Pity is usually available only in short supply in my family. We’re very much a “Life’s hard…Wear a helmet” group of people. That’s not to say that we don’t care for each other, because we definitely do…we just don’t see any point in sitting on the ground, looking at a skinned elbow, and lamenting the fact that we fell. My mom used to tell me that the only thing crying does is ‘make your eyes red and nose snotty.’ Some call it ‘tough love.’ Some call it ‘the school of hard knocks.”
As a kid, Mom prepared me in much the same way she did for anything she knew that I wasn’t going to enjoy - “I’m sorry, sweetie, but you don’t really have a choice in the matter. Either you get the colonoscopy or you get cancer like your grandfather did, and I don’t think you want that.” It was always a choice between something bad and something much worse. I know now, of course, that it upset her to see me go through these tests, but she held back from showing it. She knew that if she got upset, I’d get upset, and then what? We’d both be upset and I still have to get the colonoscopy. That’s not good for anybody.
I think a lot of people see their yearly screening, regardless of the organ in question, as a grim reminder of a disease lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce at any time. They worry that this will be the time when the findings warrant surgical intervention or, worse, that cancer is detected. This really resonates with me. For a long time after my colectomy, I thought I would die at an early age and lived life accordingly. I went in for endoscopies expecting for the doctor to find polyps. I didn’t really fear what the doctor would find, so much as I smugly accepted my fate.
When I was experiencing phases of chronic illness between 2011 and 2013, an encroaching endoscopy would stress me out. I was already sick; having that confirmed by an endoscopy never felt good. On the bright side, I used to treat myself to the dirtiest, nastiest burger and fries I could find just before I did my prep. It was kind of awesome…all the taste, none of the calories!
My lifestyle has evolved tremendously over the past few years. My approach to healthy living includes exercise, meditation, acupuncture, reducing toxins in my food, water, and living space, eating healthy, and taking polyp-reducing supplements. I’m currently looking more deeply into what eastern traditional medicine can do to promote a healthy homeostasis. The transition, especially on the heals of a long drawn out illness, has helped me become very in tune with what is going on in my body. I have this sense like I would know if there is something wrong with me. The result is that, instead of dreading my yearly screening, I look forward to it as a way to measure my success.