Early spring my cousins did a lot of work on my yard, pulling weeds, trimming bushes, etc. Trimming the pair of bushes next to the back patio exposed a lone golf ball. They left it there, and I have too for all of these months as a reminder. This was my husband's golf ball. He loved the fact that our backyard was long enough that he could practice his swing (I guess this one got away). He loved being out back working on his garden, or shooting hoops, or even just sitting on the porch swing. This golf ball is a reminder to me that life is a precious gift. Its a fragile gift that needs our full, undivided attention.
Today marks the anniversary of my husband's visit to the emergency room where we found out that he had stage 3 colon cancer. That was 2007. He passed away on Valentine's Day, 2011. His only consolation during everything was that his colon cancer got several people to have colonoscopies, some which revealed pre-cancerous polyps. So, on anniversaries such as this, and whenever I can, I try to remind people of the importance of doing this and to offer information that others may not know to help them make a more informed decision. I hope you'll read all of this.
When I talk to people about getting one, I get the same responses over and over again, so I would like to address those this year, especially in light of the fact that my 44 year old brother just had 4 polyps removed.
Colon cancer is the 3rd highest cause of death among all of the types of cancers, BUT its one of the few that can be detected at such an early stage that it could be wiped out if everyone had colonoscopies. So, why doesn't everyone have a colonoscopy?
No. 1 reason: It's Nasty.
For approximately 24 hours before the procedure, you have to drink foul tasting stuff that will clean out your system, which means spending a lot of time on the toilet. I agree, that is nasty, but look at the alternatives:
- if a tumor is found, 2 nurses will hold you down and run a tube through your nose, down your throat and into your stomach in order to clean out your system. Its called an NG tube. Even a sip of water will come back up through the tube. Imagine being like that for at least 5 days. How does one day of diarrhea compare to that?
- while on chemo you will have days and days of diarrhea and maybe need to be admitted to the hospital to get rehydrated.
- the stuff you have to drink for various tests is even nastier than the prep for the colonoscopies, and you will be required to drink these every so many months as part of your treatment.
No. 2 reason: It cost too much.
I was put off by the cost also and most insurance companies won't pay for it; they'll apply it towards your deductible, but the doctors will want to work out a payment plan with you before your procedure. So, you're looking at about $1000 over maybe 3 months.
- Cancer is expensive. All of the medications and doctor visits, specialists, copays, deductibles, maximum out of pocket expense, etc. over the course of 3 1/2 years, I estimate to be at least $27,000, and we had a really good insurance plan. My monthly premiums the last two years were over $1200/month which is on top of the $27,000. Then there's the hundreds of thousands of dollars the insurance company paid (but its still cheaper for them to do this than to cover the cost of colonoscopies for everyone). Everyone wants their money first. You have to call each company and work out payment plans.
No. 3 reason: I don't have any symptoms.
By the time you have symptoms you will probably have, at least, stage 3 colon cancer.
No. 4 reason: I did the "smear" test.
By the time anything shows up on a smear test, you will probably have stage 3 colon cancer. All the smear test does is detect blood in the stool. My husband's tumor was in the large colon, it would have never shown a result by this method.
No. 5 reason: We don't have a history of colon cancer in the family.
The number of people who are getting cancer is growing everyday. Why do you think there are so many new cancer facilities being built? Its a booming business. Its our lifestyles, the food we eat, stress, alcohol and other drug abuse, our environment. Its no longer just genetics. BUT, if you do have a family history of any type of cancer, and especially colon cancer, don't wait until you're 50 to have a colonoscopy.
Please, please, please, do yourself and your family a favor. Go have a colonoscopy. The alternatives are so much worse. If you don't want to have one, that's your decision, of course, but tell me...
...how would you like to be remembered?
In loving memory
Kenneth B. Weeks
Stand Up To Cancer - be sure to watch September 7th. 8pm Eastern/7pm Central on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX
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