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Jewish World ReviewMarch 14, 2000/ 7 Adar II, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports



Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV --
Drat. Scooped again.

Here I was looking forward to writing a detailed account of my recent colonoscopy, and what do you know? I turn on TV, take a mouthful of colon-friendly shredded wheat, and there's Katie Couric's colon pulsating on the screen.

You early morning commuters may have missed Katie's colon, but consider the bright side: You kept your breakfast.

Katie, as everyone knows, is the adorably perky co-host of the "Today" show who not long ago lost her husband, Jay Monahan, to colon cancer. I'm sorry, truly.

She's cute; he was handsome; they were rich in all things: children, money, glamour, career. At 42, Monahan was too young to die.

We, the public, watched Katie grieve. We noted that she wore her husband's wedding band on a chain around her neck. Now we're watching her colon.

The show, which aired March 7, showed Katie talking to the doctor, getting garbed for the procedure, getting garbled by the Demerol, then getting, well, um, scoped.

Yes, there we were, a nation mesmerized by the incredible image of a doctor probing Katie's colon, while fiber-optics on the tip of the scope projected Katie's insides on a screen. Katie's colon is not her best look. Why did Katie do this? In a word, there isnothing Katie, the earnest widow and now high priestess of colon communication, won't do to advance the cause of colon cancer prevention.

As causes go, this one's noble. So are efforts to prevent all other cancers and degenerative diseases. But is there a point past which one need not go in one's enthusiasm for The Public Good? Does the public's need to know extend to the celebrity colon?

Katie's explanation is that she wants to dispel people's irrational fears of colonoscopy. She hoped to demonstrate that if lil' ol' Katie can do it, anybody can. And, well, yes you can. The drugs work, the procedure ain't that bad, and colon cancer detected early is usually curable. There, now, see how easy that was?

I've actually had a colonoscopy myself, and mentioned it briefly in a magazine article several years ago. Colonoscopies, I opined at the time, are the real reason Wyatt Earp always kept his back to the wall.

I realize that my telling you to go have a colonoscopy isn't as effective as showing you the interior of my colon, but those are the breaks. I'm certain that my mother, had she lived long enough, would have told me at some point that I should never, ever, ever - under any circumstances - expose my colon in public.

I also realize that we, the obsequiously sympathetic public, never criticize widows trying to do the right thing. But, well, I gotta be me. And, let's face it, when one exposes one's posterior interior on TV, one is not to be ignored.

In this horrid new world of bare-anything exhibitionism, we are privy to everyone's everything, from the prez's anatomical distinctions to Bob Dole's penile dysfunction and, now, Katie's colon.

Does this mean, one wonders, that we may look forward to, say, a Jane Pauley Pap smear? You know how women dread those unpleasant excavations. Perhaps we could get a little walk through:

"Now, to your right, you'll notice some disgusting red papules. Ignore those and, oops, watch your heads, we've got some drooping fallopians up ahead." Sort of a variation on Disney's Voyage Through the Human Body. On acid.

The possibilities are fathomless.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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