Desperate times call for … a colonoscopy


By Father Joseph Breighner 

I bet I did something for New Year’s Day that you didn’t do! I spent the day preparing for my colonoscopy. While you were drinking your bubbly – I was drinking my ugly! Don’t I know how to have fun?

Why was I doing this? Well, in the interest of full disclosure ( perhaps more disclosure than you would care to hear about) for the past three months I’ve been experiencing some intense pain on my backside. I’ve been to my Intern, my dermatologist, her physicians assistant and one other medical doctor. My Intern suggested that it might be something like a “diaper rash.” I’ve heard of being ‘born again’ but this is ridiculous.

My dermatologist thought it might be that, but it might also be pressure sores. I spend hours and hours each day, sitting and listening to people’s pain in offices, sitting and listening to people’s pain on the phone, sitting and writing and so on. How we take something as simple as sitting down for granted.

A third doctor thought it might be shingles. This would explain why the skin seemed only mildly inflammed at some times, but was always extremely painful to me.

Having tried various creams – lotions and potions – for the past three months, I decided to go to the saintly Doctor Huber to schedule a colonoscopy on the chance that something on my inside might be causing the problem on my backside. This is a remote possibility, but, as someone said, desperate times call for desperate decisions.

Now, onto the procedure.

The worst part about a colonoscopy is the preparation for it. I have to drink this strange substance which will “cleanse my bowels and intestines.” How’s that for a euphemism for you know what!

For me there is some risk. I’m on Coumidin, a blood thinner, as a result of the strokes in my eyes and also my pulmonary embolisms. Printed in black and white on the paper I have to sign is that “Coming off a blood thinner may cause stroke or heart attack.” So, to avoid the risk of some colon problem, I place myself in risk of something else. What a deal!

But it gets even better. I know of someone who died during the preparation. When you drink this strange mixture, as well as gallons of water, you risk your electrolytes dropping. That’s what happened to a classmate of mine from the seminary. His electrolytes dropped, and he died of a heart attack.

Yet, it gets even better than that. I know of two people who died from the actual procedure. They had their intestines perforated during the procedure and died.

Life is not risk free. Medical procedures are not risk free.

However, living with constant discomfort and pain over the last three months has been torturous at times. It affects my ability to pray, to drive, to write, to counsel, to simply sit for all the things we sit for. And I’ve learned that pain only matters to the person experiencing it. There’s a saying in football that: “A minor injury is one that happens to someone else.” ‘Pain in the butt’ is just that for someone else. But daily pain can really be debilitating.

So, I hope I will be better off after the procedure. At least I will know if my problem is only skin deep and not really deep!

Wouldn’t it be ironic that, after a lifetime of writing – books, plus thousands of sermons, articles, and radio scripts – that my last article would be about my behind! Would that be a fitting end?

However, I guess that ending would be even worse if, after I have ‘moved on’ someone would hear a voice in the far distance saying: “Sure is hot down here!” In this article of many puns, I can only imagine an eternity of eternal pun-ishment!

Copyright (c) Jan. 17, 2013

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.