If you have followed my Facebook page, almost on a daily basis, I have “shared” posts announcing Colon/Rectal Cancer Month recognition. This is a big deal to me, but should also be a big deal to you, male or female.
Now if you are saying, “but Paul, you didn’t have colon cancer. What are you worried about?” And for the most part, you would be correct. I did not have colon cancer. But the treatments that I went through for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma left me susceptible to secondary cancers such as thyroid, lung, esophageal, leukemia, and yes, colon cancer. In fact, the driving force behind my internet outreach for cancer patients was a woman named Linda. It was her mission to make cancer survivors aware of the importance of colon cancer screenings, called colonoscopies. The internet support group that we belonged to had already lost so many fellow survivors to colon cancer, and she too would be diagnosed with, and lose her life to colon cancer.
For years, I have dug my heels in the ground, I was not going to let anyone shove a tube up my ass. Yes, I reduced my opposition to the lowest and crudest objection. But I was clear, my “out door” was not an “in door”. I was not alone in my stance. At work, many of my coworkers also voiced their opposition to any roto rooting. While neither gender is crazy about having this done, I have found that only the male population has any problem revealing their aversion to the painless procedure. And considering the test is one that can save your life, a common reason overheard, and a bigoted one at that, afraid of waking up “gay”. That is right. There are some men who are actually afraid of coming out of the anesthesia with an urge that they have been turned into a homosexual. This is not only a horrible thing to think, but it is stupid, and it could cost you your life if you avoid this simple test for fear of something that is not only not true, but can never happen. I am not even going to carry that discussion any further.
It would be easier to understand as a man, that we might simply be uncomfortable with the thought of laying on a table with our bottom exposed, but that would not be met very well by the millions of women who climb up on a table, placing their legs up in stirrups to be placed on exhibition for their doctor visit. And they are not normally anesthetized. I am one of the few men who can testify as to how that feels, not because I have ovaries, and for the record I do not have them, but having had to deal with a kidney stone, I have had to have my legs placed up on stirrups for a wonderful (NOT!!!) procedure called a cystoscopy. You can Google what that is. But I will say, that was unanesthetized. And if I could handle that going in an orifice that was definitely not meant to have anything inserted, I could certainly undergo a colonoscopy for which I would be anesthetized.
I also did have a reason for undergoing my first colonoscopy last year, and not just because it was a smart thing to do. One of my late effects that I have to deal with from my cancer treatments (actually two of them) pertain to my esophagus which was damaged from radiation therapy, often affecting my ability to swallow foods, and previously, unable to swallow liquids at its worst when it flared up. So I actually undergo both colonoscopy to see if there is anything blocking down there forcing the issue, but also, an endoscopy to see if my esophagus has worsened for what is diagnosed as esophagitis and Barret’s Esophagus. I take a medication to keep it under control, but the truth is, I have an increased risk of esophageal cancer. So, two tests, two purposes, only one result I want, negative.
Last year’s tests did not go as planned, inconclusive. It seems, and this is the reason many do not want to undergo a colonoscopy, my “prep” or cleanout did not go well enough for them to get the pictures necessary. It is hard to believe that drinking two liters of fluid mixed with 37 dosages of laxative did not empty me out enough to get the pictures necessary, but that is what happened. So it was decided that I would repeat this year. Only this time, I would have to do a “super prep” which has meant me drinking a laxative for two weeks already with the normal prep yet to come.
Here is how important this test is, not just to me, but to you as well. I am dealing with caring for my father. I cannot put this test off any longer than I already have, because cancer does not wait. And the sooner it is caught, if there is any, the better chance of beating colon cancer. So, being a master of multi-tasking, I will have to really plan out carefully a trip to Sloan Kettering for my father and I, because my tests are the following day, and I must begin the aggressive “prep” before I even get to leave Manhattan. It will literally be a race against time, pushing cotton, “prairie doggin”, turtle popping out of the shell. I expect my three hour drive to stretch out to five hours until we get home.
I do not expect to hear the words cancer. This test is about prevention. I feel okay. My swallowing issue is minimally inconvenient right now. But as long as I have “prepped” enough this time, I expect the photos to be good, and the news to be negative. And there is comfort in knowing those in my life will not have to hear that I am dealing with cancer again, for at least the time being.
But even if you do not have the increased cancer risks for whatever the reason, other cancers, obesity, if your doctor wants you to undergo a colonoscopy, you need to do it. The test can save your life. And no foolish notion can ever justify me attending a funeral for something that could have been dealt with. The test itself does not hurt. Ignoring it does.