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A quick PSA for PFT Planet

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I realize that this topic easily could (and likely will) stray into “TMI” territory.  But it’s sufficiently important, to all of you, to justify several quick — and hopefully not too graphic — paragraphs.

On Friday, I had an annual (first annual, but annual nonetheless) physical in Pittsburgh.  It was comprehensive.  (Yes, comprehensive.)  Early in the process, the doctor told me that my fecal occult test had come back positive, which meant that microscopic amounts of blood were found in one or more of the stool samples I smeared onto a card in early June.

I’m 46, and my sister had a benign polyp in her early 40s.  And since some benign polyps can develop over time into colon cancer, I had received from time to time a gentle nudge to have a colonoscopy before the standard age of 50.

I resisted.  Fearful of complications (albeit rare) and generally disinclined to have anything inserted in that area, I ultimately decided to have a yearly fecal occult test, accepting the fact that I’d bite the bullet and ride the six-foot snake if the card came back positive before my 50th birthday.

The sudden knowledge that I’d now have to submit to the procedure coupled with fear that my stubbornness may have resulted in a missed opportunity to remove any polyps before they became cancerous caused me to nearly prep my bowels for the exam on the spot, in the doctor’s office.  With the lockout hopefully ending soon and a beach trip coming up and other things in July that I need to do, I asked for the earliest possible date to have the dreaded ‘scoping performed.

By the end of the day, the assman’s office called and told me that I had two options:  today or July 19.  I picked today without hesitation, even though I knew it meant I’d spend the next three days repeatedly Googling topics like “fecal occult false positives” and “colonoscopy risks” and “colon cancer symptoms” and “colon cancer treatment” — and that I’d spend Monday eating nothing while also taking medications intended to eradicate everything from my system.  (But fortunately not while flying from Texas to New Jersey.)

The fact that less than 10 percent of the people who generate a positive fecal occult test have colon cancer provided little comfort, since everyone in that less than 10 percent surely believed that the numbers were in their favor before they got the very bad news.  Still, it’s better to hear the bad news as soon as possible, especially with colon cancer, which has a survival rate hinging largely on how early it is found.

So I did it.  And the whole thing wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  The prep consisted of taking a small pill at noon on Monday, followed by one eight-ounce glass every 10 minutes (10 glasses in all) of a slightly syrupy but palatable liquid that induced for the remainder of the night a process that at times simulated the placement of a thumb over a garden hose.

Early this morning, Mrs. PFT and I made the trek back to Pittsburgh.  (You can’t drive home after the procedure, because you are sedated for it.)  The process went smoothly, there were no polyps or tumors found, and I’m not nearly as loopy after the fact as I thought I’d be (I slept all the way home, but for a detour to Cracker Barrel, where I more than made up for 40 food-free hours).  I also now have the best gift I could have gotten — peace of mind.

Dr. Mehmet Oz recently explained in a lengthy article for Time magazine his own experience with a colon cancer scare.  “[M]y colonoscopy wasn’t entirely about me,” he concluded.  “It was about my wife and our children.  It’s about our someday grandchildren.  It’s about my childhood friends whose lives remain closely intertwined with mine.  It’s about my colleagues and patients at the hospital who teach me as I learn from them.  I need to be there for all these people I know and care about.  I need to show up in my own life.  And you need to show up in yours.  Sometimes that requires courage — the courage to undergo a colonoscopy or Pap smear or mammogram or chest X-ray.  It’s not easy, but it could save your life.”

I’m now a firm believer in that concept.  I wish I could have come to that conclusion without having to spend four days worrying that my past refusal to submit to a procedure that was surprisingly easy and routine possibly had forfeited my chance to avoid getting colon cancer.  And I’ve shared this experience in the hopes that at least one of you who otherwise wouldn’t luck into an all-clear for cancer later will get the screening done now, while there’s time to make a difference in your life, and in the lives of those who depend on you.

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52 Responses to “A quick PSA for PFT Planet”
  1. hobartbaker says: Jun 28, 2011 4:59 PM

    Good story. My buddy B. is cracking up over here because you said “fecal”.

  2. Deb says: Jun 28, 2011 5:01 PM

    Excellent public service announcement, Mike! And congrats on a healthy report! I’m driving my dad to his colonoscopy tomorrow–and thankful he’s here to make the trip. Like you, he kept putting off his physicals until my mom announced one morning his appointment was scheduled in 10 minutes. His tests revealed an issue like yours, and the subsequent colonoscopy found cancer. The surgeon had to remove 15 inches of his colon. If he’d gone much longer without that checkup, it would have been too late and his grandchildren would never have known him.

  3. hit2hurt says: Jun 28, 2011 5:04 PM

    Congrats!! That’s great news.. It’s always good to stop worrying about crap and go get peace of mind.. No pun intended!! LOL

  4. ralphshere says: Jun 28, 2011 5:06 PM

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Perhaps acting, sonner than later, is important.

  5. sfnightwriter says: Jun 28, 2011 5:07 PM

    Good lord. I’m glad that there’s no cancer. And that I ate early today.

  6. fonetiklee says: Jun 28, 2011 5:09 PM

    Lost your butt cherry, eh? It happens to most of us, eventually. Glad you’re ok.

  7. perno13 says: Jun 28, 2011 5:09 PM

    In a strange twist of fate, I was actively using my colon while reading about your journey.

    Glad to hear all is well!

  8. Deb says: Jun 28, 2011 5:10 PM

    Excellent public service announcement, Mike! And congrats on a healthy report! I’m driving my dad to his colonoscopy tomorrow–and thankful he’s here to make the trip. Like you, he kept putting off his physicals until my mom announced one morning his appointment was scheduled in 10 minutes. His tests revealed an issue like yours, and the subsequent colonoscopy found cancer. The surgeon had to remove 15 inches of his colon. If he’d gone much longer without that checkup, it would have been too late and his grandchildren would never have known him.

  9. zachg10 says: Jun 28, 2011 5:11 PM

    Below is an excerpt from an article by Dave Barry on his experience preparing for a colonoscopy , I first saw this in the midst of my prep for one and almost fell off the throne laughing…

    Enjoy…

    I left Andy ‘s office with some written instructions, and a
    prescription for a product called ‘MoviPrep,’ which comes in a box
    large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in
    detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to
    fall into the hands of our enemies.

    I spent the next several days productively sitting around being
    nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my
    preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn’t eat any
    solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically
    water, only with less flavour. Then, in the evening, I took the
    MoviPrep.

    You mix two packets of powder together in a one-litre plastic jug,
    then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the
    metric system, a litre is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink
    the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes – and
    here I am being kind – like a mixture of goat spit and urinal
    cleanser, with just a hint of lemon. The instructions for MoviPrep,
    clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humour, state that
    after you drink it, ‘a loose, watery bowel movement may result.’ This
    is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may
    experience contact with the ground.

    MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don’t want to be too graphic here,
    but have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the
    MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you
    wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much
    confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate
    everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you
    have to drink another litre of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I
    can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating
    food that you have not even eaten yet.

  10. Deb says: Jun 28, 2011 5:11 PM

    Moderators, would you care to tell me why you pulled my post which was COMPLETELY on topic and very heartfelt about my dad????????????????????????

  11. stull60060 says: Jun 28, 2011 5:14 PM

    I had my first colonoscopy when I was 52 1/2 years old. They found one very small benign polyp that they removed. I was told to have another colonoscopy in 3-5 years. I’ve done some research on the matter and from what I’ve read it takes approximately 10 years for a new polyp to become cancerous. Therefore I figure having a colonoscopy every 5 years is enough. There is risk in having the procedure done. I feel that having one every three years is excessive. With the exception of my mother having rectal cancer at 78 years old, there is no other family history of colorrectal cancer. I know this sounds crazy but I’m not afraid of the procedure itself. I’m afraid of the possibility of hearing bad news. I think most men think this way. Ignorance is bliss. However, you are correct better to get the bad news early enough to save your life then to get the bad news too late for you and your loved ones.

  12. ingloriousmaster says: Jun 28, 2011 5:14 PM

    Good piece, Mike. You’re a genuinely good person and you’re success is well deserved. Here’s to PFT (and football) for many more years to come!

  13. mvp43 says: Jun 28, 2011 5:16 PM

    Fecal Occult – great band name!

    Good news on the results…

  14. thephantomstranger says: Jun 28, 2011 5:16 PM

    Speaking as a coward, I appreciate the nudge.

  15. toad8572 says: Jun 28, 2011 5:26 PM

    I had one years ago, and it was more interesting than uncomfortable.

    My request to observe the live proceedure on the monitor was granted, and it was very interesting to see the real-time inside of my intestines. Whistle clean, and good to go.

    No reason to procrastinate; I’ve had tougher times in the shower.

  16. krow101 says: Jun 28, 2011 5:32 PM

    A fellow in work had a routine colonoscopy … lo and behold he had colon cancer … it was found very early … they snipped out a few inches of his colon … no chemo … no radiation … back in work less than a month later. That was 3 years ago … he’s fine … got his life back 100% … no side effects … it’s as if it never happened.

