36,000 people this year will get the Colon Cancer diagnosis.
Early screening and colon cancer. I am a lucky one. Really lucky as I reflect on the past year. On February 28th, at 55, I was diagnosed with colon cancer, a life changing moment for sure and one that could have turned out very different. More than 1 in 3 American’s are behind in their recommended colon cancer screening. I was one of them. Colon cancer is the 3rd most diagnosed cancer in men and women, and preventable in caught early. Yet 1 in 3 are not getting the screening. Why? Lots of reasons for sure but that statistic needs to change. The preparation is the uncomfortable part, for the screen you are asleep. Why did I wait?
I had been not feeling well for several months and had a few changes in my bathroom habits, but nothing really alarming, or at least I thought not. Turning to Google it appeared I had hemorrhoids. By the time I went in for an appointment I was having a difficult time getting off the couch and was experiencing bouts of stomach pain that were pretty rough. Oh, and the night sweats. Not often did they come but when the did, followed by chills, it was memorable. The decline was pretty rapid at this point, but still at the first appointment I did not express the panic I was feeling. No one wants to hear Cancer. The blood work taken that day was great and all in line with a healthy person, but alas, there is no blood test for cancer. From there to surgery was a whirlwind.
Colon cancer does not have a lot of publicity and it is not one most really want to chat about, like there is some shame about where the damn cancer strikes a person. It is CANCER and we need enough information to fight it. Even during March, which is colon cancer awareness month, the only thing on TV was encouragement to go get screened. No where on the commercials or ads is a list of symptoms and usually by the time there are symptoms it is cancer. This is horrifying.
As for me, I had minimally invasive surgery at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, a truly world class facility, on March 14th where 8 inches of my colon and 61 lymph nodes were removed. The excellent team got me put back together is good fashion and I was discharged just a little over 48 hours after surgery to go hang out on my moms couch for a couple of weeks. Waiting for the pathology was grueling, but it came back that all 61 lymph nodes were clean with no cancer cells, Stage 1, T2, N0, M0, in English meaning the tumor had not grown through the colon wall, nor metastasized, and no lymph nodes were involved. This means, while I am being watched carefully, there is no chemo or radiation involved and I can get back to my life. I am 7 weeks post op and lightly working but mostly just being grateful to wake up in the morning, see my family, my pets, the desert, breathing.
Recommended screening starts at 50 unless you have certain family traits. More people under 50 are getting diagnosed than in years gone by. Don’t put it off if there is the slightest chance you may have something going on and advocate for yourself to get a colonoscopy. Colo Guard also has a test which looks for blood in the stool, another good place to start. The American Cancer Society Page have some wonderful, well organized, information. #fuckcancer is a non profit working to change the way we talk about cancer, which I am finding as a whole we don’t talk about it enough. I’ll put some links below.
I would really like to thank my family who showed up in a big way to help me through the last couple of months. I really could not have done this without the laughter (enough laughter to make a nurse mess up my blood draw the morning of surgery lol), the time you all took off work and school, the travel to get to me, and waking up from surgery seeing so many faces was exceptional. Love you all!
#fuckcancer #cancersucks #coloncancer #CRC #Huntsman #HCI