“Be Healthy” is the sixth of the Six Simple Rules for a Better Life. In most places, including here, most “be healthy” attention is paid to eating well and exercising. Another topic I always cover in speaking engagements is “knowing your numbers.”

The numbers referred to are those such as cholesterol and blood pressure, which are among the indicators of good (or ill) health. If you know your numbers, you will be able to address issues needing attention.

If you have health insurance, routine annual physicals, including the tests to determine your numbers, are included at no cost to you. There is no good excuse for not knowing your numbers!

I’m 51 years old, and once you turn 50, a colonoscopy is prescribed every five years. I had mine last week.

The idea of a colonoscopy tends to cause fear. As result, people avoid the procedure, which can be a horrible mistake. Colon cancer caught early is highly treatable, and when left unchecked, deadly.

A common post-colonoscopy refrain is, “The procedure itself was nothing (you sleep through it), but the prep sucked.”

So, let’s talk about the prep. Each doctor may require a slightly different prep. This was mine:

The day before was a clear, liquid diet (and nothing red). I chose to drink a liter of coconut water during my ride to work. I drank tea and cold water during the morning, and about a quart of clear broth for lunch.

Step two is drinking a laxative. I left work a bit early and headed home to begin drinking it. It’s important to be at home at that point because pretty soon after you start drinking it, you begin to need to make frequent, sudden trips to the bathroom. As my (also age 51) best friend told me, from the information package he received before his procedure, “You’re going to be experiencing high-volume, high-velocity diarrhea.”

The laxative drink itself wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t very appealing. The doctor’s office recommended sucking lollipops between glasses (as long as the lollipops weren’t red). I chose to suck on blue and green Jolly Ranchers between each of the 16 eight-ounce drinks.

Numerous “elimination swears” (and jokes) later, I went to bed.

The next morning, my wife drove me to the doctor’s office for the procedure. I got undressed, put on a hospital gown, got into a hospital bed, and was rolled into the procedure room where I was given a sedative. The next thing I knew, I woke up 20 minutes later and the procedure was done.

The doctor’s office called my wife to come get me, I recovered in the bed and then a chair, and I sipped a glass of tea they gave me. The doctor told me the exam showed no abnormalities, thank goodness. I got dressed, went home, and had something to eat—and that’s that for five more years.

I wrote about my friend Ellen in my book. Ellen tragically died from colon cancer at 40. In blog she posted during her illness, each March during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month she talked about the importance of screenings. “Colorectal cancer,” Ellen explained, “is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the US (after lung cancer)…a colonoscopy is not so bad. But discovering colon cancer at a late stage is.”

Please, as Ellen urged, if you are 50 or older, get a screening, or if you are younger with unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, or if you have a family history of colorectal cancer.

And please join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,