Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Have You Had Your's?

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  It's not March.  Leave it to me to be a bit behind (get it?).  I'm thinking it is time to get on a soapbox.  What is the point of having your own blog if you don't get to use your soapbox?  Actually, I have several but I'll start here for now.

So, as I was saying...
In years past, before I was working as an oncology nurse, I worked with GI doctors.  Yep, they are the ones that do unspeakable things.  Yes, I am talking about colonoscopies.  Come back here!  Don't you go clicking on to the next blog already!

During those years as a nurse in the GI lab, I sometimes complained to my husband about star status, or lack thereof, for the GI staff.  Goodness knows there are plenty of medical shows on tv.  ER type shows grab most of the coverage.  Sure, they save lives and all, but so did we!  We just did it before the patient even knew their life was in need of saving.

Here's the deal... a polyp in a colon takes several years to grow into anything very ominous.  It starts out as a polite little cluster of odd cells.  They don't bother anything for quite awhile.  That's when we liked to find the sneaky little buggers!  We (and by "we" I mean the doctor of course) could snippity snip that little polyp off and WA-La...life saved.  Most cancers are not so easily cured.  It maybe doesn't give the patient much of a story to tell at dinner parties but our docs even gave them pictures afterward so they could share the excitement if they wished.  (I thought about putting a picture here of one of mine but decided against it, remembering that Mike sometimes thinks I'm too earthy already.) I suppose if they wanted to they could even wear a t-shirt declaring their Cancer Survivor status.

Sometimes people would wait too long for their colonoscopy.  Sometimes they would wait YEARS too long.  I hated it when the doctor would find a polyp that had given up the shy life and was already burrowing into the colon wall.  It was even worse if it was found to have burrowed through the wall and was then possibly starting new outposts in other parts of the body.  You knew that patient would have surgery and chemo in her/his future.

So, if you are 50 or older, it is TIME!  If you know someone 50 or older, it is time to start nagging!  Also, if you have a strong family history of colon cancer or just weird symptoms of bleeding, bloating, etc.  go see your doctor NOW, no matter your age!  And listen to your doctor about when to have your next one, and the next.  One at age 50 doesn't give you lifelong immunity.  I wish it did.

  Are you afraid of a really long scope coming in the back door?  Well, I've been through this many times so let me tell you, it's FUN!  Wait, that may be an overstatement, but for most folks it is quite tolerable.  The worst part is drinking the prep that gives you diarrhea, but luckily you get to move through that part of the fun in the privacy of your own home.  After the cleanout you will feel pretty pristine.
At the actual "viewing" you will likely be given IV sedation or anesthesia.  In fact, INSIST on it.  I've had it both ways and either is lovely.  You'll be placed on your left side, still all covered up, with those present saying kind things to you.  In just a second, or so it will seem, they will be waking you up.  You'll notice that you are still covered up and you likely won't believe they did anything.

Soon after, you will likely be tooting quite a bit because the doctor inflates air to expand the colon to see around better.  If you are lucky, most of that business will happen BEFORE you wake up.  The good news is, you are still so pristine that you can putt-putt away without fear of needing a room deodorizer!  Go ahead!  Try for the longest or the loudest.  Oops, my earthy side is showing again!  Trust me, though, it will be hard to impress the staff as they're so used to flatulence, they barely notice. 

You may say a few funny things, which is enjoyable for your family.  A patient I helped, shortly after 9/11, had a question to ask after his scope was complete.  He woke up saying, "Did you find Osama bin Laden in there?"  That of course was when they were still expecting to find him in a cave somewhere.  The patient thought he was pretty funny but when I saw him a few weeks later, he didn't remember it.  When I told him, though, he seemed kind of proud of the remark.

That's it.   It is one very, very easy way to avoid having to deal with colon cancer.

Katie Couric is my hero on this subject.  She had her's done on air.... while awake!  I don't recommend that but I honor her for doing it as a way to raise awareness and to help others get over the "ick" factor.  As you can see, she remained perky throughout.

I admit, it may not be the most fun you've ever had, but it is such a simple way to cure a cancer.  Considering all the cancers that are so hard to cure, it is almost a little miracle.

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