“Mrs. Walters? Mrs. Mariah Walters?” It’s one of those computer generated voices on the phone.
“I need to verify that I’m talking to the correct person. Please state your birthdate after the beep.” Oh foo it’s the Medicare Advantage people. Turn 65, sign up for Medicare and get a new mom. Ever since they figured out it’s cheaper to prevent disease, I get calls at least once a month. Refill this. Get that checked. It never ends and – it’s a good thing. I feel loved.
“February 29th” and I give the year.
“Click” and a real voice comes on the line.
“Good. We here at your health insurance company have noticed that you have never been tested for colon cancer. We would like to remind you that your father and his brothers had colon cancer. You are high risk.” It’s like big brother. They know everything about you.
“Oh fat chance that I’m going to let anyone near my hind end – cancer or no.”
“We will pay all expenses for the test and give you a gift card for $75 to the retailer of your choice. May we schedule you for an appointment now?”
“Okay.” I stare at the phone after hanging up. What have I done? I am not good with doctors and medical tests. Possibly due to when I was a kid and had mono. I hated the six months of weekly finger stick blood tests. Hey, I’ve been known to escape part way through the process. Sometimes on the way to the appointment. I seem to reach a tolerance limit and then a flight instinct kicks in and away I go.
“Mother?” It’s Faith my oldest daughter on the phone. She has this uncanny way of calling me right when I need her. “What have you done?”
“I’m not sure sweetheart. I think I just made an appointment to see a doctor about a colonoscopy.”
“Oh good God, Mother. When?” See she knows me way too well.
“This afternoon at three.” When they say now they mean – now.
I’m feeling very distant from things. Like I’m fading into the wall where no one will find me, especially the doctor police.
“I’ll meet you there. Don’t be late. We’ll do dinner afterwards and you can choose the restaurant.” Click. I think Faith has accepted she must now fill Al’s shoes in ensuring my attendance at these things.
Al, my late husband, used to take me to the doctor’s offices and tests at the hospital. He knew I’d reach my limit and would block the door to stop me from fleeing sometimes still wearing one of those weird blouse things they call a gown. I did get by him once. He kept yelling, “Did they say you were finished?” Then he got smart. “The car keys are in your purse back in the changing area.” A quick “u” turn and I was headed back past him when I realized he was holding my handbag. At that moment, a nurse scooped me up in a wheelchair and hustled me into the test area for the finish. Dang! Of course the results were fine. Nothing bad showed up except maybe a hiatal hernia in my stomach and some blastomas (benign) in my lungs on another occasion. Nothing to get worried over.
“Mrs. Walters?” The nurse at the reception desk looks up at me with an innocent smile. She’s got the instruments of torture ready in a back room. I know it.
“The doctor will be right with you.”
I turn and head for the doorway to the hall and it’s blocked by Faith. She points to a chair. “Sit.” She hands me her Kindle open to a game of Spider Solitaire half finished. She knows I have to complete it.
“The doctor will see you now.” I freeze. Make like a statue. Maybe…
“Mom” Faith tugs on my arm, “Go. I’ll be right here. It’ll be fine.”
The doctor goes over the preparation directions. “Now then you can only eat items listed on this sheet the morning before the test,” I notice vanilla wafer cookies. This can’t be that bad can it, if I get to eat cookies? “And nothing after noon except water and cola drinks. At six you have to drink some medicine and follow the directions on the package. We’ll see you Monday early in the morning. You need to have someone drive you. Enjoy your afternoon.”
Faith and I head out to the most expensive dinner place I can afford.
“You need to drive me next Monday, Doctor says.” I take a bite of my triple cheese burger.
“Mom,” Faith mumbles around her chicken finger. “Aren’t you going to Lynn’s for the weekend? Some thing about walking around the Detroit Zoo Sunday morning?”
Lynn is my youngest daughter and mother of my grandsons. “I’ll have to come back on Sunday afternoon then.”
“Have fun with Lynn and the kids. I’ll be by to stay the night and run you to the testing center the next morning.”
