Blog carnival: My colonoscopy saved me

October 23, 2013

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” -Mahatma Gandhi

It’s almost 6 pm, which means I survived another Friday 4 o’clock client crisis. The week of juggling sales meetings, proposal deadlines, underwriting rate negotiations and planning my uncle’s surprise 80th birthday party had sucked the energy out of me. Just as I was packing up my office to head out the door, making sure I had everything needed for Monday’s big presentation with my largest customer, one more call came through, but this time I didn’t recognize the telephone number on the caller ID. “Your results are back from pathology. The tumor is malignant.” I really don’t remember too much else except that the doctor said that it wasn’t the usual colon cancer. “You have a Neuroendocrine Tumor [NET] that we thankfully picked up on your screening. It’s a slow growing tumor, but it’s a good thing you came in for your colonoscopy when you did, because by the time you had any symptoms, it would have been very difficult to treat.” We scheduled an office visit for Monday to discuss my course of action. I left the office that night and numbingly walked a couple of city blocks to the parking lot with one of my best friends, repeating in shock, “I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.” My self-pity rant lasted about seven minutes and I sat in my car for a while being thankful for the incidental discovery and praying for the strength to deal.

Monday morning came quickly and I knew the day would be full of emotion with the follow-up GI appointment that afternoon. But first, I had to get through a Wellness presentation. For years as the Account Manager for a large group health insurer, I often encouraged preventative screenings as a means to keep employees healthy. This day’s message was going to be different. Too many times I had talked the talk – this time I was going to walk the walk. I had a personal testimony to share.

Later that day, the doctor gave my course of action – cancer surgery to remove the tumor. My NET, known as a carcinoid, formed from the endocrine system, and the tumor really could have landed anywhere in my body. Carcinoids usually appear in the small bowel, particularly the ileum, and the tumors are often asymptomatic, which was my case. Based on the size, he said that I probably had it for years. Fortunately, the carcinoid landed at the connection of the small intestine and the colon, so it was found at the conclusion of the screening. The doctor said, “You are my poster child for getting a colonoscopy at age 50.”

My next few weeks were filled with all kinds of tests – blood work, CT and radiology scans – and office visits with the oncology surgeon, and later an inpatient stay for the procedure to remove the tumor. Ultimately, my complicated recovery course, not related to the colonoscopy, resulted with an extended hospitalization which caused me to miss my oldest son’s high school graduation and the youngest son’s first concert performance. But the colonoscopy saved my life.

Since then, my mission is to spread the news. My family and friends now receive greeting cards for their 50th birthday with the reminder to schedule that screening. I’m known as the colonoscopy advocate and I love breaking down the preconceived barriers. My husband, a retired NFL football player who delayed screening for two years because of the imaginary thoughts of the difficult preparation and the expectation of bad news, had pre-cancerous polyps removed during his colonoscopy. He now joins me on the mission to campaign for getting a colonoscopy by sharing our story with his friends and former teammates.

This post is part of the Prevent Cancer blog carnival.

8 thoughts on “Blog carnival: My colonoscopy saved me”

  1. Carol Willis says:

    So nice of you to share your story. You have encouraged me to schedule my own Colonoscopy. I do make sure I do a full body cleansing twice a year.

    1. Valarie Everett says:

      Carol, I am thrilled that my story encouraged you to schedule your screening. Please pay it forward by asking a loved one to get theirs done too. My best to you. Valarie

  2. Dear Valarie:
    Your story is important to share.
    You will probably be interested in my friend’s organization found at:
    http://butt-check.org. She too is a colon cancer survivor.
    I also had a pre-cancerous polyp removed during my colonoscopy.
    Best wishes for continued good health.
    Margaret Turley, Administrator
    Writers Unite to Fight Cancer
    writersunitetofightcancer@gmail.com

    1. Valarie Everett says:

      Margaret, thank you for taking time to read my story. I’m glad to know that you too benefited from a screening. Thank you for providing information on your friend’s organization and may she continue to thrive. You are a good friend to support her mission. Valarie

  3. Elizabeth Lampkin says:

    Valarie, your story is a reminder to all of us that our bodies are a Temple needing to be honored with check-ups that place its value to us and our loved ones! Thank you for sharing your story and the impact it has had on your life.

    1. Valarie Everett says:

      Elizabeth, thank you for your kind words and I hope that you are inspired to schedule the needed checkups and preventative screenings. My best to you and your family. Valarie

  4. Lisa says:

    What an amazing story of resiliency,courage and bravery! I know your story will touch lives for many years to come.

    1. Valarie Everett says:

      Lisa, I certainly hope so because I believe that’s why I was chosen for that particular journey. My best to you and yours. Valarie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *