March 6, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Public colonoscopy has happy ending

By Bill Nemitz

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz underwent a colonoscopy at the Portland Gastroenterology Center on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, to bring attention to Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Performing the procedure, from left, is Dr. James Morse, and endoscopic technician Ben Emery.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

And most important: Colorectal cancer is "highly curable" if it's found and treated early.

So back to my colon.

Monday was "prep" day: no solid food, clear liquids only, a couple of laxatives here and there and a delectable mix of 238 grams of powdered Miralax and 64 fluid ounces of lemon-lime Gatorade.

"Look at the bright side," I told myself as I stirred my monster cocktail. "You've got two full hours to drink it."

And I had all night to get rid of it.

I awoke Tuesday morning with an empty feeling. Or as Cliff Schechtman, my ever-supportive executive editor, later put it, "Bill Nemitz: Unplugged."

By 10:30 a.m., staff photographer Gabe Souza and I were off to the gastro center on Congress Street.

By 11 a.m., I was surrounded by cameras and microphones: my trusty colleague Souza, Block and her WGME cameraman, "Catching Health" blogger Diane Atwood and Dave Pride, a photographer who works for Strang Burgess, all there to document the drama.

"What are you most nervous about?" Block asked gently.

"Where you're going to be standing," I replied tactfully.

Enter Dr. Morse, a genial fellow who explained that I would be administered "conscious sedation" throughout the procedure ("I'm a big fan," I replied) and that they would actually inflate my colon with air to get a better view (the Pillsbury Doughboy popped into my head).

"You're going to feel (the medication) go to your head pretty quickly," Morse advised. "That's normal."

I remember saying "OK."

Despite my mighty effort to maintain my journalistic integrity throughout the 22-minute procedure, the digital audio recorder I kept by my side has me in la-la land around two minutes and 30 seconds.

Meaning I missed the breaking news: Dr. Morse found a polyp!

Better yet, he snipped the apparent "precancerous" growth at its roots for shipment to a lab. They'll tell me in a week or so how much of a threat it is, was or could have been.

Which, I assume, was a good thing?

"You are the poster boy for colorectal cancer screening," Morse later told me. "Right there, what we did today. I don't know if that would have been a cancer, but it was possible. And now it can't be."

Tune into WGME-TV tonight at 5 and Kim Block will tell you about the parts I missed. And log onto around the same time for my prime-time adventure as seen through the talented eyes of Gabe Souza.


I'll be praying in advance for the countless Mainers who, unless they close their eyes and chug that Gatorade right now, someday will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

And I'll be thanking God I'm not one of them.


Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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