Why getting a colonoscopy—while unsettling—can save your life
I will be addressing two different moons here. The first is the one we all have. It’s the one that at some time in our life we have bent over, exposed, and shared with others. This moon is also connected to our rectum, which is in turn connected to our lower intestine and then off to our colon. March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
At a glance, here are some statistics from the American Cancer Society related to this disease:
It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S.
It is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.
While rates for colon cancer in adults 50 and older have been declining, incidence rates in adults younger than 50 have been increasing.
People with a first-degree relative who has colon cancer have two-to-three times the risk of developing the disease.
Since the mid-’80s, the colon cancer death rate has been dropping due to increased awareness and screening.
The most effective colon cancer screening is the colonoscopy. The idea of it for someone who has not had one might conjure up all kinds of unpleasant thoughts. I had my first one at age 52. I had been strongly urged to do so by a friend who waited longer for his and an early-stage cancer was found. But due to the early finding, his was a treatable case and he is doing fine today.
The procedure is not nearly as unpleasant as you will imagine it to be. The prep is the worse part, but that is all done in the comfort and privacy of your own home. The actual colonoscopy is a piece of cake. One minute you’re on the procedure table, on your side being comforted by the doc and staff. The next thing you know, you’re recovering from one of the happiest highs you have ever experienced. Before you leave, you and your driver will be informed of the results.
Fourteen months ago I lost my best friend and wife of 26 years to this evil disease. Our two adult children lost their mother and best friend as well. She was 53. It was eight months and one day from diagnosis to death. She had not had a colonoscopy. I wish I had scheduled hers when I scheduled mine. Cancer had already spread to her liver.
She had no indications or symptoms. One day she began feeling a pain in her leg that she blew off as a result of an overlong bike ride. But the pain was the result of a blood clot. This is how it began. She was the healthiest person I knew, dedicated to her family, her career and community. It made no sense. My hope is that at least one person reading this will go ahead and schedule that over-due colonoscopy.
And finally, that other moon. It is the one in the sky. Because we love her. To the Moon and Back!