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How the doctor scared me to death about colon cancer at my annual physical

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

The doctor was a little late, which allowed the nurse to listen to me brag about my blood pressure and give me a flu shot. That’s how my annual physical got started.

I was about six months late for this one. I lost track of time. Maybe because it’s not all that pleasant -- the examination part itself. The nurses are actually very nice.

It took me a while to kick myself back into the examination room, but there I was ready for it to begin.

Last year when I was sitting in the same chair in the same room, I was about to get a lecture on how I was overdue for a colonoscopy and that I needed to get one as soon as possible. The doctor was very blunt about it. It’s the silent killer. By the time you have symptoms, it’s probably too late or very hard to treat. He scared the daylights out of me.

Nobody likes to discuss this because of the nature of the procedure. But after he gave me a lecture, I started reading up on colon cancer and decided to make an appointment and get it done.

“I see you got your colonoscopy,” the doctor said as he read my record on the screen. He was typing something the entire time he was talking.

He opened up another screen and saw the results. “Five polyps, three pre-cancerous,” he remarked.
Yes, it was an eye-opening experience when I woke up and got the results last year. I was expecting to have zero polyps and not have to worry about getting this done for another 10 years.

But because they discovered and zapped five of them, I have to have another colonoscopy in two more years, just to make sure.

“I would be glad to return every year if I had to,” I told the doctor. “That procedure saved my life.”
He may have remembered his lecture last year. Who knows? He probably sees thousands of patients each year, but as he was typing away on the computer, it may have come back to him that sitting next to him is a guy who needed to be scared into getting a colonoscopy.

“At least three of those would have turned cancerous. They’re all gone now, though. You don’t have to worry about it. But you do have to go back in two more years and get it done again.” he said.

Gladly. The preparation was the worst part. The procedure was easy because I was asleep. The aftermath was a little rough because I was all groggy and out of it, but by the next morning I was back to normal.

I wrote a couple of columns about getting a colonoscopy, and posted about it on Facebook. To my surprise, several of my friends made jokes about it. One replied that he didn’t really want to read this stuff, and I was posting more information that he needed to know.

I just posted the results without many details, and wrote the columns to try to get the message across that colonoscopies are not as dreadful as I thought, and there is nothing embarrassing about it.

If I could reach just one person, who, after reading my posts and columns, decided to get tested himself and had his life saved also, that was enough of a reason to venture into the uncomfortable topic dealing with butts.

“If you don’t urge me so strongly to get a colonoscopy last year, and I just fluff it off, who know what could have happened?” I told the doctor.

He turned away from his screen, stopped typing and looked at me.

“Instead of playing tennis, or swimming and enjoying your life a few years from now, you’d probably be in chemo, fighting for your life,” he said.

Now, that’s scary. He is good at this.