I am writing this four days before my 46th birthday. According a doctor friend, I am considered young physiologically, but gosh I feel so old all over after the last six years. After I turned 40, I had one medical issue after another; a benign breast nodule, acid reflux, a torn ACL and, colon polyps.
I’ve shared this story on my own personal social media accounts after some reluctance. I feel like sometimes people tend to over share about their lives, me included. But as I sat in a hospital bed in October 2020, in the midst of a raging pandemic, watching a news segment regarding the age at which colon cancer screenings should start, I felt compelled to share. Then I changed my mind. And then seeing more celebrities die of colon cancer…well here I am.
Let me first state that I do not and did not have cancer. When I was 43, I complained to my doctor about bleeding. He recommended a colonoscopy. I thought nothing of it. He said, “As an African American, it is recommended that you get them at 45, but just go now.” So I went. I was not prepared for the result. And I think I even brushed it off.
During that procedure, the doctor discovered a 3cm polyp (which is apparently pretty big). It was non-cancerous yet precancerous. Because of the location of the polyp, it could not be removed that day. A month later, it was removed along with other smaller ones. Six months later, other polyps appeared and were removed. And a year after that (2020), there were more. But there were some that could not be removed based on shape, size and location. My (new) gastroenterologist recommended having that area of my colon removed because that’s a lot of polyps and a lot of (too many) colonoscopies (five total). He said while I may not have cancer now, the polyps weren’t stopping and no one should have five more colonoscopies to attempt to remove them all. So, I took his recommendation and had the right side of my colon removed on October 27, 2020 by an amazing surgeon.
ALL of this to say, DO NOT SKIP YOUR HEALTH SCREENINGS. I’d hoped Covid would prevent me from having to have any colonoscopies in 2020, but I had two (I had a third but that’s another story for another day). Yes, the prep is pretty “crappy,” but it saves lives. I praise God today and every day for my life and health. I’m so thankful for my primary care physician who literally saved my life because had I waited until 45, I may not have been so lucky. I’ve told him this more than once. I’m thankful for my gastroenterologist who was proactive. He didn’t perform all of my colonoscopies but he’d seen enough to know this surgery was warranted. I’m thankful for the gastro oncology surgeon, who took my cycle class at the gym, for recommending genetic testing (I have no known cancer gene). I’m thankful for my “colon buddy” who referred me to my current gastroenterologist (I won’t say her name here because she might not want y’all to know her business). And I’m especially thankful for my husband who has loved me in sickness and health like no other. I really just don’t have enough words to thank him. I just hope he knows and my boys…for their gentle hugs when I came home.
If you have a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps, please talk to your doctor. One simple test can save your life. Also, find a colon buddy…a person you can talk to about poop! It may sound silly, but it is really helps to talk things out with someone who can relate. Don’t do it alone.