blue-ribbonRegular readers at AAR AfterHours have probably seen my yearly health nags about mammograms, and may now know that I’m a breast cancer survivor. It’s something I’ve been very open about, and something my friends — both online and in real life — have openly talked about with me.

But with the exception of my fellow AAR staff members, most people here don’t know that one year ago, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. My experience with colon cancer has been completely different from breast cancer. While friends and colleagues talked frequently about my breast cancer,offered support and encouragement, I’ve found in the past year that most people just don’t want to talk about colon cancer, really don’t want to think about it. Well shoot, I never wanted to talk about it before I got it either.

In fact, I’ve thought long and hard about whether I should even post this here, afraid of what people would think, and whether I might offend someone. But that’s just the problem, so I decided to go for it.

While we all may complain that mammograms can pinch, let’s not even get started about the dreaded colonoscopy and the prep that goes with it. But you know what? No matter how awful the prep is, the alternative of letting the cancer grow is really, really horrible. While we women learn about the importance of getting mammograms at a fairly early age, we need to spread the word more about the need for getting a colonoscopy, because they truly do save lives.

Most AAR readers are too young to have to worry, personally, about needing a colonoscopy. It’s generally recommended that you get your first colonoscopy when you’re 50. But if there’s a history of colon cancer, or some other cancers, most doctors recommend that you begin earlier. And no matter how young you are, you undoubtedly have mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, or grandparents who are over 50, relatives and friends you can talk to, encourage to get a colonoscopy.

In other words, encourage your friends and family not to be an idiot like I was. I had the history, and should have had the test much earlier than I did, but it just seemed really icky. Too icky to contemplate, too icky to talk about. But if I’d had it much earlier, that nasty tumor might just have been a polyp.

But lest this be a complete downer of a post, let me end on some positive notes. Once again, I was lucky, with another Stage One (the good stage) cancer (although if I hadn’t been so put off by the test it probably never would have gotten to that point).

I have been lucky to have some friends who stood by me, and were unbelievably supportive. Chief among these, are my fellow AAR staff members, who came through in just unbelievable ways for me last year. Yes,  I received cards and flowers (beautiful flowers) from the AAR family. But oh my gosh, they did so much more. They called and sent texts on a daily basis while I was in the hospital and in the weeks after. They sent books, offered to take me into their home to recover, filed tax extensions for me, and sent me a beautiful stuffed kitty in the hospital because they knew how much I was missing my lovely kitty Princess. I am truly privileged to be a part of the AAR family, and will never forget what they did for me.

And the final, and best, positive note? This past week I had my one year post-surgery colonoscopy. I’ve truly lived in dread and terror of what they would find for one year. But the results? Completely clear, with nary a tumor or polyp, making me:

LinnieGayl, one year colon cancer survivor

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My first memory is sitting with my mother on a blanket in our backyard surrounded by books and she is reading one of them to me. My love of reading was encouraged by my parents and it continues to today. I’ve gone through a lot of different genres over the years, but I currently primarily read mysteries (historical mysteries are my favorites) and romances (focusing on contemporaries, categories, and steampunk). When I’m not reading or working, I love to travel, knit, and work on various community projects.