    He’d be dead now without that test.

  17. bunjy96 says: Jun 28, 2011 5:36 PM

    The “trials” are much better than the other options.

    I stupidly put it off until my wife put her foot down. Like you know, nothing, until you do it.

  18. vahawker says: Jun 28, 2011 5:38 PM

    Good advice Mike. Glad everything turned out well. You didn’t happen to poop out a new CBA by any chance?

  19. thephantomstranger says: Jun 28, 2011 5:42 PM

    perno13 says:
    Jun 28, 2011 5:09 PM
    In a strange twist of fate, I was actively using my colon while reading about your journey.
    ________________

    I hope you wiped off your keyboard when you were done.

  20. mike83ri says: Jun 28, 2011 5:51 PM

    This post was a load of crap.

  21. ivedoneyourwife says: Jun 28, 2011 6:13 PM

    I would usually make a wise crack about some of your personal business that you relay to us from time to time but…My family and I will pray for you and your family for the best.
    My wife’s dad had prostate cancer and watched him suffer for several years while the Gods (Dr.’s) repeatedly cut pieces away from him and poisoned him with chemo and radiation. So much, to a point where he couldn’t die or do anything peacefully. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy (maybe a couple), especially my favorite internet hack.

  22. rolabauer says: Jun 28, 2011 6:14 PM

    Gosh I feel a kindred connection (and not with that same six foot snake). Had my first “past do” procedure on Monday and came away with good grades. It really is no big deal and I too felt that this was not worth all the fretting I had given it. Today at work I had a spring in my step both spiritually and physically.

  23. hobartbaker says: Jun 28, 2011 6:15 PM

    Sounds a bit too traumatizing for me. Do they have semi-colonoscopies for the faint of heart?

  24. kwken says: Jun 28, 2011 6:15 PM

    Thanks for posting about your experience Mike. I bet the results had taken a “load” off.

  25. thephantomstranger says: Jun 28, 2011 6:20 PM

    toad8572 says:
    Jun 28, 2011 5:26 PM
    No reason to procrastinate; I’ve had tougher times in the shower.
    _________________

    Was that in prison?

  26. CKL says: Jun 28, 2011 7:06 PM

    Glad to hear all is well!
    Also, Cracker Barrel rules!

  27. doogenfife2000 says: Jun 28, 2011 7:20 PM

    I am 43 and was having issues that caused my Dr to have the “scope” done to see if that was causing said issue. It wasnt but there was a benign polyp found. Would it have still been benigh when I was 50? Dont know and now I am glad I dont have to worry what would be there at 50 and that I know I will be here for my kids when I am 50 “God willing”.

  28. alberthaynesworth says: Jun 28, 2011 7:32 PM

    Lol at deb. Its actually posted twice. Fail.

  29. Deb says: Jun 28, 2011 7:33 PM

    Silly moderators … tricks are for kids :P

  30. beauregard says: Jun 28, 2011 7:43 PM

    When I had my ‘scope done my wife was amazed the doctor didn’t find my head up there.

  31. MichaelEdits says: Jun 28, 2011 7:51 PM

    I’m glad you posted that. Some of us are old enough to think about that *bleep*

  32. Deb says: Jun 28, 2011 7:56 PM

    @alberthaynesworth …

    No … they pulled the first one so I reposted with a message asking why. Much later they went back and posted the original. That’s why the second one has so many more responses (duh).

    Didn’t you know moderators can have a sense of humor just like everyone else?

  33. terp41 says: Jun 28, 2011 8:30 PM

    i’m one of those that hasn’t had one yet. after reading this i’m getting my checked.
    thanks mike

  34. dempsey63 says: Jun 28, 2011 9:11 PM

    I have a female doctor. During my physical, she performed a prostate exam wearing one of those giant stadium #1 foam fingers that was bronzed and kept in the freezer just for me.

    For the initial colonoscopy at age 50, they rigged up a Skycam and broadcast the proceedings over the local cable access channel. (At least I still get a residual check every time they rerun it.)

  35. matson1 says: Jun 28, 2011 10:09 PM

    OK Mike, now you truly are a man!

  36. richm2256 says: Jun 28, 2011 10:31 PM

    Deb says:
    Jun 28, 2011 5:11 PM
    Moderators, would you care to tell me why you pulled my post which was COMPLETELY on topic and very heartfelt about my dad????????????????????????

    ————————————————-

    Read: “Do you know who I am??!!!!!!!!!!”

