A couple weeks ago, I celebrated turning 52. In the days leading up to my birthday, my General Physician referred me to a Gastroenterologist for a routine colonoscopy. He called it an “early birthday gift” that was well-deserved, now that I am “in my fifties”.
This present did not come wrapped in a pretty box with ribbon, but instead a package of prep materials from the pharmacy, an evening of staying near the “porcelain statue”, and cursing my Doctor a few times. But most importantly, the experience caused an impactful reflection on this time of life.
Although I don’t remember much of the actual colonoscopy (conscious sedation), I do remember being moved by what occurred during the hour leading up to being taken into the surgical room.
When I arrived at the hospital, I was admitted to the pre-op area. There, I was shown by the nurse to a curtained space where I was directed to:
- remove all my clothing,
- place it in a white plastic bag (which the nurse wrote my last name on in black felt pen; left at the foot of the bed),
- put on the green cotton hospital gown,
- get into the bed, cover with the white sheet, and wait for her to return to finalize some additional questions. With that, she drew the curtain and left.
I followed instructions and once laying there, I looked up and saw my curtained space had a number: #6. As I waited for the nurse to return, I could hear her enter each curtained space to speak with patients. I very quickly learned:
- what each person was there for and why,
- their medical history,
- medications they were currently taking,
- how they were getting home after their procedure, and
- who would be staying the night to accompany them.
From what I heard, the room consisted of males and females, various ages, and various medical issues (some sadly quite severe). I began to feel heavy by learning the sobering reality of their situation, and could not help but think “this is real life”. Here we all were, exposed and vulnerable in many different ways, where no one was asked where they worked, or what they did. It didn’t matter what their job title was; what the number of awards, achievements, or academic credentials were; nor their wealth – nobody was allowed valuables in the room. No one wore or had a label, just the same green hospital gown behind a numbered curtain without a name, each waiting to be wheeled into an operating room, where outcomes could dictate the days and year ahead.
At the end of the day, our body is the only asset we have that is important.
For as uncomfortable as the preparation and the process of a routine colonoscopy was, along with the joys of a routine annual physical (the day after my birthday), these experiences made me grateful for my current health, and for the effort I have invested so far in preventative care. Although there are never any guarantees, there’s no doubt this investment made so far (which I am a continuous student of) has helped maintain a healthy state for my now 52-year old body. Taking an active role in our wellness is an essential part of daily life in our home.
As our bodies age, we need to take care of ourselves. The “return on investment” will come back in spades, and when life is about spending time together, making memories, and getting to enjoy life, the biggest asset and the biggest hindrance we’ll experience is our health. Choose to make time for health and wellness as you embrace the summer months ahead. Why? – because we can – and because it’s worth more than any title or material asset we’ll ever have.
Cheers to a healthy and restful summer!
D by denise Journal is published bi-weekly. To subscribe and receive directly to your inbox click here.
Photos: Kderk Photography, Michael Zaporzan and me 🙂