When In Doubt, Get Checked Out!

Ham Family

Eric was sick around the same time as Lisa.  He was younger, early 30’s, married.  He grew up in Raleigh but lived in California, and he was hilarious!  I never met him but reading his CaringBridge page was funnier than a night at Goodnight’s Comedy Club.

Brian was an athlete, a swimmer and a real outdoorsman.  He was a doctor, my doctor.  Not an ounce of fat on his body.  He was serious and cared more about his patients than other physicians I’ve met.  When you were in his office, he was with you.  One-hundred percent focused on your needs for as long as it took.  Cool wife, two teenage sons.

I grew up with Angie, she was in my older brother’s class at Terry Sanford Senior High School, Go Bulldogs!  She was a cheerleader, not only in school but in life.  She worked at PSNC, the place that keeps the residents of Raleigh warm for the winter.  Ironically, she read my book not long before her own diagnosis of colon cancer.

And there was Lisa.  My wife.  Mother of three, just shy of 40.

All died.  All of colon cancer.  The oldest was 52.

Current recommendations don’t call for colon cancer screening until you’re 50 unless you have a family history of the disease.  But while rates of colon cancer are decreasing for older people, the are actually climbing for the younger generation.  And while rates increase, young folks are less likely to be diagnosed until the cancer has progressed.

http://www.wral.com/colorectal-cancer-a-growing-problem-in-young-people/15597972/

Colon cancer can respond well to treatment if caught early.

Younger people think and are often told by their doctor that they aren’t susceptible to this disease.

Younger people put off getting stomach problems checked out assuming it’s a reaction to food or stress.

Many are active which can cause hemorrhoids.  They attribute blood in their stool to a sore butt from running or biking.

And who wants to have a colonoscopy?  I’ve done it.  It was not fabulous.  I drank sixteen gallons of white syrup and 45 minutes into my feast, I ran to the bathroom like I was headed into a Black Friday sale.  It was awful.  But once I was cleaned out, the procedure actually wasn’t that bad.  And there was something sort of invigorating about imploding my innards.  I felt fresh and new.

Not every stomach ache is colon cancer.  But if ongoing, check it out.  If you just don’t feel right down there, you know your body, check it out.  If you have blood in your stool, RUN to the doctor’s office.  And don’t let them tell you it’s nothing.  Press for answers!

When in doubt, get checked out!

Nothing Better than a Good Scoping of your Butt

 

Get lots of this...

Posted by Danny

Until we begin to be comfortable talking about our intestines, bowel movements and colonoscopies, it’s going to be tough to really begin attacking colon cancer.  I am currently aware of three acquaintances under the age of 45 who have died from this horrible disease in the past 12 months.  That is unacceptable.

As Jesse shared with you earlier this month, March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  I think it’s time I weigh in.

Lisa’s symptoms began about a year and a half before she was diagnosed.  She would have cramps at times.  She wouldhave a strong sensation that she needed to  go to the bathroom and then nothing would happen when she got there.  At times she would have many small bowel movements in a row.  But these symptoms would come and go, a strong indicator that this was probably Irritable Bowel Syndrome.   She would go months without any problems, followed by a few weeks of discomfort.  When asked what her symptoms were, she would tell people, “Things just weren’t right.”  Follow you gut – or in this case, your colon.

After Lisa was diagnosed, I went to my annual physical.  I shared with my doctor what our family was dealing with and that I had some blood on my toilet paper.  He suggested, for my peace of mind, that I go ahead and get a colonoscopy.  Although I didn’t want to go through the process, I decided I’d sleep better once we had a clear DVD of my intestines.

This is my journal entry several hours after my colonoscopy:

Journal Entry, September 30, 2009

I have pooped nonstop for 24 hours.  Had my colonoscopy today and all was clear.  Butt you drink this thick salt water and then poop like you’re getting paid for it.  I pooped from 7 pm until 1 am, at 5:45 am and from 8 am to 3 pm.  And you couldn’t eat for about 48 hours prior to the procedure.  My poop was as clear as spring water by this afternoon – lost 8 pounds.

