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As a Southwest Airlines Employee, I enjoy a wide variety of "freedoms." I have the freedom to travel...the freedom to enjoy what I do for a living....the freedom to make a difference in the lives of millions of people...and the freedom to be healthy. The excellent health insurance that Southwest offers its Employees makes that last one especially easy. Well - easier, anyway. Few folks, other than those with a hypochondriac streak, actually enjoy going to the doctor, much less having something "done" to them. Still, enjoyable or not, responsible adults know that we must keep current with our physicians so that we can enjoy other good things–like living! So, last month I gave my freedom to be healthy a real workout, and had a colonoscopy. Now trust me, it's not like I woke up one morning and said to myself "Gee! I think I'll have a colonoscopy after my cappuccino this morning." Hardly...I had the procedure because my doctor said I needed it. Family history and my steadily advancing age (I hate that phrase) were the primary factors that told my doc it was time for him to have a look up my–well, you know the area involved. But even as a somewhat rational adult, I still put the procedure off for almost three months just because I dreaded having it done. I knew from talking with family and friends that having a colonoscopy is nothing like those TV commercials we've all seen. You know the ones–the over-the-top older guy in the doctor's waiting room high-fiving a woman as she goes back for her colonoscopy, then asking plaintively, "Is Lewis next???" You next see the same old guy in a paper gown, sliding onto an exam table with a sly smirk, saying "bring it on, doc!" That's a cute ad campaign, but believe me, it's about as accurate as claiming Cher is the epitome of natural beauty. The reality is that having a colonoscopy is a two-day event that will never replace a day at the beach or an afternoon on the golf course as a preferred way to spend your leisure time. Day one is spent on a special diet of clear liquids–and by the way, beer is a clear liquid!–and by "getting ready" (to put it euphemistically) for the test. Day two is the colonoscopy itself, usually done in the morning. I was told I'd be sedated for the procedure, but I was completely out. Cold. They could have lit firecrackers in my nostrils and I wouldn't have cared. So, I have no memory of the process, just of going to sleep, then waking up about 30 minutes later–and having a Rooty-Tooty-Fresh-And-Fruity at IHOP shortly thereafter. And that's it. I felt really foolish afterwards for caving in to my fears and postponing the procedure as long as I did. Honestly, from my experience, it was neither terribly unpleasant, nor was it painful, nor was it (believe it or not) embarrassing. It just...well...was what it was. And the test's chief benefit is definitely worth mentioning. It can save your life. Colonoscopy is the most precise way for physicians to identify and diagnose a whole range of problems that could range from the problematic (Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for example) to the chronic (like Crohn's Disease) to the deadly (such as colon cancer). Early diagnosis of any of these problems is crucial in improving both the effectiveness of treatment as well as the eventual outcome, yet many Americans fail to receive that early diagnosis simply because we avoid undergoing a proven and trusted test simply because we're afraid of it. How foolish…how childish…and how wasteful! This year alone, more people in the United States will perish from colon cancer than from breast cancer and AIDS combined. Another 200,000 Americans suffer from Crohn's Disease, a condition that can be truly debilitating (I know–my brother, Mark, has suffered from it for over 30 years now). And fully 10-15% of our population is estimated to suffer from IBS. While early diagnosis and treatment can't guarantee a happy ending for any of these conditions, it significantly improves your odds of living a longer happier, life–one that is full of freedoms! Now that it's over, I'm happy that I had a colonoscopy (and trust me, that's a phrase you don't often hear!). My test results, thankfully, were good. Two polyps, both removed while I was asleep during the procedure, neither worrisome, and everything else looked normal. And since I now know I'm healthy "in there" I intend to try and stay that way by eating more fiber and drinking more water. And who knows....having a colonoscopy was so much fun, I might just really throw caution to the wind and do something really scary. Like get into a bathing suit. But that's a story for another time.