I did my first-ever Hemoccult test this morning. It’s the Painting With Poop procedure that I talked about in my last blog. It took me forever to get started because of the various dietary restrictions involved (including not taking any aspirin or ibubrophen up to seven days before starting the test). Anyway, I finally cleared all the restrictions and did the first of the three tests and there’s a little picture of the test kit for you to imagine with because I really don’t wish to discuss it any further. I get to do this twice more and then package it up and mail it in for processing (yeah, tear THIS up in your sorting machine, Snail Mail).
Continuing with the lower bodily function fixation that the medical community visits on those of us who’ve reached fifty: I thought by doing the Painting with Poop procedure that I’d dodged the Hoobajoob Up The Butt procedure, but no. Tuesday I have to go in for a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is like a colonoscopy except that it doesn’t go nearly as far (oh, go look it up, for God’s sake). I got the bad news and the referral this week from my physician’s assistant, Margaret, who also whacked me with a tetanus shot since I hadn’t had one in decades. My shoulder still hurts. The good news was that, other than a slightly elevated cholesterol count, I’m in good shape otherwise.
I was supposed to call in to make the sigmoidoscopy appointment and had only managed to procrastinate about it for one day before the office actually called ME to set up the appointment. An extremely cheery but scarily persistant lab tech bullied me until I broke and agreed to come in Tuesday. The test is preceded by a 24-hour liquid diet on my part as well as some kind of pill the night before and two Fleet enemas two hours prior to the test. In addition, my reading informs me that they blow air up your backside during the sigmoidoscopy and this may cause “pressure” during the procedure, but you’ll feel better afterwards “once the air is expelled” – in other words, when you start farting uncontrollably. I’m breathless with anticipation.
I know that all these tests are for my own good, but why oh why must every test be so damned embarrassing? Even in the privacy of one’s own home, locked in one’s own bathroom, there is something mortifying about filling in a Hemoccult test with a wooden stick – like some baby learning how to color inside the lines, only with shit. Add to that the indignity of the mammogram, in which your breasts are mashed into cartoon shapes, and the sigmoidoscopy, with its attendant shitting and poking and farting, and it’s no wonder people avoid these tests. Yeah, yeah – I know they’re just procedures and I know they’re for my own good and yadda yadda yadda but if we can spend a billion dollars to bomb people from a hundred miles away, how come we can’t come up with more humane medical procedures? Or at least less humiliating?