JPS team member has a Valentine’s Day date with … a gastroenterologist?

February 26th, 2018

JPS photographer Kevin Fujii recently had a colonoscopy, a health screening that could save your life by detecting – and allowing doctors to treat -- a deadly form of cancer before it’s too late. Far too many people avoid the procedure because they’re afraid it will be painful or embarrassing. But Kevin, who enjoys finding the lighter side of things, decided he was going to embrace it by taking care of himself and the people he loves on Valentine’s Day.


Here is his story:

Some folks celebrate Valentine’s Day with flowers or chocolates. I had a colonoscopy.

What better way to my heart, though, than through good health? 

While many of you may think I’m too young to undergo this preventative screening, thanks for the compliment. But I’m not. My family has a history of colon cancer. My dad was in his mid-50s when he was diagnosed with the disease. My older brother recently had a colonoscopy and some pre-cancerous polyps were discovered. I’d be foolish not to get a screening.

The American Cancer Society ranks colorectal cancer third in cancer-related deaths. So, 11 years after my first colonoscopy, it was time to scope things out again. With my sophomoric disposition, potty humor is always a royal flush. So, I enthusiastically embraced the procedure – and the preparation, too -- as a special Valentine’s Day treat.

After setting up an appointment, I was given a set of instructions, laxatives and a prescription for a cleansing drink. My first colonoscopy didn’t come with such stringent pre-procedure instructions, so I was a little bit surprised. Starting five days before my appointment, I had to stop eating nuts, corn and popcorn. Patients must also discontinue taking fiber supplements. One day before the procedure, I was on a strict, clear-liquid diet as the laxatives did their thing.

One important tip I learned during my first colonoscopy: Always schedule your appointment as early in the morning as you can so you don’t have to be hungry all day while you wait for it to happen. By design, my appointment was at 6:30 a.m. If I had to wait until the afternoon, I would have been hungry and grumpy. Instead, when I would have been famished, I was sleeping.

The endoscopy center was very modern. I signed in and was called to the back where my vitals were taken. I changed into a patient gown and lied on the bed. Some pads were affixed to my chest to monitor my heart rate and breathing and a blood-pressure cuff was added. I felt pretty relaxed. But my blood pressure said otherwise; it registered a bit higher than normal.

A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) came in and talked with me about the anesthesia and inserted the intravenous catheter (IV). Within five minutes, I was wheeled into the procedure room where the CRNA had me roll over to my right side and put a line of oxygen to my nose. The GI doctor came in, everyone in the procedure room introduced themselves and told me their role. Then, with a wink, the CRNA said “Here comes the good stuff. Goodnight.”

The procedure took about 20 minutes and 25 minutes later, I was coming out of the anesthesia. My lovely wife, Reneé, was in the recovery room with me, getting final instructions when I tried to talk for the first time after going under. I thought I was hilarious and, as I lied there slowly regaining my faculties, I insisted everyone bend down to my level as I spoke so they didn’t miss a word of my seemingly witty banter.

I was trying to use my sense of humor to my advantage. But, through the silly jokes and comments, what struck me about the procedure was the professionalism of the gastroenterologist, certified registered nurse anesthetist, RN and endoscopy staff. They all kept their composure and focus, despite the fact that the anesthesia made me an interesting patient, to say the least.

According to my wife, I gabbed incessantly in my sedated state. The amount of words that spewed from my mouth and the contents of my one-sided conversation raised more than a few eyebrows while she shook her head and rolled her eyes in disbelief. The medical professionals tending my recovery politely agreed with all of my anesthesia-induced gibberish – including my Valentine’s Day proclamation that I wanted to draw a heart on my hiney and post a photo of it on social media. Such pros, they went about their serious business and made sure Reneé had the information we needed. She was informed about the excellent results – no polyps or tumors – and that I didn’t need to come back for five years for another colonoscopy.

The best part of the experience was the relief that came with receiving a clean bill of health. But a close second was that I was allowed to eat immediately afterward. Renee and I headed for one of our favorite restaurants where we celebrated. I broke my fast with a breakfast feast that included a couple of eggs, some hash browns, biscuits and gravy and several cups of coffee with a cinnamon roll to go.

Not everyone shares my kind of sense of humor. But they don’t have to have an uncomfortable experience while taking care of this important health screening. Getting a colonoscopy isn’t a difficult or painful thing to do. Am I embarrassed about my anesthesia-induced ramblings? No way. I’ll have those stories – with many details I can’t share here -- to tell forever. Or at least until my next screening.

Thinking of my first colonoscopy 11 years ago, Reneé, then, my fiancée, heard me say some goofy things which might have been a deal-breaker in a relationship without the strength to last. I’m glad to report that, not only did my colon pass the test, our marriage is still going strong, too.

We celebrate our 11th anniversary on April 1 this year, April Fools Day. So, don’t be a fool. Get your own check-up for yourself -- and for those who love you.

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