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Published September 22, 2020

 

 

Colonoscopy saved my life

By John Toth / The Bulletin

The tragic death of actor Chadwick Boseman of colon cancer brings to the forefront this deadly illness that almost got me.

Boseman was only 43. Being that young complicates finding the polyps that turn cancerous inside the colon. Young men his age usually do not get screened or undergo colonoscopies.

But there are symptoms that could give young people a clue that something is wrong, and a stool test usually is all they need. But the symptoms are often ignored at that age.

Here are the common colon cancer symptoms from WebMD:

• A persistent change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in theconsistency of your stool;

• Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool;

• Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain;

• A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely;

• Weakness or fatigue;

• Unexplained weight loss.


If you’re under 50 and have some of these symptoms, get a stool test, just for peace of mind. If it comes back positive, you probably have caught the polyps in an early enough stage to be snipped out or removed surgically before they have a chance to grow and spread.

Younger people also may be embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, thinking that their friends will make them the brunt of jokes. As you get older, that becomes less important. You may even write about your colonoscopy in a newspaper, like I have a few times.

I dreaded undergoing the procedure, but finally came to the conclusion that I really had to. I had no symptoms. Colon cancer often progresses without symptoms.

I did the preparation part, which was awful (but much better than chemo and surgery). Then I went to sleep for 45 minutes. When I woke up, I saw the smiling face of my doctor as he announced that he “got all five of them.”

Five what? I expected to come out with zeros.

Five polyps, he explained. Three of them were on their way to becoming cancerous. “But I got them all. You’re fine,” he said and rushed off to lunch.

That was scary. Not because of what he said. That was good news. Because I came that close to having to fight to survive in a few more years as the cancer spread in my colon and beyond. Chemo is tortuous, and surgery is even worse. And combined, they gang up on you and beat you up.

“That doctor just saved my life,” I think I said while still under the effects of anesthesia.

I went through with the process, even though I dreaded each step. But I did it. I also had a lot of help from Sharon, my wife, who nagged me until I agreed to do it. She also underwent the procedure and came out with all zeros.

Now she had bragging rights.

Three years later I underwent another procedure and also came up with zeros. We’re now even. I am going back in a couple of more years for another colonoscopy.

That’s how important a colonoscopy is and recognizing the symptoms early. I got lucky. I listened to all the nagging. The procedure saved my life.

Shrug off the negative connotations. Get screened. If there is a problem, fix it early.

You’ll be glad you did when you celebrate all those healthy birthdays and are able to enjoy life to the fullest.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)