Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Other "Big C"

When I was a kid, the "Big C" was the nickname given sometimes to an indiscriminate killer, cancer.  In those days, if you got cancer, more often than not, you would die after a lot of painful and awful futile attempts to treat it.  A cancer diagnosis, while still pretty awful and all-too-often lethal today, would have been a near death sentence in those days.  So calling it the "Big C" removed some its power, I guess, in the same way that the Harry Potter clan called Lord Voltemort "He Who Shall Not be Named."

There is another "Big C" out there, I suppose, judging how people are all too often reluctant to partake - the colonoscopy.  Most people seem more desirous to jam their face in a hornet nest than have a colonoscopy.  But think about it - the human alimentary canal, starting at the mouth and terminating 20 or 30 feet later at the anus, is a true marvel, but most of it is out of sight.  (Just as well, 'eh?)  A doctor can examine the first few inches of a person's digestive tract easily enough by looking in one's mouth, but the checking out the rest of it is quite invasive.  And although we may not want someone checking out places where the sun doesn't shine, we live in an age where things that were medically impossible not long ago are now possible.  And we should take advantage of that.  Are colonoscopies fun?  Not in my view of the world.  Can they save your live or spare you a whole lot of misery?  Definitely!

So the other day, I prepared for the second colonoscopy that I ever have had.  The previous one was just over eight years ago, and everything was good.  The doctor said to come back in "7 or 8 years," which I interpreted as "eight years."  I did everything right the day before the test, not eating after a very early breakfast consisting of a piece of toast, other than some lemon jello during the day.  I drank the very vile fluid - a pint of it - at 5PM, with extremely predictable and unpleasant results.  I woke up at 2:15AM (and stayed up, believe me) to drink the second pint of this nasty tasting stuff.  It works really well.  Anytime I decided I could leave the bathroom for a few minutes, I invariably was back in there within 60 seconds - if not sooner.  It is a moving experience!

The test itself is not bad, because they sedate you.  Yeah, you get to wear one of those sexy little "backless gowns" that everyone looks so good in and enjoys so much.  But they sedate you, and you are not really aware of what is going on, or if anyone is cracking jokes at your expense or not.  I doubt anyone on your medical team will see anything they haven't already seen.  I know that I felt some pain or discomfort during the procedure.  I must have been moaning, or maybe crying like a little boy, because they gave me a shot of benadryl which put me down for the count.  Even after I woke up later and they were telling me about the exam and results, it felt more like a dream.  That stuff makes one's brain so foggy!

So the bottom line, so to speak, was I have to come back in five years because I had a polyp.  It is almost certainly benign, but the laboratory will determine that one way or another.  But what if I had waited a few more years to go back?  Would the polyp have turned malignant by then?  Would it have still been benign but so large that I would have had to have a chunk of intestine cut out?  Or would it have just stayed small and benign?  There is no way to know, but I am glad that I had this procedure done now.  I know that having another one in five years is not going to be pleasant, but compared to colon cancer?  A piece of cake!

Colon cancer is almost 100% curable if it is caught early (or better yet, before it becomes cancerous).  But let it grow and metastasize, and it is anything but curable.  Stage 3 or 4 colon cancer is not the news anyone wants to get.  So if you are over 50 - or maybe even younger but with a family history, or having some kind of problems - get one: soon!

It is easy to ignore and forget about the inner workings of our bodies.  We shove that piece of chocolate cake in our mouth, and the only part of the digestive process we are really aware of is how good it tastes.  Then, it slips down our gullet and it is time to stuff in the next bite.  But - sight unseen - there is a lot going on without any thought from us to process that cake into energy (perhaps stored energy if you are not exercising enough) and waste products.  And sight unseen, there can be potentially very bad things going on that you want to nip in the bud before they become bad.  So, if you are due or overdue for a colonoscopy, get it done!

Although they may seem painful, inconvenient, embarrassing, and uncomfortable, colonoscopies are really not these things in life's general of scheme of things.  But no matter how you look at it, colon cancer is all of those things - plus potentially lethal.  Trust me, if you need this procedure, don't delay too long.  It just may save your life - and that is a life worth saving, isn't it?


Happyone said...

Well said Art!!
I feel good knowing I had it done and all is well. It gives me peace of mind.

Racn4acure said...

Thanks Karen. I am so glad that everything turned out well for you. Art