After watching two TV newscasters jokingly – and uncomfortably – talking about getting colonoscopies recently, I decided to resurrect a column I wrote a few years ago after getting a call from “CeCe.” Here it is, a “talk & tour” with my colon. Yes, you read that right, my colon!
COLON: Terry, so glad that you finally stopped down. You’ve been neglecting me.
ME: Well I didn’t exactly cherish the idea of visiting you of all things colon. Besides, it’s so damp and dreary here and, on top of that, it doesn’t exactly smell like a bed of roses down here.
COLON: C’mon, this won’t be that bad, I promise.
ME: I can’t imagine it being worse than that awful stuff I had to drink in preparation, that’s for sure. So, let’s get this thing over with.
COLON: Okay but watch your step.
Wait, hold on you’re saying. Why on Earth is this guy talking about his colon of all things?
Well, here’s bit of advice for you (or someone dear to you); Get thou a colonoscopy. It could lifesaving! Or, while on the topic in general, get any of the many screenings that may detect early signs of a preventable – I repeat PREVENTABLE – cancer. For, as the “the talk & tour” with my colon indicated, I did and am alive and here to tell you that it is well worth it if it provides peace of mind if the results show no signs of a problem.
You see, I woke up from my “tour” light-headed from anesthesia and, once able to focus my groggy eyes on my wife and the doctor who performed my colonoscopy, I scanned their faces for any signs of trouble. Didn’t see any. Ah, relief. His words were music to my ears:
“You did well Mr. Howard. I didn’t find any polyps,” said my doctor while flashing a smile and pointing to photos of my unsightly colon.
But there’s a backstory to my story. It’s about an unexpected call I got years back from CeCe, a classmate from college.
“Terry, other than going through a divorce and dealing with pancreatic and liver cancer, I’m doing just fine. Life has been good to me. My biggest regret is not getting tested for early signs of cancer years ago.”
The casual matter-of-factness and humor in how CeCe uttered those words that afternoon carried through in her many emails afterwards. I hung up stunned by her disclosure about something so personal and, at her wise advice, committed to getting my long overdue examinations scheduled right away.
But there’s even more to my story. Fast forward to a year later. I was one of a dozen folks CeCe sent her cancer updates to. Here’s how one read:
I just completed the six-week scan review. The results were mixed, but promising. The pancreatic and several of those on the liver have been reduced. However, there is one tumor on the liver that has grown quite a bit. Of course, the doctors are making plans to attack it. One or two weeks after that, I return for another form of radiation–can’t remember the name right now. This treatment consists of three or four days of radiation. I’ll receive one dose every other day. Once the results are in, I will give you my final update. I have decided not to speak of this disease after that. As always, I thank you for your support.
A month after that last email, CeCe passed away.
Now have I gotten your attention readers, or have I crossed the line into something too personal for your liking? How willing are you now to have “the talk & tour” with your colon, prostrate, breasts, lungs or other organs? And if you think that you’re in great health and see no need for a screening, how willing are you now to initiate “the talk” with others about getting screened?
Now I realize that I’m about to make a dangerous assumption here, but to girlfriends, wives and partners of the men in your lives, you may have to work a little harder in initiating “the talk” with them about having prostate and colon examines since many men (I once included myself in that category) are hard-headedly reluctant to do that. There’s just something about men, manhood, male pride and…okay, why don’t I just leave it right there!
And if you are a man of color (Black men are at a higher risk for prostate cancer), or in a relationship with one, a “talk & tour” could be one of the best decisions you will ever make; believe this brother.
Here’s the “tail end” (pun intended) of “my talk” with my colon:
COLON: Okay, you successfully completed your test. I’ll see you again in five years.
ME: Whew, I’m glad you didn’t find anything cancerous. Is there anything you want me to do during the meantime?
COLON: Yes, have the talk with as many as possible about getting screened.
ME: Okay, and better still, I’ll make this a focus of my next column. I just hope that many of my readers won’t be turned off by my addressing something as unsightly as a colon.
COLON: Well, get them to see it this way; a colon is unsightly only if it is ridden with fast growing polyps or cancer itself. In the absence of that, maybe it’s not so “unsightly” after all, is it?
The talk and tour? …. well, the choice is now in your hands readers.
© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and storyteller. He is also a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel, Blackmarket.com, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award and 3rd place winner of the 2022 Georgia Press Award.