Life / Health

Colon cancer awareness month: Metro’s movie critic shares his own story — and a vital message

There are a few phrases you never want to hear.

“Michael Bay is directing a remake of Casablanca” and, “It’s not you, it’s me” appear on the scroll of things that hurt my ears. Top of the list, however, is, “We’ve found a tumor.”

In mid-2013, I had a colonoscopy, a procedure so routine I thought I’d be in and out and on my way to my favourite sandwich shop by lunch. I’m a nonsmoker, moderate drinker and I watch my diet. I even eat kale — lots of it. I had no symptoms, felt fine and only went because my doctor told me I had to due to my age.

Those four simple words went on to inform the next months of my life.

The doctor, squeezing my arm, saying, “I’m sorry,” before walking away, didn’t do much to alleviate the fear that quickly overtook me.

Besides becoming a human pincushion, pumped with toxic chemicals, the mental effect of being told you have cancer lingers.

I began the journey with the usual shock, but quickly skipped ahead, past denial, to anger. I was mad that a bullet shaped tumor in my colon — a dark spot that had grown quietly and insidiously inside me for the past few years — could possibly sideline all I had worked for.

The anger stage was quickly replaced by acceptance after long talks with the ever-rosy Andrea, my long-time girlfriend, and the cadre of doctors brought in to assess me.

It was then I decided to live my life with as little disruption as possible. It was my way of saying, “Screw you, cancer. You’re not making the rules, I am.” Optimistic maybe, but I firmly believe that a good attitude is one of the keys to leading a healthy life even in the face of serious medical issues.

I’m through the treatment now and the prognosis is good. It was a long journey — a trip down a dark and twisty road. I won’t miss feeling like I’m living in someone else’s body, waking up exhausted everyday or fearing the sinister tumor that was growing in me.

Today I’m confident that the surgery — I toyed with using the nickname Semi Colon Crouse in tribute to what was left of my insides, but better sense prevailed — more tests and scans than I can count and the gallons of chemo pumped into my system was all worth it.

This is my story, but it’s not my message.

I waited until after my treatment for my cancer coming out party because I didn’t want pity. I didn’t want to be viewed differently. I just want you to know that if this could happen to me, it could happen to you. March, being Colon Cancer Awareness Month, seemed like the time to share my story.

What I want now is for you to get tested.

Colonoscopy is a big word, but it could have a huge effect on your well-being. Having one at age 50 saved my life and it could save yours. Make an appointment today. Your colon and I will thank you.

Just the facts

  • The National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC) acknowledges colorectal cancer (CRC) as the third most common cancer and the second most common cause of death from cancer for both Canadian men and women.
  • On average, 423 Canadians are diagnosed with CRC every week.
  • One in 14 men is expected to develop CRC during his lifetime and one in 27 will die of it. One in 15 women is expected to develop CRC during her lifetime and one in 31 will die of it.
  • 175 Canadians, on average, die of this disease every week.
  • Anyone 50 and up should be screened regardless of family history.

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