Don’t ASSume: Colorectal Cancer Awareness 2019
It is no secret that cancer effectively ruined my life in April 2016. Family and friends know that the battle with cancer started almost nine months before my dad died. I noticed that something was wrong in July 2015, when we went on a family trip to Tennessee. It was a good trip and we had fun, but dad spent some of it sicker than I’d ever seen him. He continued getting sicker and refused to go to the doctor until October because he thought it was something that would go away. His official cancer diagnosis came in October 2015. He died the following April.
Normally, I do not keep my account of those months so short because I am still working through my grief. Writing about it helps, but this article is not about me. This article is about the 140,000 people who are diagnosed and the 50,000 people who die from colon cancer in the United States annually (Colorectal Cancer Alliance, 2019).
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. I am challenging you to learn about a cancer so dangerous that most people don’t realize they’re sick until it is almost too late.
Colorectal cancer is one that starts in the colon or rectum. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and can fester inside a person for over ten years without any symptoms. The American Cancer Society of America estimates that it is the second-leading cause of cancer death. It is aggressive and dangerous. A five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer found at the distant stages is 14 percent.
What is really scary about colorectal cancer is that the average age of diagnosis is 63 years old for both men and women. This is likely because colonoscopies become a yearly part of medical exams for those who turn 50. However, most cases of colorectal cancer (72%) occur in people who are in their 40s. I hate to say that Dad is a statistic, but he was diagnosed with cancer when he was 42 years old. He wasn’t supposed to start getting colonoscopies for another 8 years.
I know this is scary. Cancer is scary, but there are things that you can do to protect yourself.
- The first thing you can do is stop being so stubborn when you get sick. If your body is telling you that something wrong, you need to listen to it. You need to go to the doctor, even if you’re scared about what you’re going to hear. You would rather be told that the doctor found something in time to save your life than that you waited too long and your chances are low. You owe it to the people in your life, the ones you love and love you, to go to the doctor. You don’t want to leave them behind to wonder why you didn’t love them enough to get checked.
- The second thing you can do is get your damn wellness check. It is easy to schedule one with your local doctor and, again, you owe it to your family to get checked yearly. When I turn 21, I have already committed to getting a yearly wellness check because I am at risk. I don’t want to make the same mistake Dad did, because I know I’m not immune now. Commit to getting your wellness check. It might save your life.
What else can we do to help fight against colorectal cancer? Through research and education about prevention, screening, and treatment, it is possible to end colorectal cancer in our lifetime. I am running a fundraiser for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to raise money for their awareness and research programs. For more information on colorectal cancer and a place to donate, visit dontassume.org.
Don’t leave your child wondering why they weren’t enough motivation for you to go to the doctor and get your wellness check.