Unfortunately, as one of my doctoral responsibilities, I have given countless patients bad, occasionally heartbreaking news. During these tender, vulnerable moments of fear, the response I often here is, “Just keep me alive so that I can walk my daughter down the aisle.” I felt sympathy for my patients, but being a healthy, happy father, I was not able to empathize with them. That all changed a few weeks ago, when I underwent a routine colonoscopy.
I had been thinking about the procedure all summer, with an increased level of the apprehension I always feel when my role changes from doctor to patient. I turned 50 in June of 2010, and my show’s producers and I were planning a segment that discussed the importance of screening colonoscopies. During what I considered a routine colonoscopy, a polyp was found and removed. The next 48 hours were spent waiting for my biopsy, where it was determined that this polyp was of the adenomatous variety— the dangerous type that can grow into cancer. During those 48 hours I believe I was forever changed. Emotion superseded rationale; I found that my anxiety transformed my perspective. Everything looked different, and as a result my reactions and responses became more measured. Life somehow felt more valuable.
This all culminated almost 2 weeks after I got my test results when my daughter Daphne got married. The wedding fulfilled me…completed me. As I walked her down the aisle, I was overcome with joy at seeing the intelligent and wonderful person she has become. Although angst over the test results lingered during the wedding and reception, it seemed to amplify the bliss – making it more poignant and prolific.
For me, the most terrifying part of this experience is that I probably would have procrastinated the screening had it not been for the show. If I had would have waited, it is likely that the polyp could have developed into full-blown cancer. This is a test put off by so many due to fear, embarrassment and denial; I am not immune to any of those feelings. I would have relied on my healthy lifestyle to protect me from illness; I would have felt safe in my procrastination.
I am sharing my story with you to illustrate the importance of screening colonoscopies. Often things happen that are completely out of our control. To realize and accept this is to face your own mortality, an overwhelming, yet essential and humbling experience.
Because of this show, early detection saved my life. You have a responsibility to do the same—not just for yourself, but for your daughters, sons, friends and loved ones. Click here to learn why you need to be screened, and make the appointment for your 50th birthday.