Vanilla wafers. I must keep the thought of vanilla wafers in my mind. Faith runs me by the drug store to pick up the package of medicine.
“This stuff tastes awful. Put it in the refrigerator. The colder it is the better. I tell you when I had to take this stuff, I just wanted to barf.” Ginny behind the counter tells me all of this in confidence. “Between you and me, this is the worst part of the whole thing. You tell Lynn hi for me and congrats on the new babe. Hey Faith. Good to see you. Lunch next Tuesday?”
“Sure.” Faith drags me from the store and into the car. We drive home past newly planted fields. Tootsie Too, my mini dachshund, greets me at the door. He obviously appreciates the ordeal I have just gone through. Maybe he senses the torture to come? Lex my guardian gargoyle snorts a small burst of smoke.
“See you Sunday.” Faith waves as she leaves. “You’ll survive.”
Molly, my housekeeping goblin mother takes the medication from my hand and puts it in the frig. “It’s for the best good lady.” She shudders and writes extra butt wipes on her shopping list. I found her and her family in a closet back at Christmas. Best present ever.
I make my way to the bedroom where I pack for the trip north tomorrow. Curling up on the bed I begin a Buffy marathon to get to morning. She is so evil to Spike. Okay he’s sleazy.
Toots and I are off to Detroit today. I load Sweet Pea up with luggage and gifts. The dachsie hops in the back and I buckle him up. Swinging into the driver’s seat, I press the ignition and Sweet Pea starts up. Lex and all the goblins are waving us off in the front yard.
I’m falling asleep before we clear the neighborhood. Having a self driving car is wonderful. Luckily, I figured out how to look awake in High School Chemistry which may be why I remember so little of it today.
“Mom. Mom?” It’s Lynn shaking me awake.
We’re here already? Wonderful. “Faith was telling me you have to have a test on Monday? What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“It’s just a colonoscopy. My dad had cancer and the insurance company is insisting I get checked.”
“Oh I had one. It’s nothing. But the stuff tastes awful. That was the worst.”
“Everyone keeps saying that. It’s not making me feel good about this. You know how I am about tests and doctors.”
“Faith has it in hand.”
“Where’s my grandchildren?” I head for the house.
“Oma! Tootsie!” I’m being tackled by a three year old linebacker.
“Jimmie my sweetie how are you?”
“Mommy says you have to have a test and drink some nasty stuff.”
“I’ll be fine. We all have to drink some nasty stuff in this life. Let’s go kick that soccer ball around I saw you take out of Sweet Pea’s trunk.” He drags me to the kitchen to give Tootsie Too some water and I spy a box of vanilla wafers on top of the frig. Good I’m all set.
He wears me out playing soccer in record time. I sit and chat with him while he plays in his sand box. My mind roams forward to the test on Monday and getting everything right on Sunday. I keep imagining the doctor shoving something up my ass and my hands move to protect it. What if the reflection spell goes off? This will not be good. In a moment of stupidity, I set that up and it’s been causing problems ever since. It shouldn’t trigger unless he’s intending to do harm.
After supper I hold my new grand baby Carl and whisper to him.”Don’t let anyone near your back side. It could be painful. You listen to your Oma now. I’m telling you this could get really bad when they try to do the test. Whatever you do, don’t weave a reflection spell like your Oma. Well you’re a boy so you shouldn’t have these problems but you never know. Maybe I can call in sick and miss the whole thing.”
“Mother!” It’s Lynn reaching for my sweet Carl. “You have to get this done. What if you have cancer? We can’t lose you too. Bad enough Dad died four days before Jimmy was born and now he’ll never know about Carl. We need you. I’d be devastated if anything happened to you.”
“I’m fine. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Let’s get these kids to bed. Tomorrow we’ll go shopping. You will get this test done Monday and put our minds at rest until the next time.”
Saturday is going well. We shop for toys making Jimmie happy and trot Tootsie Too around the block. I hope Sunday goes as smoothly.
