I celebrate a little resurrection of my own at this time of year. Five years ago during Holy Week, I learned I had colon cancer. I had no symptoms; I just went in for my first-ever routine colonoscopy at age 50. This is the test most people avoid.
But they shouldn’t. I was already at stage III and didn’t even feel it.
Of all cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer—cancer of the colon or rectum—is the second-leading killer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2007, the latest year for statistics and coincidentally the year I found out I had it, more than 53,000 of the nearly 143,000 diagnosed with it died.
Nobody wants to take the test, of course, and I’ve heard all kinds of reasons why. From “I haven’t had any symptoms” (neither did I) to “I don’t want to bare my big bottom in front of doctors.” You’re pretty much out for the test, so baring your bottom is not really an issue.
To be clear, the day before the test can get a little rough. For someone who keeps snacks an arm’s length away at all times, the thought of a liquid diet is frightful. And then there is the “Go Lightly” drink that really should be named “Go Often.”
However, I can attest that a colonoscopy is far easier than getting seven inches cut from your gut and undergoing six months of chemotherapy. And it would be easier on the ones you love too. Chemotherapy can make you nauseated and tired and really not much good to anybody. It also makes food taste bad, which can put a damper on life—that is, if you enjoy eating. On the plus side, it helps you lose weight.
Because I’ve just hit the five-year mark, I’m done with annual CT scans and colonoscopies and high doctor bills. But I want to save you that hassle. If you’re over 50, please schedule your colonoscopy. Do it for me and for our Raising Up Healthy Women and Girls initiative. I want you to be around to see your healthy girls grow into healthy women.
Terri Lackey is managing editor of Gather magazine. She kept her family and friends up on her condition and progress through her blog Cowgirl Attitude.