Saturday, March 13, 2010

Being Proactive will Save your Life

It has been a well known fact that my siblings and I have bad genes.  Our Grandma had Lymphoma in her early 50's, followed by our Grandpa with colorectal cancer in his late 70's- early 80's.  Grandpa was followed two months later by mom's lung cancer in her 40's and then 8 months later by our dad's colon cancer at the age of 50.  It goes without saying that we need to be proactive with our body.  We need to find a balance between being a hypocondriac and being naive. 

In November of 2008, 4 months before her 32nd birthday, Angie had her first colonoscopy.  She said some of the doctors were asking her why she got checked so young.  She referred them to her family history on the piece of paper in front of them.  Angie had no polyps and nothing that concerned the doctors.  She encouraged me to get checked as well.  It took me a while, but this past September I made my appointment after I kept experiencing digestive issues.  My results were fine, showing only three little ulcer-like spots caused most likely by stress.  I passed my test.

Last week Angie called me out of the blue and asked if I could be her driver for her colonoscopy on March 12th.  I said yes, of course, but I wondered why she was going back in for a scan when she had just completed one 15 months before and there were no signs of problems.  She told me that she listens.  Not only to her own body, but also to the doctors when she takes my dad in for his check-ups.  They ask if he has experienced a change in bowel movements, change in frequency, or blood in his stool.  They ask the same three questions every time.  Angie informed me that she had asked herself the same three questions the past few weeks and contines to answer yes to two of the three. 

So, yesterday, I took Angie to the hospital assuming they would check her out and tell her that she is all clear and just experiencing a large amount of stress.  Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy.  After she came into the recovery room they came and got me.  She was clearly experiencing discomfort and she was very comical in her medicated state.  They had to give her more narcotics than normal because they were having a hard time getting around parts of her colon.  They found a polyp that they kept discribing as "alarmingly large" considering she had just been checked 15 months before.  They removed it and sent it to the lab.  He said it looked normal as far as he could tell, but lab results will come back next week.

He continued to express concern about how quickly it grew.  Most people start their colonoscopies at the age of 50 and come back every 10 years, but Angie began them at 31 and will now get them every 24 months or so.  He told us there was no doubt this would have been cancer had she waited to get checked.  Those are difficult words to hear.  As if this news wasn't discouraging enough, I took her home and then she started to bleed when she went to the bathroom.  I had to take her back to the hospital so the surgeon could decide if they needed to go back in and look at the spot they had biopsied.  After a few hour at the hospital the second time, Angie was released and told to rest and watch for anything unusual. 

Needless to say, Yesterday was a long day.  I spent the night at Angie's house and she looked fine the rest of the evening.  She wasn't in any pain and she hasn't experienced any more bleeding.  Physically, everyone is back to normal, but mentally, knowing how things could have been is a tough pill to swallow.  I'm really proud of Angie for being so proactive with her health and it is a reminder to me that I need to be just as proactive.  I know that I probably would have just assumed it was stress and blown it off since I had just been checked.  If you're one of those people with a less than favorable genetic makeup, you need to make sure you are getting your annual physical and bloodwork.  Don't assume you are invincible, regardless of your age or how recently you were checked.

Hoping for good results-


  1. I'm so proud of Angie too for following her instincts. It's hard to do when you don't have much to worry about and even harder when you have a history of bad genes. Being the big dreamer I am, I believe her results will come back fine. But for the rest of you, follow Amy's advice and listen to your bodies. March is Colon cancer month...what a better time than NOW to get checked out.

  2. Good for you guys for not only being proactive, but paying attention to your family history as well as listening to your own bodies.

    Lots of good thoughts going to Angie in the coming weeks.

    And, as always, lots of good thoughts to Doreen and Rick too!

  3. I too found my breast cancer by being proactive, following my intuition and listening to my body. Don't think you are ever immune to this disease. I had no family history and it found me. The Schmitt family is in my thoughts daily, and they continue to inspire and amaze me. Happy thoughts, Stacey

  4. My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer when I was 32. The surgeon who performed his surgery told me to RUN and get a colonoscopy. I thought he was crazy. I was the only one in their 30's in the waiting room and felt like I was being over anxious. Well, I had a pre-cancerous polyp that my doctor said would have turned to cancer had I not had it removed. For the past 15 years I have been having colonscopies and endoscopies (stomach cancer also runs in our family) every 2 years. And since I was 28, yearly mammograms (my aunt died of breast cancer at 39). I congratulate you for your post. You can never be too proactive. With so many deaths in my family I have learned my lesson. My mother also had lung cancer, out of the blue. I think once cancer has touched your family we tend to see life differently and I now know everything I never wanted to know about colon and lung cancer. I, too, have become an "expert".

  5. I too have been reading your blog for the past 2 years. My husband was diagnosed 3 years ago with adenocarcinoma of the right lung (stage IIIB). He is a nonsmoker. I looked for websites that would give me information and inspiration. Bonnie's website gave me the info, you have given me the inspiration. He has been doing well on chemo for 3 years straight (less a 2 month break). We, as you, have learned to take each day as a gift and always tell our loved ones how grateful we are to have them in our lives. Thank you for sharing your journey as well as your family's. You've taught many how to appreciate even the smallest moment.

  6. Doreen, I have been following your blog for quite a while and think about you all as you go through all of this. Angie is one smart girl to have taken the initiative to be her own best advocate. You are all unbelievably strong.

    Sue Hopper

  7. How is everyone doing? Please keep us posted.