I am a recent survivor of colon cancer after a lengthy hospital stay and a couple of intensive surgeries. I have been cancer free for three years now but must live with the after effects of the surgery and treatment for the rest of my life. Naturally I’ve wondered if I could have avoided this trouble.
I was diagnosed at 16 years old with colitis and was told I was at high risk for this developing into colon cancer later in life. I was told to adhere to a strict diet of no fried foods, carbonated beverages, and alcohol to avoid irritating my condition. How could any teenager give up French fries, burgers, and cokes? And just as I was heading off to college.
I was very active in athletics and felt strong. As the colitis calmed down and I felt better, I forgot the advice I had been given and didn’t watch my diet. I was told to see my doctor annually for the colitis but because I was feeling fine I ignored this advice. I was off to college and all the good times that come with it. I ignored my future health and thought I was invincible.
Well, it caught up with me in a big way. After serious bouts with colitis in my twenties and thirties, it had overtaken me at 40. Finally I was told to see a specialist annually to be on the lookout for any cancer in my colon as the tissue in the colon was changing, susceptible, and very irritated. Because of this vigilance in looking for cancer they found it early and I had surgical intervention to beat it before it killed me.
Could I have avoided it by following my diet and medicine regiment that had been recommended to me at 16 years old? Hard to say, but at least I had the prior knowledge that I was at risk from being diagnosed early. This knowledge made me vigilant so that I caught the cancer and beat it before it beat me. I definitely could have done more for myself to avoid it, but at least I was vigilant to seek continual medical care that lead to early diagnosis.
When I became aware of the mission of DetecTogether, I wanted to become involved and share my story at the very least to impress upon people that what you do now in taking care of yourself and seeing doctors with any concerns immediately makes a big difference later.
I recently put this into practice with my own son by scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist to take a look at a suspicious looking mole on his back. He had one removed seven years ago and I didn’t like the looks of the new one on his back. He was annoyed that he had to take off a couple hours from work and was further annoyed when the doctor ran late and we waited for an hour to be seen. I had to prevent him from walking out because he was so impatient, but he was seen and the doctor had concerns and is monitoring the mole as a potential threat. Even though he has a history and should be cautious because of it, he had to be dragged to the doctor to check this new threat out. I was glad I brought him in and hopefully he will be too.
The moral to the story is stop and take care of yourself now when you are young, and the potential disease is young too, and you can stop the threat now and live the rest of your life as a survivor because you did something about it early!
- diagnosed with colitis at age 16, this put Mark at higher risk for getting colon cancer, which he did get years later