Let’s Talk About Your Colon

colon cancer awareness month

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

It certainly doesn’t get the attention like October gets for being breast cancer awareness month, but in case you didn’t know, March is colon cancer awareness month.

I’ve been personally affected by this disease, first when my brother Mike was diagnosed in 2005 when he was 36, and then when my close friend Lorna was diagnosed when she was 39 in 2008.

With my brother, his treatment was a roller coaster ride, but at the very least things seemed hopeful. At one point though, doctors found another tumor, which they considered inoperable. That was the low point I think for everyone. At the time I made this video, things looked pretty bleak, but after doctors met and discussed his condition, they decided to operate anyway.

They removed the tumor, and my brother is alive and cancer free.

But, with colon cancer there are a LOT of complications and side effects. I know he has dealt with a lot since then, with scar tissue, blockages, and other things which make life not quite the same.

When I got the news about my friend Lorna, things looked even bleaker. By the time they discovered it, she was at stage 4 with little hope (see the video her friend created for her).

Lorna was a childhood friend. The kind you often think of as a family member since our families were very close. She was a year older than me, and we were college roommates for awhile until she decided to go to college closer to home.

Lorna was the most positive and sweetest girl I knew. Everyone loved her. When I heard the news I was devastated.

She fought a very brave battle until she passed away in October 2009. I flew to Michigan several days prior to say good-bye.

That was the hardest moment of my entire life, and I almost feel selfish saying that, because that doesn’t hold a candle to what she was feeling.

What I knew from that moment was she was being robbed of her life, and she had way more life to live. And she was scared. I still have a very hard time remembering and talking about those last moments with her in the hospital room.

Colon cancer is a terrible disease, but one that is VERY preventable. Early detection is everything!

I get a colonoscopy every five years because that’s what is recommended when you have a close relative who was diagnosed under 40.

The prep for the test is not pleasant, there is no getting around it, but the procedure itself is a piece of cake. I’ve already had two, and aside from the slight embarrassment of the doctor making you pass gas when you wake up when you are in a room full of other recovering patients, there is really nothing to it.

I say this because often times when it comes to “that area,” we are too embarrassed to go to the doctor to get things checked out. But I’m hear to tell you that is just silly, and dangerous.

Although Mike and Lorna were much younger and would have probably had no reason to get screened for colon cancer, it’s imperative that you know your risks and/or get screened immediately if you have any unusual symptoms that you are concerned about. You are your own advocate when it comes to your health, so if one doctor tells you, “oh it’s nothing” and you are still concerned, find another doctor!

For more information about colon cancer screenings, visit this website.

The last picture I have with Lorna

The last picture I have with Lorna

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Tonya@healthyfitandfrugal

Tonya is a video editor and writer living in Los Angeles who enjoys beach volleyball and running. Check out her sister site Budget and the Beach.
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32 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Tonya! Sorry to hear of your loss! Sounds like you were a great support to her! Sure does make that prep thing seem easy when you realize what’s at stake. My doctor was wonderful and tested everything possible and I’m thankful for his thoroughness….and for good insurance!

    • Tonya@healthyfitandfrugal says:

      Thanks Brooke. When I look back I wish there was more I could have done. 🙁 I’m glad everything checked out OK for you! It’s no fun to go through that, but the peace of mind is priceless!

  2. So sorry about your friend. You were making me tear up as I read this so I can only imagine how difficult this must have been for you to write it. You are right in the fact that colon cancer does not get that much awareness. I didn’t even know there was a month for that. I am so happy to hear that your brother is in the clear! Take care.

    • Tonya@healthyfitandfrugal says:

      Thank you Meranda! I can’t believe it’s been 4 years already. Sometimes that memory is so fresh in my mind. I’m glad I can spread some awareness about this month too since there are so many people who don’t know about it!

  3. I’m sorry for your loss, Tonya, but thank you so much for sharing this with us- personal stories like this not only raise awareness, but are doing your readers a favour in really understanding it on a personal level.

    • Tonya@healthyfitandfrugal says:

      Thanks Arman! I think sometimes people think this is an old person or just a man’s disease, and it’s not at all!

  4. That is a beautiful picture of you and Lorna. I’m so sorry for your loss, and thank you so much for sharing these stories. I definitely had no real awareness to colon cancer or how many people are impacted by it, whether directly or indirectly, and that it is so preventable.

    Lorna sounds like she was a truly wonderful person.

    • Tonya@healthyfitandfrugal says:

      Thanks Camille! She was such a sweet, sweet girl. It really does feel unfair that she was robbed of her life like that. I’m glad I can at least help spread some awareness to people who didn’t even know what this month was about!

