Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fun with Dr. Dick and Dr. Jane

After having no insurance for a couple of years (Yikes!) my fabulous husband got a job and -- drum roll please - HEALTH INSURANCE!! So, I've been catching up in the medical department. One of the most delightful things about getting older is all the tests one has to have annually to make sure one is not not dying. Over the last few months I've had a mammogram -- fun! A pap smear - even the sound of that one makes me giddy! Two trips to the dermatologists - thanks to my northern European skin and spending my summers baking in the sun slathered with baby oil and iodine I had a few pre-cancerous spots on my face that had to be frozen off with some sort of evil gas - goodie!

But the last and most exciting appointment of all was just a few days ago -- a virtual colonoscopy. My big brother was diagnosed with colon cancer about ten years ago and had to have 18 inches of his colon snipped out so every five years I have to drink that awful stuff and -- well, you know the drill. (no pun intended)

I have something called 'a twisty colon'. Really, that's the medical term. A small percentage of the population have them which means, for me, a colonoscopy is not just a chance to get some killer drugs and float off for a few minutes while someone you'll never meet shoves camera equipment up your anal region. No, for me a colonoscopy - even when they turn the drugs up to 10 - is quite painful. So painful, in fact that they decided they couldn't finish the last one on the chance they might puncture my colon.

"Not to worry," my doctor told me. "You can have a virtual colonoscopy."

Virtual colonoscopy... I like the sound of this. First of all, you only have to drink 2 10 ounce bottles of something disgusting the night before rather than a gallon of something disgusting. Secondly, the word 'virtual' leads me to believe that this procedure involves a Sim's character that looks a lot like me and that she's the one that shows up to the appointment and gets violated by total strangers while I'm off getting a mani/pedi.

So, imagine my surprise when I arrive at the appointment light-headed and weak from lack of food - nothing but liquids the day before - and the nurse leads me to a tiny dressing room and says, "Everything off but your socks."
"But... it's virtual," I say weakly, arms folded across my chest, refusing to take the blue gown offered me.
"Yes. That means we'll be pumping air into your colon and then taking 3D pictures of it."
"But I thought..."
"Everything off but your socks," she repeats, shoving the gown into my chest and leaving, snapping the dressing room curtain behind her.

With disbelief swimming in my head achy brain I don the blue gown - thank God it's the shade of blue that really makes my eyes pop, I think as I catch a look at myself in the mirror. I wander out of my dressing room.

"Nekkie Spencer!" a male voice calls.
"It's Nelsie," I tell the dark-haired man in nurse’s scrubs.
"What?" he says, looking slightly annoyed.
"My name's Nelsie, not Nekkie. The insurance card is incorrect."
"I don't really care," Mr. Nurse pops back at me.
"Well. I do," I say, finding a little strength and some indignation, "because my name's not Nekkie, it's Nelsie."

He and I lock eyes. Suddenly I am vividly aware that Mr. Mean Nurse is most likely the person who will be pumping my colon full of air. I look down in defeat.
"I've told the stupid insurance company but they can't seem to fix it. What's your name?" I say with all the chummy/ass-kissing I can muster in my weakened state.

He continues to stare, unsmiling. I touch his arm, in a girlish way.
"Danny," he says finally and smiles.

As I lay on my side, tube inserted, I can hear Danny singing along to Satisfaction which plays over the stereo system. "I can't get no satisfaction. I can’t get no girl re-action..."

"How's it feeling?" Danny asks between lyrics.
"Great!" I say, feeling nothing really.
"Oops! It's not turned on," Danny laughs, flipping a switch on the gas machine. A whirring sound fills the room along with my laughter.
"Oh my God! That is so funny!" I guffaw as CO2 starts filling me up. "That is hysterical!" I am laughing really hard now. So hard that I wonder briefly if CO2 and laughing gas are the same thing.

"Ow!" Turns out even gas hurts as it travels through a twisty colon.
"You okay?" Danny, my new best friend, asks.
"It's hurting a little."
"It's gonna be a little uncomfortable. You're almost done. You're at 1.08 and it has to go to 2.0."
"You're kidding me."
"You'll be fine." Danny assures me. "I can't get no. No, no, no!" he sings.

This is a nightmare, I think. They're going to pump twice as much of this stuff into me and I already feel as if I'm about to explode.

The seconds click by slowly.

