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Clyde Beal/For The Herald-Dispatch Tracie Martin, from left, Kim Marshall, Angie Chaffins, Karen Perry, Sarah Fenney, Sharon Dunn and Shannon Hayton are part of the oncology nursing staff at Huntington Internal Medicine Group.

I had been considering a colonoscopy for some time. At 68, I had no symptoms -- so I just kept considering. I even found solace with the old cliché: "If it isn't broken, don't fix it."

I wonder how many paid a terrible price for that mind set? My rationale was that cancer was for the other guy. When our 42-year-old son, Michael, was diagnosed with colon cancer, my mundane attitude changed to a proactive course of action.

Last month, I scheduled myself for this procedure. Suddenly, the preparation for the test, and the actual examination seemed of less concern to me as the uncertainty of what might be discovered. With no family history of this disease at such an early age, Michael's situation drastically increased an awareness of the destructive characteristics of cancer.

Discovering blood in your stools may be self diagnosed as hemorrhoids, however, it is of paramount concern to get a physician's opinion at the very least. Michael waited too long, and is now enduring radiation and chemotherapy treatment to be followed with surgery -- a process far worse than any colonoscopy examination.

Information on www.coloncancer.net contains facts of particular interest for those looking to increase their knowledge of cancer and the benefits of early cancer detection. Several predictions from The American Cancer Society are quite noteworthy, especially their estimation of nearly 150,000 new cases of colon cancer in the United States this year alone. Of that number, more than one third will be fatal. This Web site also contains information on areas that may be signs of colon cancer.

Another Web site, www.colon cancerriskassessment.net, will allow you to take a colon cancer risk assessment test. If you are a smoker, have a diet that's high in fat, overweight, drink alcohol in excess or have a sedentary life style, you really should visit these Web sites. This is especially true if you have reached your 50th birthday. While our son never smoked and doesn't drink, he is overweight and doesn't have the recommended lifestyle prescribed by the American Cancer Society.

Selecting HIMG for my colonoscopy was based on one factor -- our home is less than a mile away. While location was my prime consideration, I found the oncology department to be most professional and friendly during the appointment process. They encouraged questions, provided detailed information and all required preparation materials I needed -- even a guided tour of their facilities.

The entire day before the colonoscopy is without solid food. During this time, I discovered that if you keep consuming liquids, hunger doesn't seem to be that much of an issue. That evening, my first sodium phosphate solution treatment was taken. Staying hydrated was stressed as quite important, not only in my instruction package, but by the medical staff as well. With that in mind, I purchased several drinks specifically blended with nutrients that the body loses as you flush out your system. Even on the actual day of the exam, drinking fluids right up to three hours before did curb my appetite.

Aside from being professional, those who choose a career in the medical field should possess an amiable personality. This is especially true when dealing with people who are experiencing uncertainty with an elevated blood pressure. To Dr. Richard Mailloux and his assistant, nurse Andrea Smith, kudos to the both of you. The compassion and treatment you displayed was most welcomed. To the rest of the staff, your actions did not go unnoticed. Thanks!

My colonoscopy is now a matter of record. All my apprehension and anxiety have diminished, along with the elevated blood pressure that the unknown brings on. To those who told me that once the procedure started, the worst was over, they were right. I now have the peaceful feeling that can only come by doing what needs done. A polyp was discovered and removed for a biopsy, the results will be made known in a few days. My uncertainty about colon cancer has diminished for now. If only Michael had acted sooner.

Clyde Beal is a freelance writer living in Huntington. This is part of a series of articles bringing attention to those who volunteer their time supporting organizations in our community who would perish without their support. If you wish to become a part of this series, contact Night Local Editor Luke Damron at (304) 526-2753 or by e-mail at ldamron@herald-dispatch.com.


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