THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT (February 22, 2021)
When I graduated from university in 1978, my parents were scheduled to drive down to Hartford, Connecticut to attend my graduation. My dad called a few days before graduation to inform me that he had colon cancer, and that he and Mom would not be able to make the trip. He was scheduled to undergo colon cancer surgery within a day or so. I think he waited to tell me so I wouldn’t fly home and miss my graduation. That was some graduation day. I was miserable, both physically and emotionally. My classmates convinced me to join them at an overnight party in Virginia. I got very drunk, went skinny dipping in the James River, tripped getting out of the water, and fell in a large bed of poison ivy. Graduation the following day was horrible. There I was in my cap and gown, in the 90°F heat, listening to some captain of industry delivering a speech about how it was okay to be rich. All I wanted to do was scratch my unmentionables and go to be home in Buffalo with my family. In hindsight, perhaps this was a fitting sendoff from the comfortable world of academia. I survived, and so did Dad.
By the time this report is posted, I will be undergoing my once-per-decade personal plumbing check. It’s not something to which I look forward, but anybody who has ever had an experience with cancer knows that early detection is very important. Because my dad had colon cancer, I am at a higher risk to get it as well. After his successful surgery, Dad then had to have colonoscopies regularly to monitor his health. Most people might have a photograph of their mom and dad, but for years, I had a colour photograph of my dad’s clean colon on my wall. Yes, I am aware that displaying a photo of my dad’s colon on the wall in my bedroom is weird. For me, that photograph was a reminder that my dad was a cancer survivor.
Colonoscopies are no big deal; the procedure sounds worse than it is. I will be partially anesthetized and won’t feel a thing. The bigger annoyance with colonoscopies is the preparation. As I’m writing this report on Sunday, I have not had anything to eat since last night and must adhere to a clear liquid diet until after the test in the morning. I find it strange that coffee and tea are ok to drink; coffee is hardly a clear liquid. I can also have a popsicle or Jell-o, as long as it isn’t red. The more onerous part of the preparation is the stuff I am required to take to clean me out. Tonight, I drink the human Drain-o along with 6 glasses of water. Then I wait. I do the same thing again at 5AM, 4.5 hours before the procedure. It’s lovely. Not! For anyone who has yet to undergo the cleaning out process, it is a little unpleasant, and you’ll want to be close to the water closet for several hours. Although I am going to be “scoped”, there is another procedure which is far less invasive. It’s called a capsule endoscopy, and it involves swallowing a capsule with a little camera enclosed. The camera records its journey through the lower intestine. I imagine that the unpleasant part about that procedure is recovering the camera once it has passed. I’m looking forward to being done with this test, and hopefully I won’t need another one for a long time. For you over 50-somethings who have never had the procedure, it’s a good idea to find out if you should. It could save your life. I’ve heard many stories of regret from people who should have been proactive.
As my father used to say, once he was in his nineties: Growing old ain’t for sissies! I have to "go" now … I mean, right now!
Written by Jamie Oppenheimer ©2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED