Sunday, December 20, 2009

Colon Cancer Awareness

Wilfred Bereswill

Colon Cancer accounts for 9% of all cancer deaths in the United States. In men is the second leading cause of cancer deaths and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in women, behind lung and breast cancer.

Why am I spouting statistics about colon cancer? You see in October of 1981 my father died of colon cancer. He was 56 at the time, only two years older than I am now. I miss my father tremendously and feel like he was taken away from me way too soon. I don’t want my daughters to feel the same way about me in the years to come. So tomorrow, instead of answering your comments, I’m being proactive and having my third colonoscopy.

Yes, I know it’s not a pretty word or thought, but I’m doing it for me, my wonderful wife and especially my three daughters. If you’ve ever gone through this procedure, you would know that today, for me, is the toughest part of the ordeal. Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up get in the car with my wife and then be put into a nice sleep while unmentionables happen. But, it is for the good.

You see, I was living in Kansas City at the time my father, Wilfred Bereswill Sr., was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was an ironworker by trade and tough as nails. He worked his heart out to make a good life for my sister and I and I remember he worried daily about getting laid off and providing for the family. I think the only riff I had with my father was that he wanted me to follow in his footsteps and I decided to go to college instead. It took him a while to understand and support my decision, but once I graduated, I know he was proud of me. Just a year after I graduated, he was diagnosed and four months later, he died.

He went into the hospital for exploratory surgery and they removed a section of his colon to prolong his life, but it had spread too far and he was given two months to live. Shortly after he was released from the hospital, he put my Mother in their orange 1977 Ford Pinto and he made the drive across Missouri to see the house I had built in Olathe, Kansas. That was one of the last times he left his house.

I made the 5 hour trip every weekend I could to spend time with him. I can’t describe how it felt to watch this once proud and strong man that I looked up to wither and die. The last weekend I saw him was in late September. I remember trying to shave his face because he was too weak to do it himself. When I took his razor and shaving cream back to the bathroom, I cried. Sometime during the following week, I received a call from my mom. They called it Cachexia; the extreme loss of body mass commonly seen in cancer patients. I called it one of the unhappiest days of my life. I lost my father.
I can only remember two things during the days that followed. Hugging my cousin, Buddy, who had lost his Dad, my father’s brother, to lung cancer the year before, and my friend Patty Guempel who had lost her father to a heart attack several years before. I’ve tried hard to remember the funeral home, the gravesite in Jefferson Barracks Memorial Cemetery, but for the life of me, I must have blocked it all out.

I’m bound and determined not to let my daughters go through that feeling for a long time. I’ll try to check in when I become coherent enough to fire up my laptop.

If you have a history of colon cancer in your family, do yourself and the people you love a favor and get regular colonoscopy screenings.


Annette said...

What a lovely tribute to your dad, Will.

I just watched my husband go through the colonoscopy ordeal, meaning the day before. Having turned fifty last summer, mine is due and I admit I've been putting it off, but I will do it. Just not this winter. No way am I going through drinking that stuff and then not be able to make it to the hospital in the morning because of snow!

Good luck, Will. And Good Health.

martha reed said...

Wilfred, thank you for being so honest and for bringing up this very important screening test. It's obvious that you love your family deeply and being proactive about the test is proof enough that your father's experience was not lost on you.

Jenna said...

Been there and done that, Freddy, and I'm with you in spirit. Let your wife pamper you for the rest of the day when you get home.

Merry Christmas, all!

Dana King said...

I've had a couple of colonoscopies myself, and agree on all counts.

One thing to add: just as important as doing yourself a favor and getting the screenings, make sure your younger loved ones know if colon cancer runs in the family. My grandfather had it, and I was aware of it. My daughter's boyfriend's father just found out he has it (he's 51); he would have had the scope earlier, but no one told him it ran in the family. Now he's going to lose half his colon (based on the current prognosis) because no one in his family thought it worthy to broach such a coarse topic. (The delicate and polite natures of some people infuriates me no end.)

He's a hell of a nice guy, and I hope he recovers quickly and fully. Then I hope he kicks some family ass.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Thanks all. I'm back. I'm fine and hungry as hell. Had a nice sleep and one polop.

Jennie, my wife pampering me??? You don't know how funny that is.

Dana, you are absolutely right. Let your children know your family history.

yef said...

Been thru the radiation,surgery,sig and colinoscopies,ct scans (tastes like liquid plastic)Had all my siblings get checked. Had to bug them to do it. Cancer free since 2000. If you don't want to get checked for colon cancer,just think of a way to tell your kids you have it.(Not a fun time). Lots of resources out there use them,support groups ect.
All the best and Merry Christmas.

PatRemick said...

Thanks for the prompt-- just got my letter yesterday from the doctor's office that I'm overdue --so I guess your column is a sign I better make that appointment!