Most of the docs admitting me for procedures (petscan, port placement, endoscopic ultrasound, sperm banking, etc..) see the chart and say, “Cancer!? How did you find out?” I guess cancer’s rare enough in people my age and in my state of health, that it’s uncommon to go looking for it. Even knowing my family history*, one GI doc said that they wouldn’t have started screening me until I was closer to 40.
So. How did I find it..
I had been quietly suffering from some GI issues for several months. When it first cropped up, I just assumed it was constipation. I had the fairly constant feeling that I needed to go to the bathroom, but multiple trips were mostly unproductive, and certainly didn’t provide any sort of relief. What I’ve realized in retrospect is that what I was feeling was pain, not pressure. It occurs to me that deep visceral pain is pretty hard to put your finger on. Pain feels like pressure. The only thing that I’d ever felt like that was the need to go to the bathroom, which, when done, inevitably would relieve that pressure and take that sensation away. This clearly was different. (Since then I’ve discovered a pretty obvious method of treating these symptoms. Vitamin I. Daily supplement of ibuprofen.)
I guess I should pause here to point out that there’s nothing glamorous about colon cancer. For those of you who are easily grossed out, this may not be information that you really need.
Several months of this (with, if you can believe it, the increasing worry that I had cancer) finally prompted me to go and see a GP for the first time in what must have been about 10 or 12 years. I got a general check up, and discussed this issue. “You’re in perfect health. Your blood pressure is perfect, your cholesterol is perfect, your weight is perfect, you have no STDs, your heart sounds great, you don’t smoke, you eat well.. there’s nothing wrong with you.” (oh good! what a relief.. so can you explain this discomfort?) He decided that it was parasites, and did a stool kit. Naturally it came back clean. So he sent me for a round with the GI doc.
The GI doc had a similar reaction: “you’re in perfect health, etc. etc.” But he took the case history, and proceeded to a digital (that’s digital as in one of the five digits on your right hand with which you grab a beer) exam. He found blood and a lump. He ordered a colonoscopy, and a week later I was in his office with Hill being told I had cancer.
*I didn’t know until the morning that I went to get the biopsy results that I have a family history of colon cancer. My grandfather and his sister both died of it in their 50s. A cousin of theirs died at 48 from the same.