If you are older than 50 and have never had a colonoscopy you may want to read this. Although taxes and death are inevitable, a colonoscopy may help in postponing the latter.
This is a story about Dianne. Like others, Dianne had her own health challenges over the years. She encountered skin cancer issues, had surgery for diverticulitis, treatment for macular degeneration along with other ailments, including fibromyalgia. She also had two hip surgeries. As one of the surgeries failed to resolve the problem the pain endured, eliminating her prior physically active lifestyle. Just when doctors were assessing how to treat the hip problem, Dianne’s next health challenge was fast approaching. Unlike prior health issues however, her next problem would be both overwhelming and unbeatable.
After noticing blood in her stool, the follow-up medical diagnosis revealed that Dianne had stage IV colon cancer which had spread to both her liver and one lung. The doctors gave her hope suggesting that after her colon surgery the need for the ileostomy may only be required for six months in order to allow the colon to heal. She also required chemotherapy, radiation and ablation treatments for the liver and lung cancer. As Dianne underwent these various treatments, her weakened condition deferred the removal of the initially anticipated temporary stoma. That in itself created ongoing problems with leakage that were never fully resolved. As the treatments took place over an extended period of time, the colon contracted. The several attempts to try and expand the colon were unsuccessful. Dianne was told she would have to live with what she had.
Once the initial treatments for the liver and lung cancers were successfully completed, the monitoring process began. All was going well for the first few follow-up blood tests and CT scans. Dianne remained positive, always managing to keep her smile, a characteristic that all those around her found to be remarkable, especially in view of her health challenges. She was focused on getting past the cancer so she could direct her energies to getting her hip repaired properly.
A few years prior to the start of her journey on cancer treatments I had sent Dianne a copy of the poem “The Dash” by Linda Ellis. It is a poem about how you complete your dash, or lived your life, that little line between the dates of birth and death that is commonly seen below a name on grave markers. It is a very worthwhile read if you have not read it. As it was evident the cancer would never completely disappear, I told Dianne she could be proud of her dash. She lived her life well and had no regrets.
This past February, the doctors told Dianne the cancer was back in both her liver and lungs. Although further chemotherapy was offered, the future was not promising. Dianne did not want any more chemotherapy and was hoping to live her remaining days without the side effects of the treatments. As the pain medication was not working as expected, Dianne could no longer remain at home. Within days of entering a hospital care facility, Dianne’s cancer came back with a vengeance, taking her life only several weeks after being informed of a suggested life expectancy of 3 to 6 months.
As I mentioned at the beginning, if you are in your 50’s or older and have never had a colonoscopy, you may want to get that request in the next time you go for a medical check-up. It may add a few more years to your life. Don’t wait until you see blood in your stool, as that may be too late. Keep in mind that only 14% of those diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer will live beyond 5 years.
Dianne was my one and only sister and I will dearly miss the close connection we had developed over recent years.