The Genie is Out of the Orifice

Mar 05

 This, believe me, is only the beginning . . .
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I arrived at the doctor’s office bright and early this morning for a colonoscopy. Okay, it wasn’t my colonoscopy: I was just accompanying my significant other, but it was yet another damn test to worry about.

In the waiting room (in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of waiting involved with medical testing), I talked to a woman who was getting her very own colonoscopy for the first time, and was very nervous. I assured her that it was an easy procedure. Easy for me; I wasn’t having it done. But I had it done two years ago and will, again, next year (once you get by the prep, no problem), and in case you’re worried that I don’t have enough to do to fill my time until that appointment, here is a partial list of what I, as a person who is NOT EVEN SICK, will have done to my various orifices in the coming months . . .
Back in the stirrups again: This year will bring at least two trips to my friendly neighborhood gynecologist, including the ever-popular internal exam complete with Pap smear. This will lead to  a minimum of 3 more procedures:

Drink and don’t pee: (Don’t try this at home.) Every year, for one reason or another, my gynecologist insists on my getting a pelvic sonogram or two, which involves drinking a lot of water so that your bladder is really, really full, so that someone can run a wand with cold, gloppy goo over your stomach and take pictures of your insides. Then you get to jump up and pee, and it’s such a relief that when you come back to the examining room, you don’t really mind the device that they shove up your vagina to complete the test. Although none of this actually hurts, it’s nobody’s idea of a good time. You probably won’t want to date the technician.

Ouch! Then I’ll get my mammos grammed — the way they press them down CANNOT be good for me. Or them. Sigh. I endure this every year, and you should too, if you have mammos.

Dem Bones: Ever since I was 50, I’ve been getting my bone density tested. This is my favorite procedure because there is no “prep” (euphemism for shitting your brains out) like there is for a colonoscopy, and it is entirely painless. It also turns out that I do have some bone loss, and I need to be aware of this.

Open wide and say AAH. Next, an annual checkup with my primary care doctor (remember when that was the only kind?), which used to mean an hour or so of being poked and prodded, and now is all this and more. An electrocardiogram (easy) and a test for lung capacity (depressing, because every year I find out I am substandard in this department), and, invariably, recommendations for more tests and/or a referral to yet another specialist.

Yechh. Last year, I got to do a lower G.I. test which involves drinking about a keg of barium-laced liquid. Think of a milkshake. That tastes like metal. Rusted metal. That’s been sitting around for a long, long time. Then start drinking. And drinking. And drinking. Hell, I can’t drink that much of something I like!

You get to sit around in a hospital robe (don’t you just love those?) with a bunch of other people taking the same or equally wonderful tests, in a room that is kept just below freezing to make sure you don’t get too comfortable, and every half hour or so, they check to see if the barium is moving along. Finally, you’re finished drinking, and they poke and prod you (nothing bad, but you’re pretty cranky by then because this all takes four to five hours) and they take pictures of your intestines. Wallet size, anyone? I tried to imagine that the barium drinks were pina coladas and that lying on the table was lying on the beach. Ha.

Annually, all this amounts to a minimum, on a good year, of one or more trips to the internist, two to the gynecologist, two or three to the gastrointerologist, three or four to various imaging facilities for sonograms, mammograms and other grams of all nations. Did I mention that my gynecologist advised that I see a urologist, because I’m getting a lot of urinary tract infections, and so he did a nasty test that showed nothing.  And the gastrointerologist insisted on an endoscopy to check out my esophagus and stomach, because I have acid reflux. This turned out to be easy. No prep! I was out like a light! Almost instant recovery! They gave me a cookie, even. And my esophagus is just fine. Aren’t you relieved?

Other times, other tests: In previous years, in addition to all of the above I’ve had e-rays, cat scans, and a horrible test to determine if I had picked up parasites in my travels (it involved feces: let’s not even go there). Five years ago, I was diagnosed with the possibility that I had H Pylori, which might, in the fullness of time, lead to something serious, so I had a breath test (phew, that was easy), tested positive, and took heavy doses of antibiotics for two weeks. It made me feel like the material in the parasite test, but you’ll be happy to know that the follow-up test showed that my condition, whatever that was, had cleared up.

The nervous lady in the office this morning told me about a “very intelligent” friend of hers who doesn’t go to any doctors at all, gets no tests, presumably takes no prescription medicines, and gets away with all of it. We both wondered if that woman isn’t right: I keep thinking about my sister-in-law’s reaction when she first heard about getting a colonoscopy. Her exact words were,  “You’re going to put what, where? I think not.”

But here’s the problem: The genie is definitely out of the orifice. Once you get on the medical treadmill, you can’t get off. When you have something pointed out to you as a potential problem, it’s hard to ignore the advice to get the test. How can you go against modern medical science? What if they’re right? Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

Harumph. I have the feeling that all this testing is out of control (my parents, 95 and 97), take good care of their health but have never had most of these hi-tech tests). On the other hand . . .

Did you all get the e-mail about Gilda Radner’s Disease, a cancer of the ovaries that can be detected by a simple blood test that doctors rarely prescribe? I have already mentioned this to my gynecologist, and I don’t remember if we did the test or not.  I’ll probably ask her to do it. Hey, this is one test that doesn’t involve a single orifice. Maybe it’s multiple choice.

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