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Issue 12: March 2022
CNF: 816 words
By Linda Petrucelli

Things I Wish I Had Asked the Wizard of Wazoo


For most middle-aged adults, colorectal screening occurs once a decade. But I look forward to a colonoscopy every year now. A genetic counselor diagnosed me with Lynch Syndrome five years ago, after I tested positive for a pathogenic variant. Being positive in this case is actually kind of negative. For those who aren’t up to date on miscreant genes, a person with Lynch is at high risk for contracting colon cancer. Which is why, come every September, my calendar routinely shows a date with my gastroenterologist, Dr. Carlos, the Wizard of Wazoo.

In the cramped procedure room, the doctor is assisted by nurse Wendy and an anesthesiologist I call Dr. Feel Good. I know the process almost by heart. First, I roll onto my left side and the big computer screen lights up as the room darkens. Then Dr. Carlos tells me to Relax—while he inserts a lighted probe the length of a garden hose up my rectum. Lucky thing Dr. Feel Good is there.

Just before the procedure, inside a curtained cubicle where I wait my turn to be scoped, Dr. Carlos always makes a perfunctory, gurney-side visit. A quick meet-and-greet before Wendy wheels me in. And he always says...

“Do you have any questions?”

And I wish I could ask...

“Do I have time to go to the bathroom?”

Inevitably, this matter of my urge to pee comes up. I find being tethered to plastic tubes and beeping medical equipment a pretty effective diuretic. After five years being his patient, I wish I could be more direct with Dr. Carlos. After all, whenever we see one another, he always asks me to describe my poop. So, I’m not sure why I feel slightly shame-faced to ask him if I can quick go pee. Like the request is beneath him and I should direct that query to a female subordinate. I think this is due to my own failed feminism, pure and simple. But I always have to pee when I get scared and I’m always scared when I see Dr. Carlos.

“Do you have any questions?”

And I know I should ask...

“What if I screwed up the prep?”

Anyone who’s ever endured a colon screening will tell you that it’s not the actual procedure that’s a pain in the rear. It’s the prep. There’s the odd diet the day before. Everything yellow and clear—jello, popsicles, ginger ale. Then around 5 p.m. the purge begins. To properly clean the colon, a gallon of salty electrolytes must be downed in the space of ninety minutes. Soon, a 6.2 registers on the Richter Scale. Violent stomach cramps and diarrhea follow. The last time I did the cleanse, I set up my laptop on the bathroom vanity and watched reruns of The Closer while I swigged the foul-tasting Colyte, fended off bouts of nausea, and sprayed streams of excrement. How’s that for multi-tasking? And even though I scrupulously follow Dr. Carlos’ directions, I’m always worried that some pesky, unrelenting sludge will hide a cancerous polyp from the wizard’s wand.

“Do you have any questions?”

And I really want to ask...

“Should I be worried?”

I know having Lynch is not a death sentence. I may never contract colon cancer but the odds say that I’m at risk. Sometimes I wish I had never been tested. I could be doing all this screening and worrying for nothing. My niece encouraged me to pursue it when she went through genetic counseling. She was concerned about the Brca gene (which causes breast cancer) and learned instead that she tested positive for Lynch. The other day I read that there’s now a definitive test for Alzheimer’s. Would you want to know? At what age? I am still assessing. When it comes to my health, is ignorance bliss or knowledge power?

“Do you have any questions?”

I’m so curious but I’d never dare ask you...

“Dr. Carlos—do you ever get tired of your profession being the butt of so many jokes?”

“Hey, colon cancer is no laughing matter, not to me it’s not. But how great is it that your life’s work can offer such comic relief? Like that episode on Seinfeld when Kramer buys a 1973 Chevy Impala from a proctologist and the vanity plates read: ASSMAN. Do you know they sell copies of those plates on Amazon for $19.99?

“Your profession just seems to bring out the Shecky Green in people. What with the one-liners about Roto-rooter and all the specialized vocabulary—tochus, heinie, booty, keister. The sly comments about asses and elbows—and what a ‘shitty’ job you must have.

“But don’t let that bathroom humor bite you in the, well...you know. I’m counting on seeing you every September, with my asinine funny bone intact.”

Linda Petrucelli
Issue 12, March 2022

(she/her) is a writer obsessed with short form fiction and CNF. Her latest essays appear in Sky Island Journal, Barren, and Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, and are forthcoming in Parhelion. She won first place in the WOW! Women on Writing Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest and placed runner-up in the Santa Clara Review Fall 2021 Flash Nonfiction Contest. Linda lives on the Big Island of Hawaii where she writes and shares a lanai with one husband and ten cats.

Author’s website: https://lindapetrucelli.com/

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