I want to talk about the stuff you deal with as you grow older. On my birthday this year, I received notification in the mail that I was once again eligible for SAG-AFTRA health insurance. It has/d been a decade since I last had SAG health insurance, and in that ten years, I haven’t been unwell or unhealthy, but I have missed having the fantastic coverage that my union provides. When I was first deemed ineligible, it was because we still had two actors’ unions, so I was dividing my work time between them, and not earning enough money or days on set with either one to be eligible. In the last ten years, we’ve merged not only the two unions, but also, recently, the health plans. YAY.
So I got my eligibility notification on my birthday in June. #HappyBirthdayToMe! I completed my paperwork as soon as I could and paid my first quarter’s premium so I could start using the insurance in July. I’m not unwell or unhealthy, I remind you. But when you finally have good health insurance again after so long, you make an appointment for a wellness exam. For a woman over 40, that means a PAP smear, labwork, and mammogram. For Stephen, it means... what? I don’t even know. Vitals? A prostate exam? Anything else? I doubt it.
Also, for everyone over 50, it means a colonoscopy.
Back in 2017, I had insurance through Kaiser. It wasn’t bad coverage, by any stretch of the imagination. But for whatever reason, I lost my eligibility for that as well, and when they “prescribed” a colonoscopy back then, I got as far as picking up my Rx for Gavilyte and scheduling the procedure ... but then I cancelled the procedure, and just stored that big ol’ bottle of powder for... awhile.
Fast-forward to July of this year. I had my PAP and all my bloodwork. I got referrals for dermatology (per my new Primary Care Physician, I “have a lot of moles”. Yes, I do. So what?), mammography, and that dreaded colonoscopy. I’m supposed to follow up with each doc to schedule the necessary whatnot.
The colon doc’s office didn’t wait. They called ME. They tricked me into a consultation, saying there was a “chance” I might not even need one, if I wasn’t in any of the risk groups. Guess what? I’m over 50. That’s a risk group. So they scheduled me for the dreaded procedure for Monday of this past week, and sent me home from the consultation with a plethora of “pre-op” instructions. Stop taking all NSAIDS five days before; eat low-fiber foods (meaning NO nuts or seeds) 3 days before; go on a clear liquid diet plus colon prep 1 day before. Stay hydrated. Dress warmly for the procedure. Buy the new Rx for colon prep. Etc.
I followed “the rules” pretty closely. My original appointment was set for 1 p.m., but that got pulled in earlier to 12:15 before I was completely aware of the change, so my “day before” wasn’t quite a 24-hour period. It was close, though. I went to buy the new Rx, just in case it was “easier” than the Gavilyte I already had, and also just in case the pharmacy would buy the Gavilyte back (it had another year or two before it “expired””, since I hadn’t mixed it yet). No dice. CVS Pharmacy hadn’t filled the original Rx, so any return would have to happen at Kaiser. Also, my insurance wasn’t covering enough of the cost of the new prep, and it would have cost me a hundred bux. For a yucky prep for a procedure I didn’t even want to have! No thanks!
I did verify that the insurance was definitely covering the procedure 100%, though. If my co-pay had been, say, enough to meet my deductible, I’d have cancelled that thing AGAIN. I’m telling ya. I’m healthy! Much to my chagrin, the procedure is covered 100%. #Dammit
So now it’s the weekend before (stick with me, it's currently the weekend following, but in this tale, it's the weekend leading up to it), and I’ve altered my diet, I’ve arranged for a ride, I’ve confirmed the appointment, and I’ve mixed the Gavilyte. On Sunday, just under 24 hours before my procedure, I start drinking the Gavilyte.
Here’s what everyone tells you about colon prep: it’s a lot, and you WILL spend that day before in the bathroom. It’s a laxative, you see. A prescription-strength laxative. The idea is to CLEANSE your colon before they stick the tiny tube up there. They do tell you that it tastes yucky, but that’s all they’ll tell you.
Here’s what no one ever tells you about Gavilyte: it doesn’t take effect until you’re a few glasses in. Once it takes effect, it works almost like clockwork, depending on how quickly you can down it. It tastes like... badly mixed Country Time lemonade... thick and syrupy and vaguely lemony and vaguely artificially sweet... even though it LOOKS like water in that gallon jug! As you drink it, the gallon jug has miraculous refilling properties. I like-to-never finished that damn thing!
Well, actually, I didn’t. I got more than ¾ through, past the point where I was “pooping” brown liquid, then thick yellow bile, then clear yellow liquid. There was NOTHING solid left to poop. I mean, towards the end, the pressure to poop LIQUID meant I became a human soda stream. I kinda decided that after the procedure, I never wanted to poop again. Ennyhoo. Enough toilet talk.
On Monday, my friend Cheyanne gave me a ride in, and sat in the lobby area, working on her screenplay or whatever whilst I was whisked into the medical areas to undress down to a gown, verify that I was who the paperwork said I was, and receive my IV for the sedative. Not too long after that, the doc showed up to ask me the same shit, and then they wheeled me into the OR. I was introduced to yet another nurse, whose job it was to monitor my vitals. Before they administered the “Twilight” sedative (I’d be awake for most of the procedure and could inform them if I was feeling any PAIN), the first nurse noticed that my heartbeat was irregular. Say, what? The doc asked her if it was a “regular” irregularity or an “irregular” one. I joked that it was because I’m a musician – saying it was my percussionist soul taking over. No one got the joke, so I remarked that maybe it was due to this being my first procedure of this type (i.e. nervousness)? The doc either concurred with that sentiment, or overrode the nurse’s concerns, because he had her administer the sedative. Shortly after its administration, I was feeling the effects, and my heartbeat regulated, so... good call, doc!
I watched them weave the camera through a very foldy rosefield, and when they discovered the one polyp, they removed it before I even saw what it looked like! I did see the four clips they used to seal the wound they created by tearing out the polyp. Shortly after they installed the four clips, they were pulling the tiny tube out and unhooking my IV and wheeling me into the recovery area, where they offered me a juicebox.
Yes, I’m pretty strict about my keto, but I hadn’t eaten anything (solid) in close to 48 hours, so I was willing to consume a few carbs. Also, I was probably dehydrated, so I sucked that bad boy down.
Then they sent Cheyanne in to sit with me for a few, and then they sent her to get the car while they transferred me from the bed to a wheelchair, and rolled me to another waiting area to receive her phone call (we had parked in a free shopping center lot, about a block away - NOT paying for parking on top of it all!). While I waited, I had another juicebox and a few packets of graham crackers – yum!
Cheyanne had gotten my postop instructions, so when she called to say the car was there, they wheeled me down and put me into her care. Next stop, Poquito Más! They had instructed “nothing too greasy or spicy”, so I got the grilled ahi on a small bed of white rice (yes, more carbs!) and felt much better.
That's some adulting, y'all. Have you had the dreaded colonoscopy? Were your experiences similar to mine? Better? Worse? Did you get pictures of the inside of your colon? Do your pics, if viewed quickly and out of focus, look like a field of roses?
Part the Second coming soon!