Many conclusions can be drawn from my cancer diagnosis, thus far, but I would say there is one particular message that is most important. If I could ensure that my experience with being diagnosed as a Stage IV cancer patient at the age of 27 could impart one thing, it would be the value in knowing your family history and even more crucially, listening to the signals that your body gives you.
In retrospect, if I had listened to the signals that my body was providing me, I would most likely not be a Stage IV cancer patient. Perhaps, if I would have taken note sooner, my cancer may not be so advanced, I wouldn’t have to go through chemotherapy and fight such a grand crusade against the cancer within me. Tomorrow I will undergo a routine colonoscopy. This is something that had you told me a year ago I would undergo, I would have scoffed at the thought. Colonoscopy? That’s something that is synonymous with hitting fifty and in conjunction with potential medical issues. Clearly, I am consummated of any potential medical issues, but fifty, I am not. Although, I digress; if accepting that colonoscopies, yes plural, is something that will be a part of my future, most likely yearly, than I suppose the reception should come from a place of primed agreement. After all, this will be a colossal tool to ensure that I am free of any tumors within my colon.
Recognizing that colonoscopies will need to be a willing part of my future and well being, I was interested to see just how many people, particularly young people are affected by colon cancer and how they deal with a disease where the typical age of a patient is seventy-one years old. According to Health Magazine, “…colorectal cancer occurs in only 4.6 percent of patients who are younger than fifty.” The article continues to point out that, “The most dramatic increases have been observed in the 20-29 year-old group, where there has been an annual 5.2 percent increase in cases in men and a 5.6 percent increase in women, and in the 30-39 year-old group, where there has been an annual 3 percent increase in men and a 2 percent increase in women.” The increase in colon cancer amongst younger patients is unknown, but have leading factors of being genetic, also known as “Lynch Syndrome”, environmental and lack of early detection, which leads to more aggressive disease.
The prominence within knowing your family history and listening to the signs your body gives you is invaluable. Younger patients may have a worse prognosis because the disease has metastasized, causing a greater percentage and risk of death. It is vital to make yourself aware of your own body and become alert to the diseases that run within your family. Having superior knowledge and information is the key to survival and potential avoidance of medical problems, if detected early enough.
So as I prepare myself for my colonoscopy, I value the distinction of knowing that this is something that I will have to go through for the rest of my life, but being aware of what is going on inside, can make an immense difference in my medical future. Staying on top of follow up appointments, as well as necessary tests and procedures may be the saving grace in the future of your well being. So, please, if you can gain anything from my experience, know your family history, get your yearly check-ups and most importantly listen to your body.
Now I am off to drink the delicious required solution! Wish me luck!