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Getting Older or The Green Jell-o Diet


J. D. Pendry


I’m getting older I’m told.  Things are different.  I can’t run as far, lift as much or stay awake as long.  Over the years, I’ve quit chewing, quit smoking, practically quit drinking and have entirely too many aching body parts.  I no longer eat until I’m ready to explode and I look forward to afternoon naps when I can get them.  All of this of course, causes me to share with you yet another retirement woe.


I assure you that this one has nothing to do with concurrent receipt, Tricare or other things encountered by us old retired military codgers.  It also has nothing to do with my belief that the Secretary of Defense should be dribbled through the corridors of the Pentagon for suggesting that he’d recommend the Commander in Chief veto any Defense Authorization Act that expands Tricare coverage to Reserve and Guard soldiers or gives disabled retirees their full retirement benefits.  Nope, has nothing to do with any of that.  It has to do with getting older which I’ve found usually follows retirement and green Jell-o.


As a matter of convenience, my bride and I schedule our annual checkups with the doctor together each year.  It’s routine stuff.  We fast for blood tests.  He pokes, prods and listens.  He asks the same questions about weight loss or gain, dizzy spells, irregular bowel movements, etc., etc.  He instructs me to cough.  Then he tells me to cough again.  Then he tells me to bend over the table at which time he inserts into my rear end what feels like most of his arm.  He wallows it around in there for about 30 minutes, then says, “Prostate feels fine.”  To which I generally reply, “Prostate?  I thought you were trying to pick my nose.”  To which he never laughs. This year was a little different.  He looked at me and said, “So, you’re over 50 now.”  To which I mumbled an affirmative.  He then asked, “Have you ever had a colon cancer screening?”  “Nope”, I answered.  “Wellllll then, we need to have that done.  And we’ll get one for your wife too.”


As with all things Tricare, an authorization was required.  The doctor must send a referral to Tricare for approval before a procedure is done.  Otherwise, Tricare won’t pay.  It’s one of the reasons that doctors are not fond of Tricare.  That and the fact that it pays them less than the Medicare rates do.  Many of them don’t want anymore Medicare patients because the rates are so low and are not renewing their Tricare contracts.  The doctor did what was required and within a few days, Tricare sent authorizations in the mail.  I can’t remember them ever being so responsive.  Maybe that’s a good sign.  Shortly after that, the instructions from the doctor scheduled to perform the screening arrived in the mail.


The doctor’s instructions covered a two-day preparation period before the actual screening.  The highlight of the two days was a liquid diet.  In other words, chicken broth, Sprite, apple juice and Jell-o.  Since the instructions said not to eat anything red in color, my wife applied that rule to the Jell-o too.  So, I had green Jell-o.  I don’t like Jell-o and I especially do not like green Jell-o.  Do you know that Jell-o has no nutritional value?  It briefly relieves the hunger pangs, then, evaporates.  Besides that, it does not take away your animalistic desire to sink your teeth into something.  I also discovered that I’d rather drink a cup of melted lard than chicken broth.  First, it’s yellow.  Looks like a cup of fat, or worse.  Reading the label I discovered that it contained no calories, no carbohydrates, no protein, but 870 milligrams of sodium.  Like the Jell-o, its nutritional value equaled zero.  I should’ve eaten straight from the saltshaker instead.


Day one of the two-day preparation starts with an enema.  One would think that any day beginning with a self-inflicted enema could only improve.  That is only true if the Congress is the recipient of the enema.  Following the violent explosion that accompanies an enema, I figured I was OK.  So, like a good trooper I headed out on my 40 mile commute with my Jell-o, a couple of sprites and some chicken fat in my lunch box.  About mid-way of my commute, a feeling of panic started to creep over me and through my intestinal tract.  When I parked my F-150 at work, I was afraid to move fearing that any strain might bring on a secondary enema explosion.  I made my way gingerly into the building.  Fortunately, the men’s room is near the entrance.  I spent a good bit of the morning away from my desk. If your VA claim is somewhat delayed, blame it on Fleets enemas.  My raging innards calmed some by lunchtime.  I celebrated the calm by feasting on chicken sludge and green Jell-o.  Unfortunately, that was only act one of day one.


