My mother, God rest her soul, missed out on some amazing moments and years upon years of family events. She missed out a chance to enjoy her retirement with her new husband. She missed seeing her daughter walk down the aisle, holding her first and only grandchild, celebrating her brother’s return to the mound at Angels’ stadium, our first home or even the building of our dream home, not to mention travelling the US to visit the many nature preserves to watch the wild animals she loved so dearly, attending horse shows and riding them through the meadows of Colorado, loving her Collie dogs and smooch faced kitty cat, and many evenings filled with the love and laughter of friends.
She missed out on all these joyful events that shape our lives, that build us as a family, all because she lived in fear. Fear of the unknown. An extreme and irrational fear of routine diagnostic procedures.
You see, for years she suspected something was amiss internally. Even knowing so, she refused any type of evaluation that would be considered “invasive.” She hated needles, and she would not under any circumstances, be put under.
Finally, at a point where she could no longer ignore the issue, she succumbed to a complete blockage and the diagnosis was grim. A football-sized tumor was discovered in her abdomen and surgery was inevitable to remove what they could of it, and it had spread. Her prognosis was absolute, and the rest of her days were spent attached to a colostomy bag, her schedule revolving around treatment and doctors appointments, 24-hour care, hospice and finally, a painful and exhausting fight to the end.
My mother had colon cancer, a common cancer that is highly treatable. If found early, (and that’s the key), the 5 year survival rate from colon cancer is a whopping 90%. However, because many people like my mom, do not want to endure the unpleasantries of getting tested, only about 4 out of 10 are diagnosed at an early stage where treatment is most likely to be successful, which means colon cancer is also one of the leading causes of cancer death in the US.
Because I have now been blessed with this “family history” of colon cancer, I have had to start my screenings early. I had my first colonoscopy at age 40 and yes, I was a bit apprehensive. Who wouldn’t be?! However I’ve cared for the alternative first hand and I’ll tell you that it’s well worth the inconvenience of a day of “prep” and the ensuing exposure of one’s bum to avoid what could be an early end to your life.
Now I’m on the eve of my second routine colonoscopy and all I can say is, “Bring it.” I’ll chug that Miralax and Gatorade cocktail until the cows come home if it means catching a silent killer before it takes away my joy.
I’m telling you this because you may not have had your right of passage yet, as most people don’t need their first until they turn 50. (Happy Birthday! Getting old sucks.) You need to warm up to the idea that just like AARP, it’s unavoidable. I’m here to tell you that it’s important, it’s a cancer than can be prevented, and you NEED TO DO IT. There’s not one single reason to be embarrassed about it. Those doctors have seen a lot uglier butts than yours in their exam room so gets yours out there. Besides, you are asleep the whole time that you’re being “violated” and when you’re done, you’ve never felt skinnier in your whole life. Which is exactly why you’re doing it – so you can live your wonderful joy-filled life and your children will have you be a part of theirs.
And to that I say, “Bottoms up!”