If you are a person of a certain age, you do a lot of screening to see if you are going to die a little sooner rather than a little later.
I had a colonoscopy a few months ago. If you haven’t had the pleasure of a colonoscopy yet, I’ll spare you the details, but the “prep” day isn’t fun.
When I awoke from the anesthesia (anesthesiology—now that is a field that has made miraculous strides in the past few decades) the doctor was there to say that I wasn’t “cleaned out” enough, so we had to do it again, this time with a more onerous prep. “you have a nervous colon,” he said. “Try meditation.”
This is what’s called blaming the victim.
(Aside: we all spend so much time fretting over the perfect haircut and how tight our jeans are, when, a mere puncture away, is all this gooey, greenish, bloody, stuff.)
So, a few weeks ago I did it again. This time I drank extra water with the prescribed laxative. “If there’s anything left in there,” I told the nurse when I came in, “it belongs in a museum.”
She was not amused. I’m wasted on most people. (“Waste”—I amuse myself no end.)
This time the procedure was successful. Afterwards, the doctor told me that he removed a polyp that he was pretty sure was benign, and two days later, when I answered the phone he said, “This is Dr. Chiu with good news. As I thought, the polyp was benign.”
That’s how you give good news.
A few days ago, I went in for my annual mammogram. I have some cysts that require that I have a “diagnostic” rather than a “screening” mammogram, but that’s been the case for three years, so I wasn’t anxious about it. There’s some truth to the joke about mammograms being like slamming a refrigerator door on your breasts, but any discomfort (granted, “discomfort” is a medical euphemism for “you will curse God and die screaming) is brief.
The tech was pleasant and efficient and it was over sooner than I remembered past mammograms. Then she said, “you’ll get your results before you leave, so you can go back to the waiting room.”
What? Waiting room?
I didn’t remember waiting for results before, but… well, okay.
They didn’t keep me waiting long, though it seemed like it. Then another nurse appeared. “Ms. Levin? Will you come into the next room so we can have some privacy?”
Now I’m wondering which of my children will take the best care of my collection of vinyl albums from the 70s. Because everyone knows that they take you into a separate room when they have bad news.
The walk to this room where we could have “some privacy” was no more than ten feet, but it was the longest walk of my life.
When we stepped in, the nurse said, “okay… the doctor looked at your films…”
Keep it moving, lady.
That’s how you give good news: right away.
I don’t need another mammogram for another year, and even better, not another colonoscopy for five years. Something is out there, waiting to get me: Whatever it is, I hope I don’t see it coming, and that it takes me out really fast. No private rooms, no phone calls, no closure, no coming to terms, and most of all, no “living each day to the fullest.” That’s way too much pressure.
Photo by Ani Kolleshi/Unsplash. Donna Levin is the author of four novels, all of which are available from Chickadee Prince Books. Her latest novel, He Could Be Another Bill Gates, was published this month; it’s available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or at the bookstore right across the street from your home. Please take a look.