Aging Gracefully (Or Not): The colonoscopy

Aging Gracefully (Or Not): The colonoscopy

Natalie Gelman

In 2006 my former father-in-law, Jesse, was hospitalized after falling at home. He had fallen on more than one occasion and my mother-in-law, Florence, was not able to get him up. She was 89. Medicare was not going to cover most of the in-home care he required. There was no one to help with showering, dressing, etc. Eventually, he ended up in a nursing home to get the care he needed. There simply was no way they could afford to keep him at home.

Jesse was an easygoing, kind and loving man. He adjusted to living in the nursing home as well as could be expected. I regretted no longer living in Michigan because he was not able to get out of the nursing home as often as would have been desired. He required a wheelchair, and there were not people available to provide him adequate assistance to go out for a meal.

He did play the piano for the guests and residents. He was in pain, but medical marijuana helped. He died as a resident there.

When there is a physical issue, we react with more anxiety than we had when we were younger. We experience our bodies as being more fragile, and we become concerned about what each event will mean as a time goes by.

I will be having my colonoscopy on Wednesday, and for the first time I can recall, I am feeling anxious or worried about having a medical procedure. This is not to say I am ever relaxed when I am having a crown done at the dentist, but I have not been worried about the outcome.

I am attributing this to the amount of medical contacts I have had in recent months. I have been very healthy in my life and have not often been to a doctor besides a regular checkup. I've had few sicknesses, and nothing to cause concern until my accident. But that was an accident, and I was not aware enough when there was the thought that I might not live. Thus, I was not worried.

Last fall I had the prolapsed bladder and ended up having surgery for that and a hysterectomy just because the doctor was operating in that area. I was not worried during that entire event. Then my face swelled and I discovered I had an abscess in my mouth, which was attributed to a tooth requiring a root canal. I had that. Then my blood pressure rose and my medication was changed. Then my cholesterol rose and my medication was changed. Then I went for a bone density test, suggested because of my age as was the colonoscopy, and I was diagnosed with osteoporosis in my back and hip. I was given another medication to take, which I discovered made deterioration of my jaw a possibility. I had to notify my dentist that I am on this medication.

And now the colonoscopy. Preparing for it does not concern me. I told my brother that I would be having it, and he told me he has one every couple of years because they keep finding polyps. I hope that is not genetic, as the high blood pressure and cholesterol are. The latter two do not concern me; they have always been controlled easily with medication. But I do not want to face having polyps and needing more frequent testing. And I do not want to face a worse diagnosis like colon cancer.

I have never had this type of concern before and I believe it is due to too many physical concerns in too short a span of time.

Aging has its difficulties. With other stresses in my life, I am not interested in testing my limit in terms of how much I can handle.

For many, the physical problems occur while other difficult issues are happening in their lives: deaths, financial stress, needing to move, family concerns. The physical concerns can limit activity and availability, more so than might have been the case when younger.

Natalie Gelman can be contacted at Her web site is