I made a promise to myself about five years ago. I promised that if my father didn’t recover from colon cancer, I’d go on a crusade in his honor to make sure that others had their colonoscopies when they should ~ before it was too late.
Earlier this week Dad returned from a Western Mediterranean Cruise. His fear of flying, which limited his vacation travels to the automobile, was overcome after he beat cancer two years ago.
He is a retired dentist, a medical professional. He swore he’d never have that routine and painless, but often avoided, precautionary procedure called a colonoscopy because he did not want to be put to sleep. It almost cost him his life. He, if anyone, should have known better! I can only assume many of you reading this should have had one done by now, but (that’s but, not butt) have not.
My father was turned away three times for a low iron count trying to donate at the blood bank. They suggested he get it looked into which led to a colonoscopy. One month later he was in surgery having a malignant tumor removed from his colon and subsequently, a benign tumor from his liver. None months of chemotherapy followed. For the first time in my life, I feared losing a parent.
Since his diagnosis four years ago my father has encouraged, enticed and even bribed others to get their routine colonoscopy. He stopped counting after the 60th friend he convinced. He stopped keeping track after the tenth person called and thanked him because something significant was found during the procedure. These were all people like him ~ procrastinating that pain in the butt (pun intended) procedure.
The morning after Dad returned from his cruise I went for my annual physical and found out my cholesterol was normal, only to learn my blood work showed positive results in other areas (so to speak). So now instead of going into my second colonoscopy next year thinking it’s just a day off from work, I’m going into it next week hoping and praying I’ll still be working in ten years.
So now I’m back on my crusade, actually just starting it, but also enhancing it. My crusade is to convince friends and family and readers to have a routine annual physical exam done complete with blood work. As my wife said, if I had not gone for a routine physical and had blood work done to check how my cholesterol medication is working (I found out I had high cholesterol during last year’s annual physical), I’d never have known there could be this other issue as well. I’m young in my book (39), I feel just fine, look fine, act fine (according to me) and all my bodily functions are working just fine. My blood work says differently.
So now I’m taking advantage of the audience I have in print. If I had your email address, I’d be sending you this too, just ask the people on my distribution list. Whether you are 20 or 40 or 80 it makes no difference ~ you need to see your doctor regularly no matter how great you feel. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, there are routine preventative tests and exams you can have done, should have done, must have done ~ in order to detect and hopefully prevent more serious health problems.
Don’t base your decision to get an annual physical exam and common preventative procedures on how you feel or whether you have the time. Base it on how you want to feel in the future and how much time you want that future to have.
Some of these procedures are painless, some are not. Some are simple, many are not. Some are completely covered by insurance, few are not. All should be mandatory, but unfortunately they’re not.
We all have choices in life, including what medical advice to take. Unlike my father and many other people you hear from on TV or in print or in your doctor’s office, I’m not a medical professional giving out free medical advice here or some famous athlete or actor preaching to you. Rather, I’m just like you. I’m a son, a husband and a father. I get up in the morning and feel great reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee ~ just like you’re doing now. I go to work, exercise, watch what I eat (most of the time) and think I’m in great shape for my age. Without the blood tests as proof, my doctor would probably tell me the same thing after weighing me, taking my blood pressure and listening to my heart. My blood work told him differently.
I go into my colonoscopy procedure hoping to come out of it and see my wife smiling at me telling me everything is A-OK. I also go into it this second time a little leery, knowing it might not be.
But either way I’m once again glad I went for my annual physical exam and took the time to get the blood work done. It’s something I’ve done annually since my father started traveling by air, but something I probably would not be doing if he had not been diagnosed with colon cancer. After all, I feel and look fine, and certainly have better things to do than go to the doctor when I don’t even feel sick.
My father has stopped counting how many people he’s helped by telling his story. But if he were still counting, fortunately, he’d be adding me to his list.
Thanks Dad! Because you reached out after your illness, many people are getting routine physicals and exams done that weren’t before, including your oldest son.
Hopefully ~ I’ve now reached a few more.
Jon Buzby is a freelance writer and U of D alum.
One week after writing this column, his colonoscopy came back completely negative.
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By Jon Buzby