At 50, doctors recommend getting a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer. To prepare for mine, I watched Katie Couric have hers on TODAY. She started at her kitchen table, 18 hours before go time, with a big jug of cherry flavored Nulytely (also known as Golytely), the drink guaranteed to flush out the colon. Nulytely tasted terrible, apparently. She sucked on a lime then downed glass after glass at fifteen-minute intervals. I’d heard that drinking that stuff was the hardest part.
Katie aired her colonoscopy in 2000, but I just learned about it in 2019, days before mine. When my mom told me, I was like, “Damn, I was scooped.”
Lord knows, no one cares about my insides, but I was jealous of her publicity stunt. It reminded me of Sandra Tsing Loh, an essayist, author, and solo-show performer who I want to model myself after. Sandra busted onto the scene in the late 80s after she did a piano concert next to the Harbor Freeway. Six speakers blasted her music five blocks. Hundreds of thousands of people stuck in LA traffic heard her play. For years I’ve been searching for an attention-grabbing idea like hers or Katie’s.
Then I learned Katie’s husband died of colon cancer and my whole attitude changed. The colonoscopy wasn’t a publicity stunt for her own popularity. Katie was already famous. She used her fame for good because colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer for both men and women.
Last year, Katie got Jimmy Kimmel to have a public colonoscopy. When Katie did it, colonoscopies went up 20%, which the media called the Couric effect. She was hoping for a Jimmy Kimmel effect.
I watched both of their procedures, which meant delving six feet into their bowels with a small movie camera. Both had clean, lovely colons that looked like sea creatures.
Will I ever be someone who can influence millions of people with a movie of my colon?
I started drinking my version of Nulytely last night at 6:00 p.m. and spent most of the night on the toilet. A few times, I almost didn’t make it.
Now, I’m up at 6:00 a.m. sitting at my kitchen table drinking my second round. It’s dark outside. My dog’s at my feet. My wife is still sleeping. My kids are still sleeping. My stomach gurgles. I was never that kid who couldn’t eat her green beans, but every sip makes me gag.
I get a cramp and as I rush to the bathroom, I catch a glimpse of the quilt on the wall, the one my mom made for our wedding. I run past the old-fashioned hutch we used as Sebastian’s changing table. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the candlesticks we got in Israel for Tashi’s Bat Mitzvah.
I see all I have.
I want the Andrea Askowitz effect, but mostly I just want a healthy colon.
This is №43 of my #weeklyessaychallenge. Besides the usual things that come with turning 50, like a colonoscopy, I gave myself a 50-essays-in-a-year challenge.