    @zachg10: Thanks for the post. That was the funniest thing I’ve read in a while! Love Dave Barry, and kudos to PFT for allowing the post.

    “at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating
    food that you have not even eaten yet.”

    LMAO!

    Mike, thanks for the entire topic. As a 55 year old male, this is something I need to address. Thanks for the reminder.

    You too, Deb. I wish your dad the best.

  37. mrf47 says: Jun 28, 2011 10:31 PM

    Hey Mike – great post. If you ever visit Comcast world headquarters in Philadelphia, please let me know…lunch is on me.

  38. benh999 says: Jun 28, 2011 10:43 PM

    ProFecalTalk

  39. alexanderisland says: Jun 28, 2011 10:45 PM

    Mike, did ye check that there wasn’t a hand on each of your shoulders…?

  40. paulfalconsfan says: Jun 28, 2011 11:03 PM

    I am an 8 year survivor of colon cancer. Thank God you were smarter than me and got checked out before anything bad happened. If detected early, colon cancer is treatable and getting a colonoscopy is the key to detection.

  41. newguy925 says: Jun 28, 2011 11:53 PM

    32 and getting my 3rd next week due to U.C. It’s not that bad guys, beats the hell out of being dead.

  42. Deb says: Jun 29, 2011 12:09 AM

    @rich2256 …

    ROFLOL … I didn’t mean it that way! Believe me, they rein me in and make me rewrite posts all the time. It was more like “What the heck did you find wrong with this one?” Thanks for the well wishes to my dad. And yes, do follow up. The prep is worse than the procedure, and if there’s no problem, you don’t have to repeat the test for five years.

  43. mullwall412 says: Jun 29, 2011 12:53 AM

    Man Mike the whole time I was reading this I thought the next line was gonna be “I start treatment on…” Great to hear your all right though.

  44. twitter:Chapman_Jamie says: Jun 29, 2011 7:54 AM

    Glad to hear that everything checked out. We all love to bust your ball$ on here but you know we would appreciate everything you do! Besides without this site, we might actually have to do work during the day!

  45. kevinfromphilly says: Jun 29, 2011 8:17 AM

    Congrats, but you didn’t eat for that long and your first trip was Cracker Barrel? You’d think a Primanti would be in order in Pittsburgh.

  46. terrycrazy4life says: Jun 29, 2011 8:21 AM

    Great post Mike! I’m 46 and I just had my second scope. I had my first one at the age of 40 because my dad had colon cancer. It was not caught in time and had spread to his liver. It’s not a pleasant prep but you are completely right that the piece of mind it brings is worth it.

  47. rpiotr01 says: Jun 29, 2011 9:39 AM

    Don’t be like Vince Lombardi, just get it done.

  48. funtime42 says: Jun 29, 2011 9:41 AM

    This is NOT a guy thing either. Unless otherwise indicated, women should also have a baseline scope at 50. The prep is getting better, and you’re sleeping through the worst bits…

    Glad all went well.

  49. vadog says: Jun 29, 2011 12:26 PM

    Great post Mike!! I have Crohn’s Disease and am required to get colonoscopies fairly often. The prep…by far…is the worst part. Good reading material is essential for all the time you will spend on the old porceleine throne!!!

    I am glad that everything checked out ok for you. To everyone else…if you have symptoms before age 50 get it checked out. It can save your life. If you are 50 or older and never have had a colonoscopy…time to get it accomplished!!!

  50. ccarter80 says: Jun 29, 2011 1:04 PM

    Good move. Vince Lombardi died from colon cancer, and his refusal to get a colonoscopy.

  51. luckyarmpit says: Jun 29, 2011 3:01 PM

    I’m a long-time lurker of this site but a first-time poster. I usually avoid the “Comments” section of the articles posted on this site but this article convinced me to finally register. I wanted to say, glad to hear everything turned out well with your exam. It struck a bit of a chord with me, as I’m 39 and my 40th birthday is right around the corner… which means that my first annual colonoscopy is also right around the corner. Glad to hear yet another person state that it’s really not as bad as you think. And if early detection can save your life, isn’t a few hours worth of minor discomfort worth it?

    Also, thanks for the hilarious article from Peter King. Glad nothing like that happened to you!

    I really enjoy ProFootballTalk and it just wouldn’t be the same without ya, Mike. Hopefully this is the first of many “clean” (pardon the pun) tests for you… thanks for sharing your experience!

  52. toad8572 says: Jun 29, 2011 4:25 PM

    “Was that in prison?”

    ____________________________

    Boy, I knew that was coming after I posted.

    I should have said “brushing my teeth” (not in prison).

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