Why I am so glad that I decided to undergo a colonoscopy

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I have to share this information with you, dear reader, even though it is not the typical subject that I normally address.

It’s about colon cancer and what I have done to try to prevent it.

I recently got a colonoscopy. I’ve been meaning to get it for a while, but like many others, I was put off by all the scare stories about what could happen and how horrible the preparation is.

Finally, the doctor who did my physical exam a couple of months ago convinced me to take this seriously and get it done.

When I met with the surgeon, I was convinced. Colon cancer is preventable if the polyps are found in the early stages and eliminated. Even if they show signs of cancer, if caught early, the survival rate is very high.

But the longer the polyps are allowed to grow, the bigger they get, the harder it is to treat them. Once the cancer spreads, the survival rate decreases.

Every year, 50,000 people die of colon cancer, and another 120,000 are diagnosed. Over 90% of the colon cancers grow out of precancerous lesions, called polyps, in the colon. It takes several years for polyps to grow into the cancer stage.

If the polyps are caught and are snipped out in time, there is no threat that they will turn cancerous because they no longer exist.

And here is the kicker. By the time you feel symptoms caused by colon cancer, the polyps may be in the advanced stages of cancer. It is the silent killer because for years it goes undetectable.

So, I made the arrangements and scheduled the colonoscopy. I even put it on Facebook that I was having one.

That brought several supportive comments that helped, and some like “does your butt hurt yet?” that I replied to politely. It did not hurt yet, but even if it does, it’s better than getting chemo or being dead.

Then the preparation stage arrived, and it was unpleasant. Not a nightmare, but also not comfortable.

The lack of food the day before the procedure was the biggest problem, but cups of chicken broth eventually reduced the hunger pangs. The final preparation, the elimination of everything in the colon so that the doctor can get a clear look, was a hassle, but manageable.

Then came the day of the procedure. I arrived at the clinic an hour early. Everyone in the waiting room was like me. Hungry.

A husband and wife decided to do it together, back-to-back. They have done this before. The nurses were incredible, anticipating our every need. Once they prepped me for the exam, I heard other people in the room chat like this was not a big deal.

It wasn’t. I had to wait about 45 minutes, just lying around, reading magazines.

Then it was time. They rolled me into the room where the procedure took place. The staff knew their job. The doctor’s bedside manners were excellent. Nothing to worry about, he said. He has done this a few times before.

The anesthesiologist asked me to count from 99 backwards. Why not from 100? I asked. O.K., 100 is fine, but you won’t make it very far.

One hundred, 99,98...I don’t feel anything.

Ninety-five....Here it comes, and here I go.

It doesn’t take long, she replied.

I remember 93, and lights out.

I woke up, and Sharon, my wife, was in the recovery room. The procedure took a little longer than expected.

I’ll tell you why next week.