CANTON — Today, I am preparing to run my fifth half marathon because 13 years ago a giant replica of a colon was coming to a mall near the city where I was the editor of the newspaper.
I was writing an editorial about the colon replica. It was Colon Cancer Awareness Month, it was the end of the week and I had run out of editorial ideas.
“Colon cancer awareness is important,” I thought.
So, I started writing.
Once I had covered all the details of the colon replica’s visit I was at a bit of a loss. I didn’t know much about colon cancer.
Google led me to the American Cancer Society, which led me to a list of symptoms.
I copied and pasted the symptoms into my editorial: changes in bowel habits, cramps and bloating, feeling as though the bowels are not empty, blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, shortness of breath.
If you removed unexplained weight loss from the list, I had every symptom.
I had an explanation for each symptom, taken separately. Seeing all of them together made me think my explanations might be wrong.
My wife scheduled an appointment with my doctor, who sent me for a colonoscopy, where I was informed that I had a tumor in my rectum that was bordering on getting large.
I was thrown into the cancer treatment whirlwind. I had chemotherapy, which included having a pump hooked up to a port in my chest for a week at a time. I had radiation treatments which had me lying on a table while casually chatting with the radiologist who was jiggling my bare butt to get the lasers lined up. I had a major abdominal surgery that knocked me out of work for eight weeks and left me with a permanent colostomy.
That all happened in 2006 and there has been no evidence of disease since then.
I can say that excellent doctors, diligent nurses, incredible technology and a supportive family and workplace worked together to save my life – and I do. But, the truth is – it was that giant colon replica.
If you are 50 years old and have not talked to your doctor about a colon cancer screening, you really should.
If you have a chance to see Claxton-Hepburn’s inflatable colon at the Lockwood Arena on Sept. 22 or anywhere else it appears, tell it, “thanks.”
Tom Graser is the St. Lawrence, Franklin County Editor for Northern New York Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @Stlawed.