I knew what I wanted to write about to kick off this week’s Link Up post but then, as I browsed a new site called Bon Bon Break last night, I came across this poignant, informative, and touching post by Ellie, from Musing Momma, about her sister’s colon cancer diagnosis at just 36. It hit home with force and I knew I had to change topics for today.
March is colon cancer awareness month and this year I’m celebrating 16 years as a survivor of that disease. How strange (and fortunate), right? We tend to think of colon cancer as an older person’s disease. But, as Ellie mentioned in her post,
Colorectal cancers are on the rise in people under 50, but are often slow to be diagnosed in young people because they just aren’t expected – and later diagnosis means poorer prognosis.
I was 26 when I went to my family doctor after seeing blood in my stool. She conducted an exam and sent me on my way with a diagnosis of hemorrhoids. I’m sure she didn’t pursue additional tests because I was so young. But the bleeding continued and my (awesome, amazing, intuitive) mom urged me to get a second opinion.
This time my new doctor told me, “I’m sure it’s nothing but I’d like to send you to a gastroenterologist, just to be safe.” The gastroenterologist said basically the same thing and, even after finding a polyp during my colonoscopy and sending it off for a biopsy, he told me he didn’t think I should worry, that everything was probably fine.
Everything wasn’t fine (including my next doctor, a surgeon with a serious lack of bedside manner). But I was lucky. Because my cancer was so low in the colon (it was actually in the rectum), I was able to spot the bright red blood and seek medical help. My cancer was caught early enough to be treated. Some colon cancers found higher up in the colon sometimes pass blood but by the time it exits the body, the color has changed and it’s tougher to spot as a symptom. That’s why paying attention to other signs and signals your bodies gives you is vitally important (read Ellie’s post with suggestions on what symptoms to look for).
I had two surgeries, two months apart, to remove the section of my colon where the polyp was found and to repair the remaining colon. Because my cancer was caught in an early stage and it was contained, I didn’t need chemo or radiation. I’ve continued to have tons of colonoscopies over the years (I lost count around 12 or 13 but I must be getting close to 20) and ever since then, my mom, dad, and sister get regular colonoscopies too (You’re welcome, y’all!).
Sometimes people tell me they dread (and even avoid) colonoscopies because of the prep involved. OK. On my list of favorite pastimes, cleansing my colon is almost last, just before listening to a Justin Bieber album. But it’s really not that big of a deal. For me, the worst part is not being able to eat for an extended period of time (I tend to get a little hangry.). But these days the prep is gentler on the body than it used to be (Take it from a certified colonoscopy aficionado who’s sampled a variety of preps over the last 16 years.). A colonoscopy is a relatively easy, reliable test that can detect early colon cancers and even help us prevent colon cancer.
Repeat after me: Colonoscopies are our friends!
This March I’d love for you to learn more about colon cancer. Please consider your colon (I’m not gonna lie – that phrase makes me smile!) and remind your loved ones to do the same. Colon cancer is highly preventable and treatable when we listen to our bodies, get symptoms checked, and kick our fear of colonoscopies to the curb.
And, this month, let’s think of Ellie’s sister and send loving vibes and prayers her way for health and healing.
Now, on to the Weekly Link Up! What are you writing about this week? Something lovelier than a colonoscopy? I’d love to read it and share it out.