To be honest, the liquid they give you to drink to get you moving is awful.  It’s the consistency of thin lotion and it tastes putrid. 

I thought I’d doctor the brew by adding some Crystal Light – a friend suggested that might make the elixir go down easier.  She is no longer my friend. 

I’d hold my nose and stand over the sink – trying to down it like a frat boy with a beer bong.  I’d get half way through and gag – taking a few minutes to clear my watery eyes.  My mouth drawn in and my eyes clinched shut, sweat dripping down my forehead.  A deep breath and I’d chug some more. 

You “get to” drink about 25 glasses of the serum.  But in between each, you get a 15 minute break.  I’d go from standing up and  imbibing to flat on my back in the bed to a  mad dash to the toilet (suggestion:  wear elastic waist pants the day before your procedure – or better yet, lock your bedroom door and go with the Full Monty).  And every time I’d go back to the jug to pour my next glass, it would appear as if someone had refilled it to the brim.

It’s much more fun to be the spouse of someone prepping for a colonoscopy than to actually be the preppee.  Having a wife who was very private about her bathroom habits, I spent the night she had her cleansing in stitches.  If I recall, she had her revenge as I ran, with clinched cheeks, to the pot.

Although the only thing we found when I was scoped was that I’m apparently an aggressive wiper, it was worth it.  That’s one less thing to be concerned about.  It truly was much “doo doo” about nothing!

It’s March: Time To Cover Your A$$

POSTED BY JESSE

I was checking out the Mothers With Cancer blog when I came across a post alerting me that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. I figured that would probably be a good thing to pass on to our blog readers since, you know, it’s kind of relevant to our situation here.

I am sure that March was designated as the month for colorectal cancer awareness before Lisa was diagnosed with hers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she planned her trip to heaven as a lead-in to Awareness Month; she was a meticulous planner. And this may be too blunt for some people, but it’s a fact: in March 2009 no one had a clue that Lisa’s gastrointestinal tract was a ticking time bomb; by March 2010 she was gone. If that’s not reason enough to get your colonoscopy, I’m sorry–that’s the best I got.

How clueless were we? Extremely. Ignorant enough that I didn’t even know what one was or why you got one before Lisa had hers. And based on our family email chain the week Lisa went to get checked out, you can tell that none of us had a clue what we were in for (the topic was the family Christmas exchange, but as you can see we took a turn into Lisa’s impending screening):

Sallie: I’ll take Lisa! I have lots of potty/poop-related items in mind. Sam will put together a collection of his favorite poopy diapers for her too. (Danny told me to say it!)

Danny: I DID NOT.  Her poop is off limits for me.  I have pledged not to make any jokes about her colon…and except for putting together a care package for her the other night (had each kid go find something potty related to put by her bed – magazine, plunger, t. paper, crossword puzzle), I have done well.

Me: what’s up with Lisa’s colon? And if she gets it -oscopied is there anything we can get bronzed? Or how about poo-wtered? [note: this was in reference to my mother giving us all our bronzed baby shoes one Christmas]

Sallie: Poo-tered – I laughed so hard I nearly peed in my pants. For once it is not me as the “butt” of the joke!

Danny: She’s been having a lot of stomach issues.  They are ruling things out.  Probably much doo doo about nothing.

Lisa: I’m not coming to Christmas [note: it is assumed she was rolling her eyes at this point]

Me: so no one has honestly answered my question about Lisa–has she been diagnosed? the closest explanation I got was Bruce saying it’s much doo-doo about nothing.

At which point my mom informed me what was happening and why, though even then she said she suspected it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We would have really liked an IBS diagnosis–the fatality rate is much lower and, as you can see, we could have made potty jokes for days.

