Sunday, August 06, 2006

Life-saving information

I had a colonoscopy last week. Not the least bit romantic, I know. And it has nothing to do with books or writing or the quirky lives of writers. But it's important. Colorectal cancer is the number 2 cancer killer in the U.S., right behind lung cancer. It kills more women each year than breast cancer and more men each year than prostrate cancer. It is the most frequent cancer killer of non-smokers. And more women than men get it.

The tragedy is, it doesn't have to be that way because colorectal cancer is almost completely PREVENTABLE. The trick to preventing it is to find and remove pre-cancerous polyps in the colon before they turn into cancer. And the way to do that is to have a screening colonoscopy.

It takes two days out of your life, but it's easy. Really. Okay, I admit, Day One when you do the prep for the procedure isn't pleasant. You have to limit yourself to a clear liquid diet (And, no, white white or vodka tonic isn't on the list of permissible clear liquids. I asked.) and then you have to take a boatload of prescription laxatives to completely clear out your colon. Believe me, you don't want anyone between you and the bathroom when they kick in! Day Two, when the doc does the actual procedure is a cake walk. It doesn't hurt at all. In fact, you don't feel a thing because of sedatives they pump into your veins. These sedatives, by the way, limit the embarrassment factor, too.

In my case, as the doctor was injecting the Demoral into my IV, he pointed out the vido monitor on which I could watch the entire procedure if I wanted to. I think I nodded and said, "Cool" or some such thing. The next thing I knew, the nurse was smiling down at me, telling me my colon was pink and healthy and I should come back for another screening in ten years and make sure it stayed that way.

My husband helped me get dressed and tied my sneakers, and then went down to pull the car up to the front of the medical building while a nurse wheeled me downstairs (SOP when you've been shot full of sedatives). Once we got home, Joe fixed me a cup of tea and a piece of toast to break my fast, then I went to bed and slept off the rest of the sedative. Woke up around 5:00, had dinner, watched about 30 minutes of TV and went back to sleep.

The next morning I was fine. In fact, the day after the procedure, I cooked for and hosted a dinner party for ten.

So, the point of all this is to say... If you're over 50, call your doctor and make an appointment for a screening colonoscopy. The life you save may be your own.


anne frasier said...

is anybody else thinking how pretty that pink colon would look on this page??

Kathleen Eagle said...

Yeah, Candace, where's the photo? I did the colonoscopy thing, too, and I agree that except for the prep it's easy. Everyone should do it.

Trouble is, everyone can't afford it. Too many people our age are uninsured or underinsured. A good friend of ours--self-employed, single, writer--was just telling me that she has to pay $1500 out of pocket before her health insurance kicks in, and then it's limited. She doesn't do screenings unless she has symptoms. The number one reason for bankruptcy is big medical bills.

I tied some of this into BROOMSTICK COWBOY, one of my last Silhouette Specials years back when the problem wasn't nearly as bad as it is now. The heroine was a widowed sheep rancher. She was pregnant, had a midwife planning to come to the house when she went into labor because she couldn't afford hospitalization. Of course the hero ended up delivering the baby. I loved that scene.

A reader sent me a photo of a horse she named Broomstick Cowboy in honor of that book. Maybe I'll post that tomorrow on my blog day. That and my gecko tattoo?

anne frasier said...

yes, the tattoo!

i agree about the cost of insurance for the self-employed. my insurance is about 4,000 a year, deductable 2,000. hardly seems worth it. i keep wondering if i should drop my insurance completely. i could actually use the money to get the screenings i'm not getting now.
although i did get a virtual colonoscopy a couple of years ago. i paid for that party.

Michele said...

Candace, thanks for this post. Makes it less scary to see the procedure through the path of someone who has done it. ANd cheers on the clean bill of health!