Selfies for the Golden Age Set

Aging has many benefits, but the proctologist adding to your photo album is not one of them.



Karen B. Jones

   My physician was pointing to a color photograph and talking. But I wasn’t listening. I couldn’t. My brain was fixated on what was on the four corners of the 4-by-6 picture. It was a color snapshot of a pinkish tunnel whose surface revealed small bumps like tiny balloons. One nagging thought kept returning to my mind.

   “This is my colon?” And a second question: “How did he get a camera up there?”  

  He kept talking.

   “So this is a polyp and it’s nothing to be concerned about, but I would recommend getting follow-ups…”

   I interrupted him. “So this was taken during the colonoscopy?”

   He nodded and paused. These days there are selfies everywhere, including many places horribly inappropriate, like funerals. Why not your anus?  OK.

   He finished up and handed it to me.

   “See you in five years,” he said.

   I stuck it in my jacket and went about my business. A couple weeks later I was fishing around in the pocket and pulled it out.

   In church. During the homily.

   Ever had your mind switch from the fishes and the loaves to, well, you know?

   I didn’t think so.  

   I got home, retrieved it and decided it needed a home. But where? In the recycle bin?

   Fast forward five years: “Matt, as your colon specialist, if I could just compare your earlier photograph of the colon, I can tell you if you are at risk of cancer. Did you bring it?”

   Crickets. 

   Other options — save it in some file drawer to mingle with CVS coupons? From there it will get tossed in a storage bin. Fifty years from now when I’m gone and they have an estate sale, some yet-unborn grandkid will come across it and mistake it for a screenshot from a computer game: Clans and colons.

  “Man, Grandpa was a cool dude. He must have been a gamer!”

   Save it in a photo book?

   “So here are photos from our baby’s first birthday. And then, turning page, we have – OMG! What is that?”

   Put it in a file cabinet with a label that I happily will leave to your imagination? 

   Scan it and save it on my computer? And when I take the CPU to Best Buy for service, someone from the Geek Squad will entertain the staff about the horrors of colonoscopy prep.

   “What a loser this guy must be!”  

   Turns out, some have found uses for these internal selfies. Colon photos have their own Facebook page with 2,300 likes.

   Mine is not one of them.

   For sure, “good colon health” has infiltrated our culture — think of endless ads about probiotic yogurts and their role in promoting a healthy “digestive system.”   

   In this age of oversharing, naturally, Twitter is brimming with tweets about colonoscopies, including photos. I found one with someone comparing their pre- and post-colon shots after the Paleo diet and then boasting how good his healthy colon feels. Other people paraded their pink colons, promising to post photos — or not — if they got followers, favorites or retweets.  

   And so, with no clear idea of what to do, I took the image to the office and tossed it in my desk drawer.

   Fast-forward a couple years when the focus shifted from one part of my body to another. After I had my knee scoped, I was at the post-operative visit with my ortho, Dr. Mark Rasmussen.

   The consultation went fine and at the end he paused and said, “Let me show you some photos of your knee. I have a couple of them here.” 

   My wife crowded over me.

   “This is your torn meniscus.”

   It looked like thick white sheets squeezed between opaque molding.

   “This is normal. Now this is angry tissue,” pointing to another picture.  “This is wear and tear, blah blah yada yada.”

   It was white noise. I counted 25 photos.  

   As we turned to walk out, he extended his hand with the prints.

   “These photos are yours to keep.”

   Here we go again.