It is time for me to discuss one of the most avoided subjects in the medical field — colorectal cancer and the screening to detect it!
My journey with this screening began 14 years ago, and this subject is one that has proven to be one of the most important recommendations that my primary care physician, Dr. Debra Wilder, ever gave me. Upon turning 50 (now the recommended age to start screening is 45), she told me it was time to have a colonoscopy, which she then scheduled with Dr. Carl Hinton. Just like millions of others, I was nervous and dreaded the procedure and the prep, neither of which turned out to be that bad.
I chose to take the pills instead of the liquid prep.
I drank a lot of water and ate a lot of lemon drops, but found that I was able to make it through the day of prep just fine. Upon arriving at the hospital for my first colonoscopy, I had an IV started and was then given an injection in the IV that sedated me enough that I do not remember the actual test. Then, upon awakening from my first colonoscopy, I remember the nurse saying, “she needs to be the new poster woman for colonoscopy.”
Little did I know, as I raised up in bed to see who they were referring to, that it was me. The polyp Dr. Hinton had removed was huge, and no one could believe that I had not had any symptoms or problems in the past.
When questioned regarding my family history (my mother died with cancer at 51, but not with colorectal cancer), Dr. Hinton recommended that I have another colonoscopy the following year, just as a precaution.
Little did I know that these tests would become a regular part of life for me! I never went over three years without one, since I always had a returning polyp. However, with continued screening, they were able to remove the pre-cancerous polyps.
Then on April 29, 2021, after another colonoscopy, I got the news from Dr. Hinton that I would need to have surgery.
The polyp had returned again in the same place as three prior years and was now possibly cancerous. I was concerned that I would have to be hospitalized in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and was really worried that I should maybe wait, but after praying and talking it over with (my husband) Steve, I decided to go ahead and do the surgery.
On July 9, 2021, the surgery was done by Dr. April Jackson in Paducah. I had a right side colectomy. I was in the hospital for five days, came home, and received the call from Dr. Jackson that the pathology report was back and I did in fact have cancer. That was one of the scariest calls I had ever received! She recommended that I see an oncologist, and arrangements were made for me to start seeing Dr. Wederson Claudino.
After numerous tests and additional screenings, I now have blood marker tests done every four months and regular appointments with Dr. Claudino to assure that I am doing okay. I will also be having a yearly colonoscopy, probably for the rest of my life.
I know from what I experienced with my mother that cancer can come back, usually in another area of the body; however, with the screening I am doing on a regular basis, my hope and prayer is that it will be caught early and be treatable if it does return!
I am encouraging anyone who reads this article to please get tested because, according to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women. Only lung cancer takes more lives. However, when colorectal cancer is found at an early stage before it has spread, the five-year survival rate is about 90%.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Marsha Galusha is the wife of Steve Galusha, and they have one daughter, Stephanie Galusha. The couple live in Eddyville.