I Saved My Life Yesterday
February 12, 2008
Although I am a year late, yesterday I had a colonoscopy. It wasn’t for any symptoms. It was due diligence. The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women get a colonoscopy when they turn 50. However the new recommendations of gastroenterologists is for black men and women to have one at age 45. They are seeing colorectal cancer occur sooner in us. Then after the first one, the doctor will put you on a schedule which is usually every 5 to 10 years, depending on your family history, and other risk factors.
Now drinking goop and nothing but clear liquids for 24 hours is not a cakewalk. Neither is the other prep. But the prep is the worst part. If you haven’t had one before, you will be happy to know that they have some good drugs they give you so that not only do you not feel a thing, you don’t remember anything either.
Now here is the important, TOO MUCH INFO part. The doctor found and removed a polyp. I even have pictures, but will not be posting a picture of my colon on the internet. But that small polyp, if left undetected would possibly grow into a cancer that would take my life. I feel so strongly about it that I must say it again. IF I HADN’T HAD THE COLONOSCOPY, doctors might have found it too late. So by showing up, just by showing up I saved my life. Early detection and screenings don’t mean that you won’t ever get cancer. But it does mean that you can get a cancer detected and treated at its earliest stages. We all know people who waited and waited, ignored symptoms, ignored screenings, and got a diagnosis when treatment was either really extreme or just flat out too late.
I owe a big thanks to Erin Stennis, who many of you have heard me mention in my book, and in emails. Erin’s late husband Michael was one of those people who ignored his symptoms, and got a late stage diagnosis. Michael and Erin spent many of his last days talking to church groups and other audiences about the importance of detection and screening. And in reality, it was seeing their story on the Today Show a couple of years ago that really gave me the sign to write The Black Woman’s Guide to Black Men’s Health. Erin continues the fight today out of Los Angeles, and has been successful in advocating for legislation there to get colonoscopies paid for. She is a strong woman who believes that screening saves lives. Every time I think about her and her children, I know that I have to be proactive. I was going to reschedule yet again, and I got a note from her on something else. It was the voice that made me go—for real this time. Check out the Stennis Family Foundation website at www.stennis.org.
Doing the tough work of going in for screenings is not any easier for me because I write about health. In fact, sometimes it’s harder. If you haven’t had a colonoscopy and you are due, get one. If you are woman who is due for her mammogram or pelvic exam, do it now. If you don’t know your blood pressure, cholesterol, or sugar, deal with it immediately. If you are a man and haven’t had your prostate checked, get over it and get on it. I know that it takes courage sometimes to go get the tests we need. Sometimes it takes a “sign.” Let this be your sign. And if you do forwards, then forward this to someone who needs a nudge. We lose people of color too early, unnecessarily not just because of insurance, but in many cases out of sheer fear. Save your life, or help save the life of someone you love this week. That is the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give. Pass it on.
Andrea King Collier
The Stennis Family Foundation truly appreciates your generosity, and be assured that your donations will have a direct impact on the lives of those affected by this devastating disease.
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