The Gift at 50: The Cha-Cha Check

Shake, Shake, Shake.

At age 50 comes an invitation to own a shiny red AARP card, party hardy for a night and The Cha-Cha Check, aka, colonoscopy. “Cha-cha” is a cutesy euphemism my sister used for her hospital job for delicate parts and I rather like it in this delicate situation. Yes, in an off-hand way, it could be a dance move: Can’t shake the bootie if the insides don’t work.  Regardless, the thought of the scary procedure turns most people into an Ostrich with its head in the sand no matter what you call it. That described me when one of my docs broached the subject, passed on a card for a specialist and sent me on my way.

A year later, I still had my head in the sand but asked a few questions of my doc about alternatives. I stepped on dynamite.




Needless to say, I couldn’t verbalize my fear. His charged demeanor sent me running away from him and the icky procedure, until I couldn’t.

More and more people close to me were getting colon cancer, a worse fate than the procedure meant to protect us from the evil disease. My new doc knew how I felt.

“Just get it done. It’s not that bad.” She said gently.

“All right.”

A week before my appointment, I finally opened up the welcome packet my specialist sent me months earlier. I thought I was planning ahead, the worst being days and days away.

“Stop eating raw vegetables, nuts, seeds and high fiber foods,” was the first line of instructions, “for 10 days.”


I ran to Hubby’s home office, shaking the packet of instructions in my right hand. “This! This is UNBELIEVEABLE!”

Organic Man Hubby had the whole family on a 70% raw fruits and vegetable diet for years now. My morning toast was full of whole grains and flax seeds and chunky peanut butter.

“What am I supposed to eat?” I cried. Hubby read through more of the instructions.

“They suggest low fiber foods like chicken, fish and eggs.”

“I can do that.”

“White rice, white bread, and white flour pasta,” Hubby went on.

“RIDICULOUS! That’s a diet designed to give a person colon cancer.” I was going to find a way around this silly diet.

I called the scheduling office to voice my concerns. I kind of went off on the poor front line ladies.

“I’m supposed to eat like crap for ten days!?!” “This diet is IRONIC!” And then I channeled Organic Man Hubby, “The suggested clear liquid diet is full of toxins! Gatorade! Jello! Really?!?”

Well, one of the front-liners talked me off the cliff. I could start the diet five days before the procedure. Somehow the printed instructions missed that allowance. (Prep diets vary per physician.)

I told myself, “If I could eat this way back in the 70s, I could do it for a few days.” I hadn’t eaten a cooked carrot since last winter’s stew. Squishy white Wonder Bread was a treat even at age 10, almost like a candy bar. Now I had permission to eat in sin. I bought organic white bread, applesauce and eggs. The first morning, I flashed my slightly tanned and naked toast under Hubby’s nose, before slapping a fried egg on top instead of my usual chunky peanut butter.

Breakfast circa 1970

“Doesn’t this look delicious and nutritious?” I asked with a snicker.

“I sense a blog coming on,” he said with a smile.

My first lunch, I tried to eat a white bread sandwich stuffed with multiple varieties of cold cuts. Gag. The meats were too rich for me so I just ate the white bread. There had to be a better way.

One of the best sandwiches we ate in all of Italy during our visit last summer was a plain white rustic bread and prosciutto sandwich from the equivalent of a gas station. This was my super lunch treat for two days. I had a free pass to eat the best-imported prosciutto on a crusty baguette; it was something to look forward to during my “hardship” prep period.

Simply Delicious!

Then came the day to dine as if I had the flu: black coffee, tea, Gatorade, broth and green Jello. I gave up trying to find non-toxic alternatives for my liquid diet. Based on what I knew, none of it was going to stay in my system for long anyway. I stuffed myself silly with clear liquids; my friend told she was STARVING afterward.  Not me. I had more than enough.


The next phase of the day was the one everyone says is the worst part and presents the greatest fear. I was prepared. The suggested shopping list in my welcome packet included reading material. I took that to mean a couple of People Magazines and not Everything-You-Ever-Wanted-to-Know-About-Colonoscopies-But-Were-Afraid-to-Ask. If I could get through this, I was home free. I strategically placed my magazines in the bathroom and strapped on my track shoes. Ready.

Who knew tequila shots in college could prepare me for a moment like slamming prep juice for a cha-cha check? Seriously, biting into a lime wedge is supposed to make it easier. I will spare the rest of the details except to say, it’s everything to make an adolescent boy roll on the floor with uncontrollable laughter.

Surprisingly, the actual appointment was nice and almost as Nordstrom like as one could expect. Nurses waited on me hand and foot with blankets, IVs and compassion. They understood how frightened patients were of this procedure. One nurse fessed up she was due for a check and was equally as apprehensive as me. What a relief to know people in the business are fraidy cats too. It’s normal.

The doc wanted to meet me and insisted on calling me by my preferred name; she asked! She got it right the three times she said my name, “Francie” not ever Francine or Frances. Impressive! If she could pay attention to my preferred name, she was clearly fit to do the job in my book. The Yelp review was spot on: Dr. Higa was five-star.

As the nurse and anesthesiologist wheeled me into the procedure room, I couldn’t help but complement them on the royal treatment.

“I know this sounds weird, but I feel a bit like a princess at the moment.” How often is a mom waited on or wheeled anywhere?

Last thing I remember was getting a shot of sleeping juice in my IV and waking up from the deepest and best sleep ever. I wasn’t the first to comment on the magic of the sleeping juice to the nurse. Quality stuff but it’s not worth going through the procedure again.

I sleep better at night anyway. I finally did the cha-cha check and passed, a weight lifted. I can dance with confidence too, whether it’s the cha-cha, hustle or macrena–where I left off. I learned through my “bad a**” experience, it’s exactly like everyone says:

“It’s not that bad.”







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