"Hang in there," Danny calls as Credence Clearwater Revival blares over the stereo system.
"Okay," I say weakly. I close my eyes determined to relax and I see my Sims doppelganger at the nail salon choosing an outrageous color for her virtual toes.
"Oh God!, this is really hurting!"
"Almost done. Hold your breath and don't move."
I follow orders as the MRI machine moves over my abdomen clicking and whirring and getting - hopefully - some killer shots of my colon.
"Breath normally," Danny says.
"I hate to be a wuss but it's really hurting."
"Roll over on your stomach. That'll help."
"You're kidding me!" I say feeling like I've just been asked to do a back flip but I do as I am told.
"Better?" Danny asks.
"Not really."
"Born on the Bayou, born on the bayou!" Danny sings from some unseen place.
"Hold your breath and don't move."

I guess the 70's rock is an acknowledgement that most folk getting these torturous procedures are baby boomers. I have to admit that John Fogerty is much more comforting at this moment than - say Beyonce would be. I mean, John’s all flannel shirts and messy hair. And the idea of the totally glam Beyonce seeing me all bloated like this is just…

Two more rounds of pictures and Danny tells me I'm done. The tube comes out and I am sent off to the bathroom where I have the longest, most satisfying fart of my life.

Exhausted, weak, head achy, humiliated but hugely relieved I make my way to my tiny dressing room and get dressed.

At the Starbucks on the corner I suck down a coffee and an O.J. like I've been wandering the desert for days.

Having spent most of the day before dreaming about what I'll eat when this is all over I go home and make myself a huge plate of Huevos Ranchero. Nothing has ever tasted so good. I climb into bed and watch several episodes of America's Next Top Model.

Life is good.

Yesterday my doctor calls. "The results of your virtual colonoscopy are in."

I listen, heart pounding. The realization that they might actually find some cancer hits me like a blast of CO2 up the bum.

"Everything looks good. No polyps, no problems. Aside from a loopy colon you’re fine."

A loopy colon for a loopy girl, I think to my self, heaving a sigh of relief. Then I grab my coat and head out the door for the nail salon.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Getting old sucks!

During Christmas I was at a party. One of those selling parties where some people come to sell (skin care, jewelry etc.) and some people come to buy. I was selling -- my novel -- of which I have about 483 copies in my closets. My novel, which took 5 years to write and another 2 years to hit the shelves. So, if you do the math I made about $.07 an hour writing it. My novel that was supposed to be as "big as the Nanny Diaries," according to my editor and the publicity guys at my pub house. ("Well, at least you're published!" people love to say. None of the people who say that are published authors, btw.)

Oh my! Here I am trying to write about how sucky it is to get old and I'm off on a tributary about how sucky it is to be a published novelist.

Okay, this might be the time for the disclaimer. This is the moment where I let everyone know that I know that I am lucky! I was born in America, to college educated parents (Kookoo Marookoo parents, but Ivy League educated, none the less) and I am aware that that is sort of like winning the lottery in a lot of ways. I get that, okay. I could be wearing a Birka, living in Afghanistan and next in line for a clitorectomy, (no offense to Birkas or Afghanistan, but a big, fat offense to clitorectomies). Having acknowledged all that, I'm going to go back to complaining...

So I'm at this party - where I had a wonderful time; met some great women, sold a bunch of books, did a reading where people laughed in all the right places, got some fab lingerie for next to nothing - and I meet his woman, a lovely woman, btw. And she says, "I love being in my fifties! I love it! I can finally be me. I'm relaxed with my self. I have finally come into my own."

"Really?" I say, a look of incredulity on my face.

"Yes!" she says with verve and enthusism. "How about you?"

"Not so much," I say, without a hint of verve or a shred of enthusiasm. "I don't see any of the high points, really. I mean, as far as being me goes - I've been me for as long as I can remember. At least I used to be me. Lately, I look in the mirror and I'm not me. No! It's my mother staring back at me. And I used to be relaxed. In fact, I was relaxed for decades. But not recently. Uh uh! How can I relax? I'm losing my memory, losing bone density. Any minute my vagina's going to turn to the consistency of #50 sand paper! What is there to like about getting older!? If I'm lucky I might get published in More Magazine?(see below*) Is that what I'm supposed to get excited about?"

When I stopped shouting and flailing my arms about, I looked around the party and realized that all talk had stopped and everyone was staring at me. I smiled and laughed and made some joke about menopausal moods swings. The hostess brought me an eggnog laced with some festive liquor and everyone went back to buying and selling.

But, let me tell you - this whole 'getting older is great' thing? That I'm not buying! Or selling! I'm here to pull the sheep's clothing off the mean old wolf of aging.

*Note to More editors: I'd be ecstatic to get published by you! Please contact me for my funny yet inspiring article ideas about aging!