Some doctors have too much time on their hands. When you’re feeling quite well they go looking and testing for things you aren’t suffering from. They call that preventive medicine. (I call it preventative medicine.) My wife calls it meddling.
Year ago I advised my wife to have a colonoscopy. I offered to refer her to a bottom surgeon, a lovely bloke, quite exceptional in his trade. She declined.
I persisted: “Look, he’s gentle, kind…”
“I know all that. I’ve known him for longer than you have. I knew him when he was a medical student.”
“Then why not see him as a doctor?”
“No! I had the hots for him back then.”
“So? That’s not a disqualification, is it? Was he your boyfriend?”
“Did he know you had the hots for him?”
“So, why not see a great surgeon and a nice guy who never knew how you felt?”
“I don’t want someone looking at my bottom whom I felt that way about.”
My wife sacked me as her GP and consulted a stranger who sent her bottom to a second stranger.
What goes around comes around and bites you on the bum.
I reached the age of fifty and saw my own GP for a spot of preventative medicine. She said: “You’re Jewish aren’t you?”
I confessed I was. I had the scar to prove it.
“And you are Ashkenazi. You are in a high risk group for colon cancer. I’ll arrange a colonoscopy.”
I wasn’t keen. My wife had told me about the two-litre laxative drink that preceded the examination.
I bargained and we settled for the faecal occult blood test. She handed me a request slip that read:
Test requested: FOBT
Clinical Notes: 50 y.o. male Ashkenazi Jew.
I pictured myself lugging my specimen back to the lab in a shoebox.
I turns out they aren’t that greedy: two smudges would do.
The instructions and restrictions were detailed and grotesque. Being a doctor I didn’t read the leaflet too closely. Didn’t need to. I knew how to “produce a specimen”.
Next morning I awoke early, took my blood pressure tablets and my 100mg of aspirin and felt the urge for an early morning donation. I fought it off as I applied the Glad Wrap, discovering a happy concordance between the width of the wrap and the diameter of the bowl. (Is that cosmic chance or commercial cabal?)
I emptied my bladder elsewhere. (I don’t know what you are supposed to do if you don’t have a garden. Or if you are female.) Finally I donated. Then I selected, daubed, closed, sealed, dated.
Then I forgot about the entire project. Three weeks later I got around to Specimen No. 2. I collected this and followed the earlier steps. With a light heart and a sense of virtuous health I delivered my daubs to Specimen Collection. Specimen Collection perused the paperwork, checked the dates. And rejected my specimens. Uncertain whether to be outraged or humiliated I asked why. “Dates too far apart.”
I never knew poo had a use-by date.
Back to the beginning. My specimens were collected in timely relationship and delivered to Specimen Reception. I waited in quiet triumph. Specimen Collection had some questions but wasn’t happy with my truthful and humbly virtuous replies. She asked: Did you eat carrot in the three days preceding each of the dates?
Did you brush your teeth the evenings prior?
I am sorry but the lab cannot accept these specimens. Even a single violation voids the accuracy of the technique. Two violations are quite out of the question.
Look, ma’am – very politely, showing some of those teeth in a sweet smile – I am a doctor. I believe I understand the test. I’ll accept responsibility for any inaccuracy.
Sir, we are dealing here with cancer, with human life. The laboratory cannot compromise.
She handed me a new collection set. I stopped by the supermarket for more Glad Wrap and returned to my squat. Carrotless days and unbrushed evenings dawdled by. My teeth turned brown and my fibre-freed stools tore their way out. I sampled my moon rocks and I collected two specimens, a day apart. And returned to Specimen Collection.
With a lovely smile of her own Specimen Collection thanked me and said, See you next year, Doctor.
Er, thanks. Yes.
Oh, by the way, you aren’t taking aspirin are you?