So what’s it going to take to get you to get checked out? I’ve tried fear and humor. I could sprinkle in some guilt and say you owe it to those around you if you won’t do it for yourself. And if you have had any recurring/consistent stomach issues, then by all means get your ass (pun very much intended) to the doctor now.

I don’t want to get into pitting one type of cancer against another (we’ve been through colon and breast in my immediate family; I think a grandparent may have even battled leukemia at one point), but colon cancer is not currently getting the love that breast cancer awareness enjoys, with its turning everything pink. Colon cancer is less of a sexy cause, so it’s even more important we push it on the grassroots level. (I feel compelled to point out again: I am not calling for LESS breast cancer awareness, I’m calling for raised levels of colorectal cancer awareness!)

Later this month Danny and I might share some of our own experiences with getting a colonoscopy. Go ahead and make your appointment now and we’ll walk you through this thing step by step.

Here’s some more colorectal cancer screening info from the CDC:

-“Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer—cancer of the colon or rectum—is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Colorectal cancer also is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States.”

-“It is estimated that as many as 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women aged 50 years or older were screened routinely.”

-“You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier or more often than other people if:

  • You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer; or
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.”

“She Is As Pretty As A Flower”

POSTED BY JESSE

Last weekend I helped Stephanie with a school project. I was fishing around for some unused poster board when I found this:

Michelle's poster

It’s a poster Michelle made of Lisa a few years ago. Danny has some paragraph framed above his desk at home that Stephanie wrote in first grade. The kids were supposed to describe something using their senses, and Stephanie picked her Dad so it says things like “he is squishy” and “he tastes salty” or something like that. It gets read aloud about once a month. It also reeks of something her Dad helped her write, thus the framing.

I’m not sure if this was the same assignment, but it also smells suspiciously of something Danny was helping the child craft. Yes, it is sad to read. But it is also very funny. I laughed because I can see Danny poking fun at Lisa’s elegance and class by suggesting things like “she likes to cook spaghetti-o’s” and “she likes to eat pizza” and “and bring some clothes.”

Michelle is pretty funny. And smart. She probably wrote most of it.

I’m not sure why the one about Lisa didn’t get framed and the one about Danny did. So I figured I’d hang this one on our wall, so to speak. We’re in sort of a “remembering Lisa” mood this month anyway. Oh, and how else could I tell that Danny helped Michelle with this poster? Because it says, “She is as pretty as a flower.”

And she was.

Lisa with nephew Sam at Capon Springs

One Year Ago…

POSTED BY JESSE

I have a sinking feeling that this blog is about to take a brief detour to Tears-ville in the next few weeks.

But fear not, loyal readers, there are still plenty of good vibes in the Tanner household. There were smiles in the house the day before Lisa passed away, there was laughter the day after. This is still one of the happiest, most upbeat families I have ever seen and we will not be wearing black and mournfully reflecting the entire month of February. Not in real life, and not on this blog.

In fact, last night Michelle and Stephanie had me cracking up. They have fallen right in line with the family tradition of altering the words to songs for funny usages, and as we listened to Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” Michelle started singing the lyrics we had made up in the airport on our last family trip:

I gotta feeling…that this flight’s gonna be a good flight

This flight’s gonna be a good flight

This flight’s gonna be a good, good flight

Then as she raced from the car to the house, Michelle created a new one, this time to Travie McCoy’s “Billionare”:

I gotta go pee-pee, so freakin’ bad…

She is hilarious.

BUT…I do feel like the mood in the house is growing a bit more somber as February 24th approaches, and it’s only understandable.

As Danny already eloquently pointed out, we are approaching the one year anniversary of Lisa’s passing. I don’t begin to compare what this will mean to me to what he feels, but certainly it will be on all of our minds.

This also means we have arrived at the (infinitely less significant) one year anniversary of me admitting that there was at least a chance Lisa was not going to beat colon cancer and that I might lose her. (more…)

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