April 5, 2008

No wonder all my friends get colonoscopies

Here's a topic you don't hear a lot of Brits discussing: colonoscopies. When I found out that I needed one, very few of my British friends even knew what it was. When I explained - it's a procedure that examines the lining of the colon and small bowel, diagnoses gastrointestinal problems and screens for colorectal cancer - they seemed shocked that I would share such an intimate subject. No one has a problem talking about graphic sexual details, but mention a colon and: silence.

With my New York friends, it's another matter. If there's one thing New Yorkers love discussing it's medical procedures. Not only did they know what a colonoscopy was, but most of them had already had one. My friend Andy, who just turned 40, has one every year.

"You've never had a colonoscopy?" He said, sounding shocked. "It's a piece of cake." You'd think he was talking about getting his teeth cleaned.

At first, I didn't believe him. Maybe he was just saying that to make me feel better. "Did they give you a DVD of the procedure?" I asked. I wasn't going to ask to see it, I just wanted to make sure he wasn't lying.

"Are you kidding? I have a Best Of."

Liza knew all about colonoscopies from the news anchor Katie Couric. When she was on the Today Show she had one on live TV after her husband died from colon cancer.

Everything Liza knows about diseases she learned from celebrities. She knows about Parkinson's from Michael J Fox, Alzheimer's from David Hyde Pierce, Hepatitis C from Pamela Anderson and so on. Who says celebrities don't make a difference?

There's a book out there called: Everyone Poops. However there should really be an asterisks after the title that says: results may vary. Recently Oprah devoted an entire show to digestion - illuminating the lack of shame Americans feel discussing their bowel movements on national television.

At the Endoscopy Center I went to for my procedure, the waiting room conversation was gripping. The middle-aged woman in the velour tracksuit next to me was loudly scolding her husband. "Blood? And you couldn't leave work early?"

They put me out with anesthesia. Just before I went to sleep, the anesthesiologist from Azerbaijan told me I had lovely blue eyes. If only I could wear a hospital gown more often - it brings out the blue. The last thing I remember saying before drifting off:" Are you married?"

When I woke up I was told the results and thankfully, my problem isn't serious. As the sedative wore off, I couldn't believe how rested I felt. It was the best sleep I've had in ages. Naturally I felt lighter too. No wonder all my friends get colonoscopies. One hour later, it's like having gone to a spa for a month.

And not only that, it can save your life.