Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Monday, March 25, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

     I recently read where a prominent cancer doctor advised men against taking PSA tests.  The guy is either an idiot or works for the government, but I guess that’s not a dichotomy. 

            I have lost friends because they didn’t either know about or bother to watch their PSA levels.  I’ve also known guys, myself included, who caught cancer in time by monitoring these levels.  A lot of procedures will begin to fall by the wayside as a result of new limitations on health care, particularly for “seniors;” thanks to Obama Care.  Here’s what they do in Sweden for prostate cancer - it’s called, “Watch and wait.”  In other words, they do nothing.  It saves the government money and “seniors” are disposable. Couldn’t happen here, right?

            My dad had colon cancer, which brings me to the topic of colonoscopies. A colonoscopy is another necessary evil, but another procedure I recommend very seriously.

            I did a paper in college on “Personality as Related to Occupational Preference.”  I concluded that proctologists were very humble people, but I later decided that in addition, many are frustrated spelunkers (those who enjoy exploring caves and unknown territories).  A spelunker can easily become a speleologist,” which is a field specializing in the actual study of caves.  This may be a pre-requisite for proctology.

            I had a frank discussion with a friend today who was facing his first colonoscopy.  Having had a couple myself, I tried to describe the process in order to help him deal with his obvious apprehension.

            I tried to assuage his fear by telling him that the preliminary process of cleansing the colon is the worst part.  In preparation for the big event, you are given a formula made up of left-over material from the bomb that did a number on Hiroshima combined with jet fuel.  This mixture should never be allowed to fall into the hands of the Taliban. There are cases wrongly blamed on alien abductions, where people disappear in a blast of fire and smoke leaving only a hole in the roof directly over the bathroom.

            Then there’s the procedure itself and the demonic tube from hell.  The innocuous tube destined for the hind quarters appears to be reasonably short, but that’s because there’s a hole in the floor where an additional half-mile of hose is hidden. But I reassured my friend that this magnificent device that would de-flower him was handled lovingly by a nurse called “Kenny,” who was moonlighting from a government-funded clinic in San Francisco.  That’s the only place where the proctologists pay you for services rendered.    

            To cheer him up, I described the option of watching the action on a monitor during the journey through inner space and the joys of exploring the “nether regions.” Many doctors take pride in sharing their explorations with their patients.    

            I explained the possibility of finding that Green Hornet decoder ring my friend swallowed accidently at the age of seven.  He could only remember swallowing a Canadian Mounted Police whistle, which might explain why his dog comes running to him after a spicy Mexican meal and a few beers. 

            Some doctors seem happy to provide a descriptive narrative through the entire journey as you watch it on the monitor.  It’s amazing.  You feel as though you are right there with Charles Bronson in a scene from the movie, “The Great Escape,” as British prisoners tunnel out of a German prison camp. If you missed the movie, picture a gopher with a camera and flashlight strapped on his back as he scampers through the twists and turns of his tunnel.

            But there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  If the doctor gets carried away in his geography lesson with his descriptions of stalactites and stalagmites and forgets where the journey ends, the patient can watch as the hose from hell passes his soft pallet and busts through his lips.  You can almost hear the blaring sirens and the see the spotlights as the German guards discover the prison break.  But the shrill siren sound is only the patient screaming.

            Maybe I was too graphic in my description because, despite my encouragement, I think my “trusting” friend decided to get a second opinion. . . .and a therapist.    


  1. I'm with your friend. I've made it this far.
    But I enjoyed your tour through the cave.

    Drinking the taste of fish and/or rotten eggs, and having the doctor, if necessary,snip in an extremely bacterial ara, makes me think this can't be a good thing.

    Can't help it, I was a state employee, or an idiot, or both. Maybe I can blame it on my generation?

    1. Sharon - Come on...you're no idiot. I was probably thinking of politicians and bureaucrats when I wrote that. But I hear they have more tasty stuff for preparation now than in the past. Don't let that stop you. But if you taste gun powder or nitro, spit it out.

  2. So good to see your sense of humor is in tact at our age. One thing you may have forgotten is the youtube version of The Colo-Rectal Surgeon Song. This too could brighten the day for someone facing the other way prior to surgery.
    North of 49

    1. Never heard the song and I'm not sure this is something I'd want to sing about. Although I'm sure there are cases during the digital exam where patients have sung in soprano and lapsed into speaking in tongues.

  3. My first colon exam was called "lower exam" where you are not given anything for the procedure or at least I wasn't. I swear to God I believe the two nurses that performed this on me were man hating lesbians straight from hell. I don't know how 10 feet of tubing can be just a lower exam. It was very, very painful and I'm sure they enjoyed every minute.

    Five year later I was scheduled for another exam and I was apprehensive and worried because it was for the whole 10 yards. I was put out for this one and happy to be except the male nurse said, "You will really like this drug, it's like going back to the 60"s". I don't know for sure what he meant by that comment but I'm sure he had his way with me in the recovery room later. How would I know?? My last one was much better with no complaints. All us guy's probably have stories regarding this disgusting procedure. Tell your friend it is much better now than the old days and like you said, watching it on the monitor is interesting. My father had colon cancer so I get to go every 5 years, lucky me.
    Jim Loar

    1. I've heard a lot of stories, Jim. Just after his digital exam, my brother told the doctor that in some countries they would be married now. I think the doc immediately asked for an annulment.