  5. My grandpa died of colon cancer so I am very aware of all of the risks. I am also thankful that my parents get colonoscopies regularly. Prevention is key!

    • Tonya@healthyfitandfrugal says:

      I’m sorry about your Grandpa. But yes, it’s so preventable. Now I just wish they’d make the prep for the test less….of an inconvenience. 🙂

  6. Wow, thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry for what you went through, and your story was incredibly touching. I admit I’m terrified to get a colonoscopy, but it’s stories like these that make me realize my fear is nothing compared to the risk of NOT going in.

    • Tonya@healthyfitandfrugal says:

      Absolutely. I’m telling you that peace of mind is everything! If you ever notice something that really scares you, get it checked out!

  7. Thank you for sharing all of that, Tonya. I am heading over to the website you suggested!

  8. Thanks so much for sharing that story – and it is a reminder that no one is ‘young and invincible’, there is always the chance of bad things like this, so make use of your insurance.

    I have a good friend whose wife suddenly felt achy and after it didn’t go away went to the doctor, and was stage 4 lymphoma and was dead within 6 months. It was brutal, they had two kids under 4, and she was just 34. Now he is remarried and the kids are in their teens, but I always seem to come across pictures of her from weddings we all attended or other events … so tragic .. so much life left to give.

  9. This is so scary to read Tonya but so important too. I’m so glad that your brother was ok but really sorry for the loss of your friend. She looks so healthy in that photo too.

    Great advice here – awareness is everything. Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Kemkem says:

    It took me over 2 years to get a mammogram after l lost my sister to breast cancer. My father died of colon cancer. Since l moved away from L.A and my regular doctor, l haven’t really been vigilant. Thanks for the reminder, and sorry for your loss.

    • Tonya@healthyfitandfrugal says:

      Ah you better get on that!!! At least mammograms are really simple and quick. I’m so sorry about your sister and dad though. 🙁

  11. Oh my. I’m sorry for your Loss, Tonya. It’s definitely advice that I need to follow as I’ve already had troubles :/

  12. I am so sorry for your loss Tonya. What a very difficult time in your life.
    Thank you for spreading awareness about this cancer.

  13. Colon Cancer hits home for me. My grandmother had it, my mother has polyps (and she gets colonoscopies yearly) and I have a lot of intestinal/colon issues, so colon awareness is definitely something I am strong about. I do not have a colon anymore, but that doesn’t mean a cancer of the intestines couldn’t still erupt, so it’s so smart to get checked on a regular basis. Colon cancer is one of the easiest cancers to catch – as long as you suck it up and get scoped!

    Your stories about your brother and your friend really hit home. I am sorry for your loss but I am also thrilled about your brother – and you can tell him that I COMPLETELY understand what he is going through with all the complications, etc… While they are terrible to deal with, at least we are still alive 🙂

  14. Oh, I hate cancer, especially colon cancer! My father died because of colon cancer seven years ago and he was only 49 when he died. It was very unexpected because when he was diagnosed it’s already stage 2.

  15. Carly says:

    Hi Tonya!

    What an important (and poignant) story — thanks so much for sharing. I have known so many–too many–people who have battled with cancer. Some winners. Others, not so lucky. I think we often dismiss our concerns when something doesn’t seem right because 1. it’s just too scary to contemplate and 2. we don’t want to be the hypochondriac who assumes every ailment must be cancer (at least these are the things that go through my head). Your post is an important reminder that it’s so much better to be safe than sorry.

    Thanks for for getting this message out to all of your readers.

  16. Thanks for bringing light to a subject that most people avoid. Bringing awareness to this issue I’m sure will help someone.

  17. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Lorna sounds like she was an amazing woman.

    Cancer has quickly become my biggest fear and I second your opinion that when something doesn’t feel right you should get it checked out right away. It’s not fun but it’s definitely worth it to have a better chance of early detection.

    I want to see a cure for cancer in my lifetime. I want to see science and technology come along far enough where you can literally take a pill and have medicine destroy the cancerous cells and leave the healthy cells untouched. I know it’s possible!

    Really appreciated you taking the time to post this.

  18. Kay says:

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, Tonya. Thanks for sharing your story and for reminding us of this terrible disease. We should all consider getting screened based on doctor recommendations.

  19. anna says:

    Sorry to hear about your loss, as well as your brother’s ongoing complications. A family member also has to deal with the complications from it, and it seems to limit his life. Thanks for getting the word out.

  20. Cancer is such an evil evil disease. I think a lot of people don’t want to talk about colon cancer because it’s “embarrassing” to talk about your bodily functions. If the word could get out the way it does about breast and cervical cancer, we could probably save many more lives. Praying there will be better treatment and detection and a cure in the near future.

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