You may have heard the buzz, but in case you didn’t, March 1st marks the start of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month here in the US. I gotta be honest, I only figured it out a couple weeks back when someone had asked me about bulk ordering the book.
I’ve been so focused on including everyone who has to face cancer, regardless of the type of cancer that I nearly missed the opportunity to really dig in and specifically help those with (or are at risk of) colon cancer. They call it “colorectal” for a reason, but you try saying that vs colon and you’ll see why I’ll be saying colon from now. I don’t want either of us to keep tripping over a word and missing out on the message.
What’s my message? “Get a goddamn colonoscopy done.” There are a lot of excuses out there not to, I know. I was full of them and I nearly died because of it. Oh yeah. My name is Ali and I am a stage IV colon cancer survivor and I have little else to blame for the mess I got into, but myself. After several complaints of cramps and blood in my poo, my doctor wrote a referral for a colonoscopy, but that grossed me out and besides, it was a whopping $300 out of pocket to have it done and you had to pay by the date of the procedure and I didn’t have that kind of money. Oh, I had money for happy hours and dinners out with friends, but $300 to pay for the pleasure of someone cramming a tube with a camera on the end of it up my butt? Eh, no thanks.
I did go in for the referral and when the GI said that it was most likely a result of aging, years of poor eating habits and poor exercise habits that caused that bleeding from harmless hemorrhoids and cramps, I thought at first “How dare he. I am not aging~” Then I thought “Maybe he’s an insensitive A-hole, but he just gave me a good reason to save $300.”
I called the center for endoscopy a few days later, canceled my colonoscopy and went out for margaritas and Tuesday Tacos instead. The woman at the center tried to convince me not to cancel, but I convinced myself that it was because she was focused on making that place money. They must be struggling financially, I thought, cuz who on earth would want their services?
A few months went by…the cramps and bleeding would come and go. My skin kept getting consistently worse though. I started going almost weekly to a place down the street from my apartment for facials. It didn’t really resolve it, but seemed to give some temporary relief. I probably spent about $1,000 there before one of the women who did my facials pointed out that the worst of it was on my right cheek which indicated digestive tract issues. At first I nodded in agreement to be polite, but later that day it sunk in what she was saying.
I called my GP back the next day and asked to have another referral written to get a colonoscopy. I insisted on choosing the GI specialist myself from that group. I went with someone else based on my inane, momentary lapse in accountability and pretended to be incensed that the first GI didn’t insist I get a colonoscopy. It only meant that one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met had to be the one to deliver the words we never want to hear “Bad news I’m afraid…”.
Can we go our whole lifetime and avoid these dreaded words? Nope, but do you really want it to be because you were clinging to an outdated, adolescent view on how our colons work or from some homophobic sense of insecurity? If it has to be, then take it from me (fer fkssake), let it be from the result of something far more interesting, please.
Every day in March, we’re going to be posting interviews with smart people like GI specialists and primary docs and people who beat colorectal cancer and would love it if even one person would learn from their mistake. I promise it’ll be interesting, entertaining and most of all, it will make you 10 times smarter than anyone else about this stuff. It will be one more thing you can cross off your list of things to be afraid of, things you don’t understand.
All for free, no commercials, no pop up adds and no scare tactics. Just the kind of talk you’d expect from a good friend who’s in the know, will tell it like it is and then point you in the right direction…