Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Getting Old is Hard, But the Alternative is Harder" or: "Why I am Making Myself Sick on Purpose"

Yom shlishi, 23 Adar II 5774.

Don't worry. This photo will make sense later.
Okay, I could have just called this post "Colonoscopy." But then you wouldn't have read it. And I need for at least one person in the neighborhood of 50 to change his or her mind about enduring this necessary degradation, because I have read some alarming statistics. So please forgive the "TMI" post. But our lives depend on it.

Apparently, many people avoid the test because it is distasteful, or because it feels like a violation. And because it's embarrassing.

Yup, that's right. They'd rather die than go through something that is admittedly nasty, but that might extend their time on Earth.

Making myself sick on purpose is much lower on my list of entertainments than, say, cleaning the mold out of every window in my apartment and scrubbing the bathtub after a football game. Nonetheless, I have spent the last two days taking medications to make myself sick-like-dog to -- ahem -- clean out my system prior to the dreaded procedure.

And folks who know me well know that -- despite the state of my apartment -- my sense of personal cleanliness and dignity are amusingly catlike.

The upshot -- heh-heh-heh... everything sounds like a bad pun to me lately, butt I digress. Oh, there I go again --

After I endure this, the doctor will either find something scary (Heaven forbid) and fix it early, when it's easy to fix; or he will give me a pass for Ten Years Without Worry. Either of those options sounds better to me than becoming a statistic.

SATURDAY, March 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, but there are ways of reducing your risk.
"Colorectal cancer is largely preventable with early screening and detection," Dr. Anne Lin, assistant professor of general surgery for the University of California, Los Angeles, Health System and David Geffen School of Medicine, said in a UCLA news release.
And from the American Cancer Society:

"Too many people are still dying: 50,310 expected this year, along with 136,830 new cases." 

That's in America. Rates in Israel are also still too high; but the situation is improving.

Early stage diagnosis of the disease has nearly doubled (from 18% to 34%) over the past twenty years, as a result of the increase in compliance with the National Colorectal Cancer Screening Program, jointly initiated by the Israel Cancer Association and the Ministry of Health.

 Mortality rates have dropped by 17% in males and by 11.4% in females.

This statistic is from the Jewish population. The Cancer Society in Israel is still trying to increase involvement by the Arab population in the screening process, as well as in the Hareidi ("ultra-Orthodox") population. In a 2012 article in the Times of Israel regarding reaching out to the Hareidim, Dr. Shlomo Lewkowicz gave further details:

"Lewkowicz said that every day, 10 new cases of rectal or colon cancer are diagnosed in Israel, five of which can prove to be fatal; however, a simple colonoscopy can often detect the cancer before it reaches a life-threatening stage."

Read. Information and recommendations are readily available online. Then -- get over it, and get tested. If I can set aside the super-high readings on my personal Bleccch-O-Meter, so can you.

And for the next few days, please be very gentle with me. My catlike nature is a bit disgruntled. And this sour expression on my face has absolutely nothing to do with you!

A favorite photo of cats apparently lining up for their appointments.

26 comments:

  1. Yeah. The prep is the worst part. But we doo what we must doo.

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    1. Thanks for the much-needed laugh, Varda. <3

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  2. At what age is it recommended for women to begin this? I am 54 but have yet to be told by my doctor to do this. Or is that because I see a family doc and not an internist? Or gastro doc? Help me out here because I am clueless..

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    1. Check with your doc. If I had not needed to solve another problem, I would not have ended up at this stage, either. And when I finally got to the gastroenterologist, he wanted to know why it had taken me so long. Go figure...

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  3. I'm one of the younger ones who have been blessed with the need for this test due to family history. Much better to find something very minor at 30 than to find something more significant after 50. If you're thinking you're too young for a colonoscopy and can push it off another 5-10-20 years, even though your doctor has recommended it, don't. Listen to Ruti. It's important and it's really not that bad.

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    1. Thank you for your input, Shoshi! May you have only good results for your very long, healthy, happy life!

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  4. I tip my hat to you Ruti - both for sharing this and 'doo-ing' it ; ) Of course I hope this was just routine procedure and everything's ok. I went through this very uncomfortable test a few years ago, and have been pushing off the next one because it was so much fun the first time! Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Thanks for the support, Pearl, and for the humor. May we share good news!

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  5. Join the club! Tomorrow I have the dubious joy of Virtual colonoscopy. (Just slightly less degrading). Very very important!

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    1. After this many years, you'd think we'd have a more fun club to join... but thanks for that special feeling of inclusion. ;-) More importantly, thank you for adding your voice to the choir. Coming from a medical professional, it's even more impressive.

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    2. And I wish you successful results!

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  6. It's recommended to have a first colonoscopy at age 50, unless there is a reason to do it earlier (family history, etc.). The prep is MUCH more pleasant than it used to be (take my word on this) and you will be deeply asleep for the procedure itself. Here in Israel, your family doctor may not tell you that you need to have a colonoscopy (ditto for the mammogram), so you need to be proactive and get thee to a gastroenterologist. There are some excellent ones here in Jerusalem, and I can give recommendations if anyone wants to contact me.

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  7. For those of you out there that are nervous about taking this kind of exam, I read that Israel just developed a "camera pill" that one swallows and it takes pictures of those areas and then a doctor can study the results. Sounds a lot less invasive and scary. I am planning on looking into that.

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    1. The "Pillcam" is not appropriate as a screening exam. The choices are colonoscopy, which is invasive and may have complucations, the most serious being bowel perforation. The other is "virtual" colonoscopy done by CT. It is noninvasive , but involves considerable exposure to nonionizing radiation. One should consult one's primary care physician to discuss which procedure is appropriate.

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  8. I also had one on the early side due to family history and quite frankly didn't find it all that bad. I do have to say I do not envy the professionals in charge, as I do not envy OB-GYNs, and I enjoyed being knocked out for most of it. I encourage all those sitting on the fence (puns are fun) to go for it.

    Health to all!

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    1. All encouragement gratefully accepted!

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  9. They've got this down to a science these days and it's over before you know it. What our minds make up about it is far worse than the actual procedure. I say, summon up the intestinal fortitude and go for it, guys!

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    1. And the puns just keep on comin'! Thanks, Shalomis!

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  10. A gastroenterologist claims these are actual comments made by patients during a colonoscopy: (yah, right)
    • “Take it easy, doc, you’re boldly going where no man has gone before.”
    • “Find Amelia Earhart yet?”
    • “Could you write me a note for my wife, saying that my head is not, in fact, up there?”
    • “Are we there yet?”
    • “Can you hear me now?”
    • “Hey, now I know how a Muppet feels!”
    • “If your hand doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”
    • “Hey, doc, let me know if you find my dignity.”
    * "You know, in Arkansas, we're now legally married."

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    1. Thanks for the laugh. I suspect they're made up, as they tell me one is enjoying Better Living Through Chemistry during the procedure. But they're great fun, nonetheless. I'm not sure if I like the third one best, or the last. :-D :-D :-D

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  11. Ok, last one, -For another humorous colonoscopy story: http://bobsnewheart.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/the-colonoscopy-one-mans-perpsective/

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    1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA... Oops. Now you've done it....

      But seriously, folks -- Dave Barry has been getting this family through painful situations for many years. That's a post for another day.

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  12. I know I ought to, but... just always lose the paperwork...

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    1. Just take care of you, Batya. I need you there for the Lions/Rebels games. As was mentioned in our Coffee Shop, there are various ways to take care of oneself in Israel. Do not become a statistic over lost paperwork. I would miss you.

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