarily feel I needed to rush back to Manhattan for the dreaded colonoscopy -- it’s the prep, not the procedure that makes it dreaded. I could wait. It could wait.

 So, I waited.

 Fearful some, and concerned that things were just not quite right, still I waited. I waited. Until early September, back in N.Y.C., and scheduled a colonoscopy with the GI guy I loved.

 The morning of Sept. 9, I was ready to face the music after being all cleaned out down there. (That horrid prep!) Face the music and the Demerol!

 My first colonoscopy (at 55), after the (dreaded) prep was over, was heaven! I was awake throughout, but higher than I had ever been! The doctor wanted me somewhat alert to check out the screen above my bed to see precisely what was going on. A tiny camera was attached to the prober, or whatever that thing they stick up your ass is called, also with a pair of tiny scissors if clipping is necessary.

 I saw, in my dreamy haze, how the polyp was clipped. Hours later, recovering with apple juice, the doctor informed me that he got the polyp, where a small, cancer-ish red dot that was embedded dead center had been snipped.

 "If the cancer was closer and more attached to the wall of the colon versus just in the center, that would have been more problematic," he said. "You're O.K. Less chance of a spread."

 A year later, I was cleared.

 Five years later, cleared again.

 15 years later, still cleared.

 But this past summer, something was definitely going on.

 (Let me interject at this juncture -- "the mind has a mind of its own." And no, Bette Davis didn't say that. I did.) 

  Sept. 9. The colonoscopy. I was sweating with the anesthesiologist, and my blood pressure was very high. I was told to lie down, relax, think pleasant thoughts (I thought pizza!) until my blood pressure became more normal.

 It did.

 And he stuck the Demerol drip into the back of my left hand.

 Hours later -- no spectacular high this time, I was totally out, and somewhat disappointed -- I'm awake with my beloved gastro-man seated at my bed, who said: "You're all clear. You’re fine."

 I almost cried.

 He told me that when I was out I kept telling him: "I love you, I love you." And I did. And I do. Being way under, I don't recall that admission.

 Especially now, the love goes on, now with my clear, un-polyped, un-cancered colon.

 At home, later that day, all symptoms, all "imagined" symptoms, disappeared. The mind. A mind of its own. Oh, I've said that already.

 No colon cancer. Nope, not that.

 But at 76, other things may lurk. Imagined or not.

 Stay tuned.

 And stay healthy!


 Hy Abady is the author of "Back in The Star Again: True Stories From the East End."

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