Carl wakes me early and I’m good with this. I get to eat vanilla wafers. I dress for the walk. Enter the kitchen and grab the box. It’s empty. Just my luck.
“Oh we ate those yesterday.”
I hang my head. I have no words. I settle for a plain bagel.
The walk goes well and we are back on the road for home by noon. I enjoyed the visit with Lynn even if they ate all the cookies. Sweet Pea pulls into the garage with a half hour grace to start the nasty stuff.
Oddly the house seems empty. A note on the kitchen island informs me the goblins are spending the night with my neighbors. Lex has joined them. So it’s just Toots and me until Faith gets here. I begin the process. The medicine tastes foul. I think it’s supposed to be grape flavored. The directions read “two sixteen ounce glasses of water to follow in a half hour. Drink the rest of the medicine at ten followed by another two sixteen ounce glasses of water in a half hour.” “Here we go Toots.” I start the process. “Well that was’t too bad. It was just gagatrocious.”
I feel a familiar sensation in my lower gut and move quickly to the bathroom. I sit on the john and have a total dump of everything I may have possibly eaten in the last several months. Molly has stocked the room with several packages of cleansing tissues aka butt wipes as well as toilet paper – the big rolls. Magazines are stacked within easy reach. So far so good. I clean up and stand. Maybe I’ll go get my iPad and watch some … I sit again. This goes on all night. My butt is getting very sore. Tootsie disappears outside somewhere around the first or second round.
I watch the TV on the wall in the room across the hall. Of course I forgot the remote. Late night early morning TV is awful.
“You still in there?” Faith arrives. “It’s about time to go.”
“I thought you were coming last night.”
“Ha, I know better. The stink is awful. Now get in the car.”
“Is it safe?”
We get in Sweet Pea who is in cahoots with the doctor and daughter. He drives us directly to the hospital. I’m looking for opportunities to escape. I settle for “tooting” the whole way. Just to let them know I know they know I’m down with wrong turns. We arrive and a volunteer greets us at the door and escorts us to the testing area. No chance for a fade.
My daughter the traitor gives me up to the test area receptionist.
“We’re all ready for you. Wait here while I let them know you’ve arrived.” She disappears through a door.
If I’m making a break for it, now’s my chance. “Where the restroom?” I innocently ask the volunteer.
“It’s through that door over there and to the right. Have a good day.” She leaves.
I check what Faith is doing and see she’s busy at the fish tank. Now’s my chance. I travel across the waiting room at speed. A maniacal smile crosses my face. I want to sing that old gospel hymn “Freedom”. I’m making my escape. I have the door in sight. Two more steps and I’m out of here.
“Mother seriously! You went through all that time on the can last night and you’re going to throw that away by escaping? You’ll just have to do it again until you get this done. The insurance company will keep calling. What did they promise you that you got this started? Are you willing to give that up?” I know that voice. It’s Ann my middle daughter. Faith is holding up her phone on speaker and pointing it at me. She ratted me out. I turn around and walk back to where the nurses are waiting for me. The image of the $75 gift card is dangling before my eyes. I’m a sell-out to a retail card. I understand I get the money if I do this and yet my instinct is to run.
They escort me back to the test area with Faith chatting cheerily with the nurses. I’m hooked up to some machines.
“Now take a deep breath and let it out.” One of the staff smiles down at me. “Again.”
“Mariah? Wake up Mariah. We’re all done. Did you enjoy your nap?”
I’m done? No pain? I feel good. Indeed I feel happy.
“Mrs. Walters?” It’s the doctor. “We found a very tiny little polyp and took it out. We’ll test it but I doubt there’s any cancer. We’ll see you again in five years.”
“See Mom,” Faith gives me a poke. “Nothing to it. So where are you taking me to lunch? The movie you wanted to see is playing at the mall.”
I’m feeling very happy. It’s a great day. We exit to a chorus of farts from the surrounding rooms.
Next week – a mammogram. I hope they don’t drop the machine on me like the last time fourteen years ago.