Happy SMART Day Everyone!
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” so begins Charles Dickens classic novel, “A Tale of Two Cities.” But that statement and the major themes of the story apply to most of the experiences of every person on the planet on a regular basis. Do we allow the tragedy, inequity and oppression of life’s circumstances to beat us down—or like some characters in the book, do we reach for resurrection and transformation? Even situations as routine or pedestrian as a colonoscopy offer us each of us a similar choice. It’s SMART to always remember that decision is up to us.
I’m sorry to say I’m no stranger to colonoscopies. Back in 2005 and then in 2006 I experienced two of them with two different doctors attempting to heal a related health issue. During the first colonoscopy, I was diagnosed with a rather sticky diagnosis that persisted to the present day. Although I believed it to be in error, that early diagnosis hindered my ability to change insurance companies and shop for better rates. Now, all these years later I was having other symptoms I wanted checked out, and I also planned to clear my health record of that earlier misdiagnosis.
In case there is actually someone out there who doesn’t know what a colonoscopy is—here’s a quick version. A colonoscopy is when a doctor uses a scope with a camera to go up inside your colon all the way to your large intestine to check it out. Obviously, this can be uncomfortable, or down right painful. That’s why during the procedure you are always given a sedative of some sort. Plus, in order for the doctor to see things properly, you must drink some disgusting solution beforehand, which effectively removes everything from your entire digestive track in the matter of a few hours. In most cases, the preparation for the procedure can actually be more unpleasant than the colonoscopy itself. Once the test is over it takes a couple of hours for the sedative to leave your system and then you can return to eating and go on with your life. Why would you put yourself through this? Anyone who has a family history of colon cancer is highly motivated—plus, it is also considered a recommended preventative screening for everyone over the age of 50. If you catch something early it is nearly always curable…if not, it can be fatal.
In November of last year, I made an appointment for a colonoscopy with Dr. Lee* (not his real name). This time the prep was fairly easy with a series of pills and lots of water. Because I’d done it all before I wasn’t nervous when we showed up at the clinic. But it wasn’t long before the similarities took a dramatic turn. Not only was I not sedated before the procedure began; the pain was pretty much unbearable. Dr. Lee’s first response was to give me three times the normal sedative to eliminate the pain, which unfortunately was too much too late. Then, rather than wait for the massive sedatives to take effect, he aborted the procedure. After that, I was so drugged that Thom had to dress me, drive me home and put me to bed for five hours to sleep it off. Waking up the next day with a somewhat clear head, I did not have a colonoscopy and the entire cost rang in at about $1,000.00. I later learned that the early termination of the vast majority of colonoscopies generally comes when the doctor is inexperienced with either the procedure or sedation.
So, what does any of this have to do with you? I believe that every one of us has challenging stuff happen every day. Sometimes it is things we actually planned (like me and my colonoscopy), or sometimes stuff just happens. In either case, how we choose to view it, and what we choose to do about it, is always our decision. Remember in my last post when I talked about how all our pain and suffering comes when we struggle with “I WANT—I don’t WANT?” Yep, this definitely qualifies.
I’d like to say I kept my mind completely calm and peaceful in the days and weeks that followed, but it did get ugly a few times. When I fully realized that I was going to have to pay for a painful and incomplete test, and then do it all again, I wasn’t a happy camper. But the other part of me, the SMART part, realized that being upset about the inevitable was not a beneficial use of my time, energy and peace of mind. Being angry couldn’t change what happened. Instead of feeling frustration, I could instead be very thankful that I had the financial resources to absorb the cost, the continuing support of a loving spouse, and the lack of any true pain or disability to face. So, I found another doctor and scheduled a new procedure.
Not surprisingly, my new doctor suggested that I use a more effective sedative that guaranteed that I would be asleep during the procedure and feel no pain. I endured the prep experience knowing that it would soon be over, and Wednesday I went in for my second colonoscopy in three months. While not without its discomfort, the sedative worked like a champ and when the procedure was complete, I woke up and my mind began to process almost immediately. The doctor explained that he was able to fully complete the test and that everything appeared fine. The difference between the two experiences was night and day.
While I sincerely hope that you never have to have a colonoscopy to know the difference, it is SMART for us all to remember that stuff happens and we have a choice about how we will handle it. Of course, just because we find ourselves in circumstances that are oppressive or inequitable, that doesn’t mean that we stand by passively and just accept the situation. You can be sure that I protested the actions (or lack thereof) of my first doctor in every way possible. The true test is remaining peaceful while taking whatever actions are available and then letting go of any outcome.
The first chapter of Dickens’s book, “A Tale of Two Cities” is titled “Recalled To Life.” Not only does the theme of resurrection and transformation occur in the novel several times, it is an excellent reminder that every day we are “recalled to life” when we let go of anything that drags us down and holds us back from living a happy and fulfilled life. Sometimes we face huge and daunting experiences like the death of a loved one or severe loss of health. Sometimes it is someone saying the wrong thing, losing a job or a medical procedure gone awry. In all cases, we have the opportunity in every moment to renew our thinking and choose happiness.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” –Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities”
“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference” –Robert Frost
Photo by: ASFDAP at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/asfdap/5505668299/sizes/m/in/photostream/