In my last, rather tortuous, post, I tried to connect the skills I learned getting sober “one day at a time” with the calm attitude I strove for before my colonoscopy last week. In that post, I also talked about my experience with breast cancer. I got lots of lovely, supportive “so glad you are well” notices when I announced my bowels were clean — of cancer and everything else (OMG, let’s just acknowledge I have now defined “oversharing”). Thank you all for those, by the way.
But I need to clear a couple of things up. First, the breast cancer. That was all in 2008, with one last little teeny operation in early 2009. Since then, I have been cancer free and healthy, if fairly paranoid about a recurrence (though sobriety and the mind work that accompanies it has helped tremendously in healing that bruise). The colonoscopy had nothing to do with the breast cancer — it was just why I was so nervous about the procedure.
So I want to be clear — everyone should have one of these puppies (colonoscopies that is) when they reach 50, or earlier if there is a history of colon cancer in the family. That’s the current recommendation in the US — not sure about the UK and beyond, but I am betting it is similar there too. It is one of the most effective diagnostic tests against cancer. Colon cancer starts as a polyp in the colon and grows slowly from there. Not all polyps are cancer (or will become it) but all cancer starts from polyps. If such a thing is found during a colonoscopy, they can snip it off — no pain at all — and end the chance it will become cancer. If the polyp is allowed to grow into a cancer, there will be likely no signs until it is too advanced to treat, and from what I’ve heard, it is a terrible way to die.
Ladies, this is not unlike a pap smear (though the prep is admittedly gross — but not nearly as bad as I thought and not nearly as bad as 90% of the Internet stories about it): an easy test that can nip a devastating cancer in the bud (or butt).
Here’s some more info on the procedure the U.S. Dana Farber Institute.
And to be clear again — a colonoscopy is not to be feared, and it is not just for people who are sick or suspect they might have cancer. So don’t put it off — I’m sorry I did as long as I did.