I have had a lot of people ask me how I found out that I had cancer. I’m “young” for colon cancer. The first colonoscopy is recommended at 45, and that was just recently lowered from 50. As a 42yr old, despite the recent Washington Post article, colon cancer didn’t seem to be a likelihood. So, what did I notice?

Symptoms of colon cancer can include:

I did not experience a single one of the above, other than blood in stool. Side note, and maybe I’ve already mentioned this, but when I got my diagnosis, I joked about being pissed that I didn’t get the losing weight without trying symptom (that is how messed up diet culture and fatphobia are). Anyway, back to the point, and to be a bit graphic, I had heard that sometimes it’s normal to see some blood in your stool, so I was concerned but also figured it could be of no concern. And to be even more graphic, I honestly didn’t know if it was blood sometimes. I would ask myself, “Did I have red peppers or tomato sauce?” Once it became more frequent, I mentioned something to my doctor.

My doctor didn’t seem concerned, but she also referred me to a GI and said a colonoscopy would be good to rule out anything serious. She mentioned it could be internal hemorrhoids, and honestly, not that it would have been pleasant, but I was thinking, “Um, couldn’t you just do a digital exam?”

Anyway, I called around to make my appt with a GI. Guess what, GIs in Los Angeles are BUSY! I called a few and most had a many months wait to see the doctor. One woman was so kind to me. She said, “The doctor doesn’t have anything available until April 2024. But I would encourage you to call until you find one sooner. This sounds like something that would be good to figure out as soon as possible. Good luck! I hope it all goes well.” Y’all that was a front office person at a doctor’s office! How often do you get such compassion from people in that position? I can’t say, for me, it’s very often. Eventually South Bay Gastrointerology was able to slot me in within a month.

In the meantime, the blood increased. I was alarmed, but still confused about what is considered “normal,” and especially if it was related to internal hemorrhoids. I called my doctor’s office and got scheduled with a NP that I hadn’t seen before just to make sure my case hadn’t become more urgent. I explained what was happening, and that frequency had picked up. To say I left that appt disappointed, and especially with hindsight, is an understatement. The NP told me that it was likely food that was causing my issues and if I go dairy and gluten-free for 2 weeks, she would bet it would clear up. She did say it could be the internal hemorrhoids, and again, I was thinking, “Isn’t there an easy way to find out?”

Now, I don’t tend to subscribe to the line of thinking that every health issue is a food issue. I was skeptical that this was just because of dairy and gluten, however, I do know that some milk products can upset my stomach, and sometimes I indulge and pay the cost. For a few weeks I decided not to indulge in those things that would upset my stomach, and I was encouraged that the frequency had slowed. I was so encouraged that I began to question whether or not seeing the GI was necessary at that juncture. Maybe a few more weeks with food adjustments and that would be the end of it. Of course I am a little too much of a hypochondriac to brush off an appointment, but the temptation was there. I mean who wants to go down the path of getting a colonoscopy?

When I went to the GI, I explained my symptoms, and he too suggested internal hemorrhoids, but also said a colonoscopy was important. He put it in terms of following the smoke or something like that. While I appreciated his desire to be thorough, I was thinking, “Seriously, can’t you just figure this out without all of that and give me something to see if that is what it is?” I mean, it would have been nice if that’s all it was, right? Wouldn’t ever expect someone to be thankful for hemorrhoids, but I could have been! As much as I dreaded the colonoscopy, I knew I didn’t need to push for alternatives, and I also kinda knew what I was experiencing didn’t really seem to be the easy explanation. Thank goodness none of the health professionals took were satisfied with the least complicated explanation, because that would have definitely delayed diagnosis and treatment. As much as I am angry at the NP for feeling confident that I was just experiencing a food intolerance, I am glad that I had professionals that encouraged me to continue down the path of being thorough.

So yeah, that’s how it went. I am one of those people that checks her toilet paper and checks the toilet before she flushes, and I am hoping to say that doing so saved my life. I say that because there was something going around a while ago that seemed to shame people for checking toilet paper and the toilet. “Ew, who does that?” “Are you a looker or a none of my business person?” I saw a couple of those videos going around. Well, I’m here to say, be a looker. Check your poops!

#coloncancer #colonoscopy #checkyourpoops #bealooker #washingtonpost