I’ve had two obsessions these past two weeks. Number one, The Fires — how to survive them, how to report them, how to breathe their vapors (Was I stupid to jog twice, unmasked, in soupy conditions?).
But behind every fire thought lurked another unsettling contemplation: My upcoming colonoscopy.
I get an intestinal checkup every five years because I’m of a certain age and because my mother died of colon cancer. If colonoscopies had been popular in her day, they might have made a world of difference.
What makes colonoscopies such a non-fun thing is the requirement to drink four liters of an obnoxious saline solution the night before. That’s 135 ounces, the equivalent of 11 cans of soda. Really bad soda. You have to force it down, like a foie gras farmer stuffing a goose ... and you’re the goose.
The night before, Cheryl was my nominal support person. She was there to openly, joyfully eat her dinner while I, on a 24-hour fast, mixed up my tub of misery and began draining it in 12-ounce glugs. She was there to reminisce about how much she hated her one and only colonoscopy. She thought the prep was going to kill her.
Leaving Cheryl to her dining and her reminiscing, I locked myself in the bathroom with my vat of poison. I would take my poison like a man, with only occasional bouts of whimpering.
Don’t we all sometimes wonder just how fat our abdomens are if they weren’t artificially inflated with digesting food? A colonoscopy purge allows you to find out.
In a matter of two hours you become the svelte self that you always imagined yourself to be. You become emptier than empty. You become a living void.
I went to bed at peace. Whatever the dawn would bring, my conscience was clear. I’d prepped as much as any human could prep.
The outpatient center at Queen of the Valley is a surprisingly cheerful place. Cheryl dropped me off at 8 a.m. I lay there, wrapped in my hospital gown, for nearly an hour as staff members arrived to begin their day.
Guess what everyone talked about? The fires, of course.
My nurse didn’t know if his house on Redwood Road had survived. Another nurse arrived wearing her smoke mask. She gave the appearance of already being suited up for surgery.
I was introduced to my “bartender.” He would mix the Fentanyl and Versed cocktail — Fentanyl for the pain, Versed for sedation. The goal was conscious sedation: I would be responsive during the procedure, but wouldn’t remember a thing.
As they got the drip going, a machine at my bedside started beeping. “Am I coding?” I asked.
We all had a good laugh. Then the lights went out.
I remember eating a blueberry muffin and a glass of grape juice in the recovery room. I remember Cheryl putting me to bed at home. And that’s it. I don’t remember riding in a wheelchair out to our car. I don’t remember the trip home. I don’t remember falling off a chair as I tried to remove my shoes.
To “survive” a colonoscopy is to enter a state of bliss. Safely tucked away at home, I had no anxieties about work, life, anything. I crawled into bed and slept like I hadn’t slept since the start of The Fires.
Three hours later I regained consciousness. I lay in our sublimely quiet house and thought happy thoughts. I felt proud at having faced down the colonoscopy monster.
Then came the sound of footsteps on our porch. Tiny footsteps.
It took me a minute to snap to attention, assemble myself and unlock the door. There stood two angels — Mormon angels — come to check on me!
How did they know!
Then I realized they weren’t making a post-colonoscopy house call. Their focus was The Fires. Was I OK?
Ladies, I’m MORE than OK. I’m great!
I’d survived The Fires, and now The Colonoscopy. At this moment, on this day, I was golden.