I’m Wearing Blue Today
I’ve always loved the color blue. It’s the color of the ocean, the sky on a clear day, blueberries. And it’s the designated color of “National Dress in Blue Day.” Held the first Friday in March, this day honors the memory of those lost to colon cancer, those who are fighting it, and support for the caregivers while raising awareness about how people can reduce their risk of the disease.
My father was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in the summer of 2012 at age 73, but he was exhibiting symptoms years before then. Like many men of his generation, he refused to see or even talk to a doctor about it. Dad was also an insulin-dependent diabetic and had three stents in his heart. I guess he felt like he had been poked and prodded enough over the years. Even so, my mother, brother and I begged him to go to the doctor.
He refused until severe stomach pain and vomiting sent him to the ER. Initially, the doctors said it was a stomach infection, but we all knew in our hearts that wasn’t the truth. Fortunately, as part of the diagnosing process, a gastroenterologist was called in to conduct a colonoscopy. Despite how terrible my dad was feeling he was still upset at the thought of having to have “that test.” That’s when we knew for sure. Dad lived for six more years, and we miss him terribly.
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Through screening, it is one of the most preventable diseases. After completing my father’s colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist urged me and my brother to “Run, do not walk, and get a colonoscopy!”
I had my first colonoscopy screening at age 45. My doctor found pre-cancerous polyps that had to be removed during the procedure. She then tattooed the area for future reference. If I had waited until I was “old enough,” I might not be here today. I returned a year later for a follow-up colonoscopy and was given the all clear, with instructions to come back in three years. During that third colonoscopy, the doctor discovered the polyps had grown back in the exact place where she had removed them four years earlier. These were too large to remove during colonoscopy this time, so I underwent a right hemicolectomy to remove one-third of my colon. I am now 52 and doing well. I will go back for a three-year post-op colonoscopy in 2020, or sooner if I have any suspicious symptoms.
So, today I wear blue. As you may have noticed, it’s also the color of the beautiful blue camellia in my logo and the namesake for my brand. It’s a tribute to my father who found respite from his illness by working with his camellias. I also wear blue for my daughter, Amelia, for whom one of Dad’s camellias is named. Diagnosed with celiac disease at age 3 ½, she’s a college student now and prospering thanks to a gluten-free diet and the Daisy Blue products I promote here at Camellia Blue.
If you’d like to know more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment of colon cancer, visit these sites: Hitting Cancer Below the Belt, a local organization based in Richmond, Virginia, and The Colorectal Cancer Alliance. For an explanation of a right hemicolectomy, visit this page at the Mayo Clinic.
And please check back this week for “don’t fear the prep” tips (it’s not as bad you may think!) and why you owe it to your family to undergo a screening.