Old Enough To Have One

I remember a year or so ago, when a friend of mine in his 70s told me how he had to undergo a cystoscopy.
I said, “A what??”
When he explained what happened during such a procedure, I could feel all the blood rush out of my face. ” They what?  They put a cable with a camera attached up where?”  In wasting no time at all, I began to dread having to go through something when I reached my 70s and 80s.

If nothing else, the 50s have been like a boot camp for getting old.  The day you blow out 50 candles, sometimes even sooner, your first junk mail from the AARP shows up in the mailbox. People you know are becoming grandparents.  You get to undergo your first colonoscopy.  But just when I started thinking I knew about everything that could go wrong, I had a little blood dribble out of a place normally reserved for liquid waste and recreation.

One day.  OK, several times in one day, but this was a true Macy’s style event: one day only.  I decided I should probably tell my doctor, who told me to come in for a checkup, who then ordered a series of tests.  First, a CT of my lower workings, in which everything looked fine, although there were a couple of areas they’d like to have a better look at.  One was the liver, which required having a liver ultrasound, which they did and again, found nothing.  I treated my liver to some Scotch that night.  “Good liver. Good boy.”

I remember one doctor saying that the blood could mean any of a hundred things, five of those not good.  So, if we can rule those out, then everything is fine.  after the CT and the liver scan, we were most of the way there. But, as the nurse at my procedure complained, “There was a huge error during design of the human body.  We can look at just about everything easily EXCEPT for the bladder.”  For that, I would need a cystoscopy.

That word….where have I heard that word before. Oh yeah, isn’t that what…..AWWW!  Yep, it was true.  It’s when they run a “thin cable” up an area that previously had been a one-way street with a tiny camera attached so they can get a good look at my bladder.  I said, “No problem, as long as I am drugged up more than Lindsay Lohan visiting Charlie Sheen’s house.”

The day came, my wife Victoria dutifully came along to drive me home, as I planned to feel pretty good when I had left there.  However, while checking in, the nurse said, “Oh, you don’t need that.  It’s a just a couple of minutes for the doctor to look. It’ll be over before you know it.”

Looking back on that, I suppose I felt my manhood was being questioned.  That she thought I must have been a big baby and so, on her advice, I decided to go through the experience of having just local numbing.

I’m an idiot.

First, the obvious question:  “How the hell would SHE know what it felt like?”  Secondly, as I sat there waiting for a good half hour before the doctor showed up and I was being numbed, another nurse brought in the camera and cable they were going to use and hook up to an HD screen to take a look at the inside of me.  In my mind, I was thinking spaghetti-thin wire.  What they brought in resembled something I’d expect the installation guy from Comcast would use.

I will admit, there wasn’t really sharp pain.  It was more of a pressure thing, but my overactive imagination provided complete play-by-play of where that wire was while competing with the nurse instructing me to aim my eyes at the TV monitor, saying things like, “Look! There’s your bladder.  Isn’t that cool?”

On the queasy factor, this was out the roof.  As I write this, I can still remember that sensation of having a cable pushed through my plumbing–the slow intrusion and the equally slow, gradual withdrawal. This made a colonoscopy seem like a picnic with cake & ice cream.

I’m big on passing along experiences that might, perhaps, help others in this journey.  I’ll entertain questions if you have them.  My end results were “all is well” and they were able to definitely do that because of this series of tests.  In talking about this with co-workers, I was able to the one to introduce this entire concept to them.  While most did the “Tim cringe”, there was one guy who had already had the pleasure and agreed it was one of the most traumatic medical procedures he had ever been through.

So now I know what a cystoscopy is and even how to spell it. If I had seen that word on Jeopardy, I would have probably guessed, “What is a copy of a cystos?”   I just hadn’t planned on being old enough to have one, not yet.  If knowledge is power, you have now been empowered to know when you hear that word, the very next sentence you say should be, “That’s fine, but I will need lots of drugs.”  Stick by that and you’ll thank me later.

Tim Hunter

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