Are You Like Me in Avoiding the Most Undignified Medical Exam of All?


What, in your opinion is the most undignified medical exam of all?

My wife said that depending on the doctor, it could be a routine pap smear or mammography. There is nothing dignified about stripping naked and placing your feet in stirrups that leave your most private and personal area exposed to all. As for the mammography, my wife refers to the mammography as mammo-screaming because of how painful it is at times to her breasts squeezed so tightly by the machine.

For a man, having an exam to check for testicular cancer or an enlarged prostrate are undignified, but they are not the most undignified medical exam of all.

Without a doubt, the most undignified medical exam involves putting on one of those hospital gowns that are well ventilated in the back, lying on your side waiting for a doctor start pushing a mile-long tube up your butt. Yes, I’m referring to the dreaded colonoscopy.

We’ve all heard that everyone over the age of 50 should have one, but how many of you have followed that advice?

I had my first colonoscopy when I was just over 40. After having diarrhea for 2 weeks with no explanation, the doctor wanted to look up inside to see if he could find a reason. Mind you this was about 25-years ago. The notorious prep made me sick so I was on the toilet for hours, emptying out from both ends at the same time.

Then the dreaded day came. Yes, I had on the ventilated hospital gown, laid down on my side and then heard the doctor say words that I will never forget:

“You’re a bug guy, you don’t need anything, so let’s get started.”

Having never had a colonoscopy, I had no idea what to expect or what he was talking about, but I soon found out as he started forcibly pumping enough air inside me to fill a Goodyear blimp. Then came the mile-long probe. I have to admit that it was one of the most agonizing as well as humiliating experience of my life. All this to find out that the sadistic butcher diagnosed my diarrhea as over use of laxatives, even though the only laxative I had ever taken in my life up then was the prep for this exam.

Nearly 14 years later, I’m living in a different state with different doctors and dreaded when I was told I needed a colonoscopy. I explained my horrific one and only experience and was assured that these days they always give you something and most people never feel or remember the actual exam.

So, I agreed. This time the prep was better, but I still got little sleep that night as most of it was spent on the porcelain throne. As my wife drove me to the gastroenterologist, visions of my first colonoscopy came roaring back and I was ready to tell her to turn the car around and go back home.

Mind you, I’m not a squeamish person. I’ve set some of my own broken bones, stitched up some of my own wounds and pulled the stitches and gave myself a tetanus shot. Growing up a cowboy around livestock, I’ve been shoulder deep in a horse’s vagina, helping to deliver a foal and I’ve had to take care of bloated cattle and none of those things really bothered me. But when it came to someone trying to inflate me like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon and sticking a mile-long tube up my butt, that was getting to me.

Well, I endured the procedure and was relieved when they started an IV and then gave me something to calm me down. I was told that I probably won’t remember a thing, but with my genetic immunity to most painkillers, stimulants and sedatives, I remained awake and even watched the television monitor as the scope made its way inside me. None of the discomfort I had experienced the first time was there and the only real negative impact of this most undignified medical exam was the prep and then the humiliation of placing your exposed rear end at the mercy of the doctor and nurses.

It’s been nearly 10 years since my last colonoscopy and the only reason I’ve avoided it for so long is that I had no healthcare insurance. Now that I’m on Medicare, I know it’s something I will need to do this year. It’s just getting the where-with-all to actually do it.

However, don’t be like me and keep putting it off. The experience these days is not bad at all and knowing that with age comes a higher risk of developing polyps, hemorrhoids and colon cancer increase, it’s something we all must do. Get a sympathy card, sign it and say something like ‘sorry you have to see me like this’ and give it to the doctor just before they give you whatever to help you sleep through the procedure. The humiliation is worth it and it just may save your life so that you will be around longer for those you love and who love you.

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