The headline is the motto of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. There was a report this morning in the WAPO Sunday Weekly insert in the Pilot that discusses the increases in diagnosis in people younger than 50. (I was in that category when I was diagnosed in January of 2007.) As a 16 year survivor of this disease, I would like to share my story in hopes of raising awareness.
Summer of 2006, I started experiencing rectal bleeding. It was normally red, not the dark red or black that we had been told to watch for as a possible cancer indicator. Doctors thought it was probably a ruptured internal hemorrhoid and treated me as such. When the bleeding continued and bowel movements were becoming more difficult, I told the command doc and he put me in for a consult with a surgeon.
A little background here. My Uncle on my father’s side had been diagnosed and treated for colorectal cancer in 2000 (age 56). My father was (and still is) a strong proponent of screening via colonoscopy and for several years he had polyps removed and biopsied after his screenings. None were cancerous or precancerous. In 2004, at age 40, I had the opportunity to have a colonoscopy performed. Due to the history in my family, I thought it would be a good idea. Went through the prep, had the screening and was deemed clean. No polyps, no sign of anything amiss. Comeback when your 50.
Fast forward to the surgical consult at Portsmouth Naval. Thursday afternoon, the surgeon performed a digital exam, but was not fully satisfied and wanted to do a colonoscopy. He walked me down to the scheduler to get me added to the Monday procedure list. The scheduler said there was no availability. The doc said, “MAKE ONE!” (Gotta love full bird captains!). Monday 1 PM. scheduled.
Went thru the prep. The wife drove me over to PNH and I was escorted into the exam space. Not five minutes in, the doctor said “I can’t get past this.” I looked over my shoulder at the video monitor and all I saw was black. That was the end of the colonoscopy. I went to sit with my wife, and Dr. L. came out and told me it was an almost complete rectal blockage and that there was no time to start chemo and radiation to shrink the tumor before removing it. I was scheduled for surgery the next day.
While waiting for the process to start, I told my wife to call some key people in our lives that needed to know immediately, especially our kids. I called my dad and he said, “You need to call your Uncle”. I said that is why I am calling you, I need his number”. I called Uncle B., who was in a meeting at work. He stepped out of his meeting and listened to what I was experiencing. His first word to me was “Breathe.” His experience was a godsend to me as he guided me through the next several weeks and months.
Keep in mind that I had that colonoscopy less than four years prior to this. And there was NO indication that I was threatened by this disease.
The surgery was successful. A tumor the size of my fist was removed, plus four lymph nodes. The cancer had spread to 3 of the 4. Not comforting and a concern to look at later. The doctor who performed the first colonoscopy came to my room and apologized, but he said he reviewed the exam and there were ZERO indicators. As of that moment, according to my Uncle, I was a “Cancer survivor”.
I went through a year of chemo and radiation treatments. I have had no indications of a return. And I am still here. (I know some of you may not be happy about that, but too bad.😇) Through the love and support of friends and family, the outstanding care I received from my care team and lots of prayer, I beat the 5% survival odds my oncologist gave me in our first sit down.
I also had genetic screening done in 2018 to determine if my cancer was genetic in nature. Even though I met 2 of the 8 markers for that possibility, it was determined that my disease was NOT genetic. I do believe it was caused by long term use of ZANTAC for my reflux. Processed meats, drinking and smoking are also contributing factors.
I know many of the regulars here are above the age of 50. However, we all have families and friends that we love and care for. And according to the report, the overall numbers are decreasing, but the number of colorectal cancer diagnosis’ is rising in the sub-50 population. Tell them to screen sooner rather than later. Yes, the prep for a colonoscopy is uncomfortable But I can tell you that the alternative to NOT screening is a lot worse. Because of certain concepts in cancer histories, it is recommended that immediately family be screened 10 years prior to the age of the patient. My daughter has already had her first. My son is due later this year.
6 thoughts on “What’s Up Your Butt?”
Thank you for sharing your story. What you wrote is a better wake up call than all the ads and warnings.
Going into surgery with a 1 in 20 chance of survival had to be difficult. But, as you said, you are here after 16 years.
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There is a lot out there about breast cancer, and the messages are important. CR Cancer is a sneaky bastard (as is Pancreatic which took my beloved father-in-law way too soon.) and if my story helps even one person, then it was worth sharing.
Nothing like “I’ve climbed that mountain and here is how to avoid the dangerous areas”.
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Very sobering story. I get colonoscopies as directed. Prostate cancer in men is also a concerning cancer that seems to be affecting younger men. My older brother died recently from it and there is no history of it in the family. So what’s up your butt? Only a doctors finger or colonoscopy probe is allowed up mine otherwise it is a sewage discharge only.
I am sorry for the loss of your brother.
AS for the rest of your usual hateful diatribe: GFY.
And for your information, I can’t have anything “up my butt”. It was sewn shut when the reversal of my ileostomy did not provide relief and I now am the proud owner of a permanent colostomy.
Because my maternal grandfather died of colorectal cancer, I had my first colonoscopy at 50. A couple of polyps were found, so I repeated in 5 years twice, and since then every 10.
The prep is uncomfortable but not compared to the alternative.
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