This is actually what inspired me to go ahead and make the appointment. I'm sure Barry would be pleased. Maybe I can still get the certificate he promised.
BYLINE: By Dave Barry,
OK. You turned 50. You know you're supposed to get a colonoscopy.
But you haven't.
Here are your reasons:
1. You've been busy.
2. You don't have a history of cancer in your family.
3. You haven't noticed any problems.
4. You don't want a doctor to stick a tube
17,000 feet up your behind.
Let's examine these reasons one at a time.
No, wait, let's not.
Because you and I both know that the only real reason is No. 4. This is
natural. The idea of having another human, even a medical human, becoming
deeply involved in what is technically known as your "behindular zone"
gives you the creeping willies. I know this because I am like you, except
worse. I yield to nobody in the field of being a pathetic weenie medical
coward. I become faint and nauseous during even very minor medical
procedures such as making an appointment by phone. It's much worse when I
come into physical contact with the medical profession. More than one
doctor's office has a dent in the floor caused by my forehead striking it
seconds after I got a shot.
In 1997, when I turned 50, everybody told me I should get a colonoscopy.
I agreed that I definitely should, but not right away. By following this
policy, I reached age 55 without having had a colonoscopy. Then I did
something so pathetic and embarrassing that I am frankly ashamed to tell
you about it.
What happened was, a giant 40 - foot replica of a human colon came toMiami
Beach. Really. It's an educational exhibit called the Colossal Colon,
and it was on a nationwide tour to promote awareness of colo - rectal
cancer. The idea is, you crawl through the Colossal Colon, and you
encounter various educational items in there, such as polyps, cancer and
hemorrhoids the size of regulation volleyballs, and you go, ' Whoa, I
better find out if I contain any of these things, ' and you get a
If you are as a professional humor writer, and there is a giant colon
within a 200 - mile radius, you are legally obligated to go see it. So I
went to Miami Beach and crawled through the Colossal Colon. I wrote a
column about it, making tasteless colon jokes. But I also urged everyone
to get a colonoscopy. I even, when I emerged from the Colossal Colon,
signed a pledge stating that I would get one. But I didn't get one.
I was a fraud, a hypocrite, a liar. I was practically a member of
Five more years passed. I turned 60, and I still hadn't gotten a
colonoscopy. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got an e - mail from my brother
Sam, who is 10 years younger than I am, but more mature. The e - mail was
addressed to me and my middle brother, Phil. It said:
I went in for a routine colonoscopy and got the dreaded diagnosis: cancer.
We're told it's early and that there is a good prognosis that they can get
it all out, so, fingers crossed, knock on wood, and all that. And of
course they told me to tell my siblings to get screened. I imagine you both
First I called Sam.
He was hopeful, but scared.
We talked for a while, and when we hung up, I called my friend Andy Sable,
a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few
days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a
lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing
briefly through Minneapolis.
Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough,
reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really
hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, "HE'S GOING
TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!
I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for
a product called "MoviPrep," which comes in a box large enough to hold a
microwave oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now, suffice
it to say, that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America's
enemies. I spent the next several days productively sitting around being
nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation.
In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day;
all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less
flavor. Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep.
You mix two packets of powder together in a one - liter plastic jug, then
you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric
system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole
jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes (and here I am being
kind) like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of
The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great
sense of humor, state that after you drink it, "a loose watery bowel
movement may result."
This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may
experience contact with the ground. MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative.
I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space
shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as
the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt.
You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting
violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must
be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which
point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start
eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.
After an action - packed evening, I finally got to sleep.
The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not
only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing
occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, "What if I
spurt on Andy?" How do you apologize to a friend for something like that?
Flowers would not be enough.
At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and
totally agreed with whatever the h**ll the forms said. Then they led me to
a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little
curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital
garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on,
makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.
Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand.
Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already
lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their
At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I
pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the
bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would
have no choice but to burn your house.
When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where
Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the
17,000 - foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I
was seriously nervous at this point. Andy had me roll over on my left side,
and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my
There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was
"Dancing Queen" by Abba. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that
could be playing during this particular procedure, "Dancing Queen" has to
be the least appropriate. "You want me to turn it up?" said Andy, from
somewhere behind me.
"Ha ha," I said.
And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a
decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell
you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.
I have no idea.
Really. I slept through it.
One moment, Abba was shrieking "Dancing Queen ! Feel the beat from the
tambourine . . ." and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking
up in a very mellow mood. Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I
I felt excellent.
I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that it was all over, and that
my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an
But my point is this: In addition to being a pathetic medical weenie, I was
a complete moron. For more than a decade I avoided getting a procedure that
was, essentially, nothing. There was no pain and, except for the MoviPrep,
I was risking my life for nothing.
If my brother Sam had been as stupid as I was, if, when he turned 50, he
had ignored all the medical advice and avoided getting screened he still
would have had cancer.
He just wouldn't have known.
And by the time he did know, by the time he felt symptoms, his situation
would have been much, much more serious.
But because he was a grown - up, the doctors caught the cancer early, and
they operated and took it out. Sam is now recovering and eating what he
describes as "really, really boring food." His prognosis is good, and
everybody is optimistic, fingers crossed, knock on wood, and all that.
Which brings us to you, Mr. or Mrs. or Miss or Ms. Over - 50 - And - Hasn't
- Had - a - Colonoscopy yet...
Here's the deal: You either have colorectal cancer, or you don't. If you
do, a colonoscopy will enable doctors to find it and do something about it.
And if you don't have cancer, believe me, it's very reassuring to know you
There is no sane reason for you not to have it done. I am so eager for you
to do this that I am going to induce you with an Exclusive Limited Time
Offer. If you, after reading this, get a colonoscopy, let me know by
sending a self - addressed stamped envelope to Dave Barry Colonoscopy
Inducement, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132.
I will send you back a certificate, signed by me and suitable for framing
if you don't mind framing a cheesy certificate, stating that you are a
grown - up who got a colonoscopy!
Accompanying this certificate will be a square of limited - edition custom
- printed toilet paper with an image of Miss Paris Hilton on it. You may
frame this also, or use it in whatever other way you deem fit.
But even if you don't want this inducement, please get a colonoscopy. If I
can do it, you can do it. Don't put it off. Just do it.
But be sure to stress that you want the non - Abba version.