When I arrive home every evening, I generally have supper waiting.  My wife is great that way.  This day, I had another great big, heaping bowl of green Jell-o staring me in the kisser.  I really do hate green Jell-o.  I passed up the ground chicken beaks.    My wonderful wife then reminded me, according to the doctor’s instructions, that I needed to drink a 10-ounce bottle of magnesium citrate.  This is a high-powered laxative disguised to almost taste like Sprite.  The description on the bottle was oral saline laxative.  What do you suppose the description on the enema was?  I figured that since there was nothing in me except some Jell-o that my reaction would be mild.  My bathroom magazine of choice is Reader’s Digest.  Before now, I cannot recall reading an entire issue in one day.  Day one ended with my last visit to the throne room around mid-night.


Day two started with a hearty breakfast of green Jell-o.  Did I mention how much I really dislike green Jell-o?  About ten o’clock in the morning, my dutiful wife mixed my one gallon prescription of a concoction called Nulytely (I actually believe this stuff is Drano.) and put it in the fridge to get cold as the instructions said to do.  It tastes better cold according to the instructions.  Mine was cherry flavored.  Lime I could not have handled.  The directions for consuming the Drano advise that you should eat nothing two hours prior - no problem there.  And, that you should eat nothing while drinking the entire gallon.  At two o’clock in the afternoon, as instructed, I downed my first eight-ounce glass.  It’s difficult to describe the taste.  Cherry flavored snot comes close.  My dutiful wife, and I do love her, following the instructions brought me another glassful every fifteen minutes until the entire gallon was gone.  Following the fourth or fifth glass, my gag reflex kicked in making each glass a little more difficult than the last.  I began reading some back issues of the Reader’s Digest.  It was another midnight run before the end of day two.


By seven fifteen the next morning, I was wearing one of those gowns that opened to the rear.  The nurse was hooking me up to a heart monitor, blood pressure machine and an IV bag.  She then turned on the rotor-rooter machine and typed in my information so that it appeared on the monitor the doctor would watch.  The doctor briefed me that this was a colon cancer screening, but if he discovered any polyps while on his mining expedition, he would perform a polypectomy.  He also advised me of the risks.  Bleeding is a possibility, infection is possible if a polyp snipping is necessary and there is the risk of ripping a hole in your colon netting you a trip to emergency surgery for repair.  He added that the risk however is small adding that the risk of not having the screening is much greater.  He then instructed the nurse to inject some drugs into my IV.  She asked me if I was getting sleepy and I replied that I wasn’t just before entering never never land.  I don’t remember anything following that, except for a searing pain that felt like someone was trying to rip my guts out with a claw hammer.  I don’t know what I did when I felt the pain, but I think I got another shot of la-la juice into the IV because the next thing I remember following the pain is being in the recovery room.  The nurse brought in my wife and asked me if I’d like something to drink.  “Coffee”, I whined, “strong, black, hot coffee.”  It was the best cup of coffee I ever had, except for a cold February morning in Korea many years ago.  The doctor came in and told me that everything looked normal and that he’d see me again in ten years.  I asked him why it was necessary to do it again so soon.  He smiled, and headed toward his next customer.


It’s necessary to have this done when you hit fifty.  I’ve made light of it here, but Colorectal Cancer is a serious disease and should be taken seriously by all of you old fogies.  I am however, recommending that each member of Congress get a monthly screening along with the Secretary of Defense, without the aid of la-la juice of course.  I’d even give up a tax cut for that.


Excluding skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in the

United States and Canada (after lung and breast in women, and lung and prostate in men).


The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 147,500 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in the U.S. in 2003. That means a person in the U.S. is diagnosed with colorectal cancer every 4 minutes. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States and Canada (after lung cancer).


The American Cancer Society estimates that 57,500 people will die from colorectal cancer in 2003. That means one person in the United States dies of colorectal cancer every 9.3 minutes.


One out of 18 people in this country will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime.  – from


For more information about the disease, visit this link at the website: