Thursday, March 05, 2009

Emily's and Michelle's D.L. On The C.C.

From Michelle: Strap on your silly sophomoric pun hats, Bellas, cause Emily Bryan's here and we're celebrating her triumph over the CC: Colon Cancer! Yup, just like we said after my last colonoscopy, Em's colon now's so clean, you could eat off of it! And we want yours to be too. So read Emily's d.l. on her c.c. and then ask your doc about testing for colorectal cancer. It's 90% curable, but'll kill more folks this year than AIDS and breast cancer combined. Please give Emily your warmest "Dress in Blue Tomorrow" Bella buongiorno... (then get the test, please)

From Emily: Buon giorno, Bellas! When I heard Michelle was doing a day for colon cancer awareness, I had to drop by. You see I’m one of the statistics. Last November, just before
Thanksgiving, I went in for a colonoscopy. I had NO SYMPTOMS, but my doctor said I “deserved” a screening. (Far be it from me to turn down something I deserve!) Anyway, they found a mass which proved to be malignant.

No one was more surprised than me. Things moved quickly and before Christmas I was in and out of the hospital, minus about a foot of my colon and all that nasty cancer. Because they caught it so early, the cancer didn’t have a chance to pack its little bags and travel, so my oncologist did not recommend chemotherapy. As with all cancers, early detection makes a life-saving difference.

Was it scary? Yes. Waiting to learn how far the cancer had advanced was surreal. The support and prayers from my family, church, friends and readers really helped me keep my attitude up.

Mark Twain said, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” I figured this included cancer. I learned to make colon jokes (Ever wonder where the saying “This too shall pass . . .” came from?)

But now I’m fully recovered from the surgery, and though I’ll be closely monitored for the next 5 years, I’m on my way to being declared cancer-free. Am I thankful for my outcome? Beyond words.

I’m also worse than a reformed smoker about trying to encourage others to schedule a screening colonoscopy. The test is really no big deal. The prep is the worst of it. For the actual procedure, they give you really good drugs, so you feel no pain and remember very little.

If you are 50 or over (younger if you have a family history of cancer like Michelle whose father died from c.c., whose mom and bro survived it, and whose other bro had most of his colon removed to avoid it) YOU too “deserve” a screening colonoscopy. Please don’t put it off. It just might save your life.

What kind of sense of humor do you and/or your family bring to health issues? How do you make sure you get regular testing like colonoscopy, mamogram, etc. (treats? threats?) Do you think romance blogs should even spend time talking about issues other than good books?

Concerns about the cost of colorectal cancer screening? Emily suggests you visit this site for info about lower-cost screening, screening clinics, etc.
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35 comments:

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas, and welcome back none too soon, Emily! Thanks for sharing your remarkable story. Must have been really scary, finding out you had this illness, knowing how vital a person you are. You must have been, like, 'are you kidding me?" But apparently humor and family/friends helped you through it and, in no small measure, your ability to think positively.

Folks think that's a trite way to think in thise sitches, but until you've been to that mountain, as they say, you just can't understand, no? We have many Bellas among us who have experienced -- or are currently experiencing -- health issues themselves or w/in their families. I'm always amazed at how they still come here and are cheerful and attempting to find a way to have some fun and 'lighten up.'

I wonder, Emily, did writing help you get through the toughest parts -- your novels are very 'light hearted' -- or was it very difficult to find the creativity when you were feeling poorly?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Bellas, we're wearing blue tomorrow, Friday, March 6 for Dress in Blue Day. As you can see in my avatar piccie, I've been preparing for this day since 2005. Maybe it's time for me to get a new picture, no?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

As many of you know, I have a kidney transplant. Now, things were tense when it was time for my bros and mom to get tested to see who matched and possible could be a donor. So, I was like, 'Hey, you guys, could I, like have one of your kidneys?" And my bother Jeff looked at me seriously and said, "of course, mIchelle, if I they go in and find i have three, you can have the extra."

Jane L said...

Emilly & Michelle, Tahnks for sharing these wonderful stories, I los tmy father two years ago today to kidney cancer, so I am soooo careful as I am always getting UT infections, I am having my first mamogram this month,I am VERY nervous, see I waited until I was 45 I know dont yell at me!!! I am such a big baby, but I have to do this for me! Thanks to ladies like you!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Jane, I have no right to be, but I'm really proud of you! Mammogram is such a NO BIG! I don't mean to minimize that for some women it can be uncomfortable depending upon the size of their breasts(oh, now we don't need any sniggering about any deficiencies in mine, now do we, cheeky Bellas) or implants, etc. But the whole thing's over wicked quick. And information is power. I mean, if there's something wrong, it's easier to do something about if you know about it, right?

I'm really sorry for your loss. it's so hard to lose a parent at any age. You're smart to stay on top of the UTIs. Aren't they a pain? ugh. no pun intended. do you do the cran juice? I'm still not sure whether it really works, but I always feel like I'm doing something good when I drink it. I'd never yell at you. I'm just so glad you shared.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Ok, so my brother just sent me a funny email asking me if by this blog I was calling him a major-league, well, you-know-what. :) He also sent a funny Dave Barry column about colonoscopy and this list of things said by mostly men during colonoscopy:

1. 'Take it easy, Doc. You're boldly going where no man has gone
before!

2. 'Find Amelia Earhart yet?'

3. 'Can you hear me NOW?'

4. 'Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?'

5. 'You know, in some states, we're now legally married.'

6. 'Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?'

7. 'You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out...'

8. 'Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!'

9. 'If your hand doesn't fit, you must quit!

10. 'Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity.'

11. 'You used to be an executive at Enron, didn't you?'

And the best one of all.

1. 'Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there

Playground Monitor said...

In school I was always good at taking tests, and I'm no different now. I've been having regular pap tests since I can't remember when, mammograms when they told me I needed them and survived drinking that gallon of flavored prep that's like Drano for your colon. The prep really is the worst part, and since I had my colonoscopy, the doc we use has gone to an all-pill prep.

My one recommendation is to buy yourself a box of Depends or heavy-duty sanitary pads because, and I know this is probably TMI, it got to the point where I could not control my bowels and I'd mess myself before I could get from the sofa to the toilet. I finally stopped with the undies and just put towels around me like a diaper. And when I was all cleaned out I laundered a big load of dirty "diapers."

My doc uses Versed, which is an anmesiac. Versed is a wonder drug, IMHO. You don't remember crap afterwards.

Yay on your conquest over cancer and thanks for sharing. This openness is what women need to make them get their required medical testing.

Marilyn

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks for having me here, Michelle. I appreciate the opportunity to get the word out about how important a screening colonoscopy can be. I HAD NO SYMPTOMS. I can't stress it strongly enough and yet without my knowledge, the cancer was already at Stage II.

After surgery, I gave myself permission to take a few weeks off from writing (gave me a chance to catch up on my reading, though I should warn you that Christie Craig's DIVORCED, DESPERATE AND DATING is hazardous to folk who have fresh incisions! LOL!)

Then 3 weeks after my surgery, I started my crazy 50day/50blog VEXING THE VISCOUNT tour. Try being witty everyday on pain meds! Think I managed "half-witty" most days.

I was also finishing up a novella for my upcoming holiday anthology. (I'm teaming up with USA Today BestSeller Jennifer Ashley & Alissa Johnson to bring you A CHRISTMAS BALL in late September. Lord and Lady Hartwell's ball is the most exclusive event of the Season and YOU're invited!) Being able to slip into another century for a while each day where my characters were involved in all sorts of mischief was very theraputic.

Getting the news that my cancer was caught early, that there was no lymph node involvement, made my recovery period much easier to bear. When my oncologist recommended no chemo for me, I felt like I'd been released early for good (or bad, if you've read my books!) behavior.

And it's made me an advocate for screening--early and often. What you don't know, CAN hurt you. Ask your doctor if he/she doesn't bring up doing a baseline colonoscopy.

And Michelle, re: your pic. If I was that pretty, honey, I'd have someone snapping my photo everyday!

Playground Monitor said...

I'd read those Dave Barry lines but they're funny the umpteenth time around.

Lisa F. said...

I have a mammogram annually because my mom had breast cancer (she's been cancer free for almost 6 years now!). Not fun but so necessary.

I think it's great that you are spotlighting the screening. What better way to read 100's of women or men who have put off going to the doctor thinking nothing was wrong with them.

I'm 100% in favor of preventative steps! I love the bumper sticker that says Save the TaTas!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

And here is the very funny Dave Barry article: http://www.miamiherald.com/living/columnists/dave-barry/story/427603.html

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Marilyn, you wrote: You don't remember crap afterwards.

I just don't know what to say. except, thanks for not making me come up with that line.

EmilyBryan said...

JaneL--Yay for you about the mammogram. My mom is a breast cancer survivor. Knowledge really is power.

Playground--You've touched on the toughest part of a colonoscopy--the prep work. After that, those really good drugs take care of everything.

Michelle--Love Dave Barry! I think I'd add this quip for the doc:

12. No, really. THIS is what you wanted to do when you grew up?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

LisaF, that's great news about your mom, and fab news that you're so on top of taking care of yourself. I haven't seen that sticker, but I'm laughing just thinking aobut it. thanks forthat! You're right about how we all put it off. I'm totally due for colonoscopy, overdue by a year with our recent out of state move, and in the process of setting it up. But today's a good nudge even for me!

Emily, I'm laughing at your trying not to laugh. Does that make me a bad person? It's not surprising that you went to books for comfort. But I wonder, was it hard to give yourself the permission to take time off? I find that ridiculously difficult. And did you have any conflicting emotions or guilt about your illness? Sometimes, we chicks tend to blame ourselves for our illnesses, even though that's totally dopey. As if we could have caused them...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Emily: lol!

Yes, between the prep and, God forbid the doc should be male and attractive, one must work hard to hold on to one's dignity.

But I've admitted before that the thing I've actually found to love about colonoscopy is the drugs. Yeah, I sed it! and I loved the damn epidural for childbirth, too, and so totally could have been an addict if I hadn't grown up Catholic and scared to death of everything.

Playground Monitor said...

There's a whole live of "Save the TaTas" merchandise -- hats, visors, t-shirts, coffee mugs. Let's save 'em, baby!

And you're welcome, Queen B.

I just wonder how many times Emily has heard "That must have scared the crap out of you!" when she tells her story.

EmilyBryan said...

Lisa F--Yay for both our moms! After my mom finished her chemo in 1999, we took her to Disney World to celebrate! She'd just won a title fight with breast cancer. It seemed fitting. She's doing great and just had HER colonoscopy on Monday. It was a "clean sweep!"

Michelle--Writers have to occasionally give themselves down time to regroup, to daydream, to let characters percolate. I do, at least. Normally, I confine that down time to weekends so I can have a family life too. If you don't have a life, you don't have anything to write about.

I will have to say you need to be judicious about letting people know you're a writer. I was wearing my CAREFUL . . . OR YOU'LL END UP IN MY NEXT NOVEL T shirt to go home from the hospital and one of the nurses aids took it as an INVITATION! She started telling me her whole life's story as my DH came around with the car!

Can't be a druggie. I don't have the veins for it and I've never really enjoyed altered states, but if ever you need an altered state it's for a colonoscopy. So bring on the good stuff!

Playground--Naw, the crap was already gone by that time!

Edie said...

Emily, thanks for sharing your story. My sister died of colon cancer. She'd been having trouble for five years and she went to three doctors, but none of them caught it until it was too late.

Michelle, thanks for the Dave Berry link. That was hilarious! I'll pass it on to my siblings.

I'm a breast cancer survivor. I eat fairly healthy, I was exercising, thin and there was no breast cancer history in my family. It can happen to anyone. Mine was caught early because of a mammogram, so I really believe in mammograms.

One thing no one mentioned is the cost of a colonoscopy. My insurance pays for the entire doctor bill, but there's a huge deductible for the hospital cost and I'd end up paying for all of that. That's a big chunk of money.

David B. said...

Lots of really good stuff here today.

My Dad had C.C. and survived it in much the same way Emily did, through surgery and then no subsequent chemo.

A doctor once said these words to me and I made my colonoscopy appointment the next day..."You never have to die of colon cancer."

That was good enough for me.

-Male Perspective Guy

EmilyBryan said...

Edie--I'm so sorry about your sister and so glad for you about your win over breast cancer.

I'm blessed with good insurance now, but a couple years ago when my DH had his colonoscopy, we were on a different carrier and were out of pocket about $800. It was money well spent for the peace of mind it bought us. Better than a getaway weekend.

I know there are some charitable agencies that subsidize mammograms. I wonder if there is anything similar set up for colonoscopies. Anyone know?

The good thing about colonoscopies is that they are not a yearly deal unless you have a problem or a family history. If you have a clean screening, you will probably not be invited back to the party for another ten years. So if you think of the expense spread over 10 years, it lessens the pain a bit.

MPG--"You never have to die of colon cancer." Words to live by.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Edie, I'm sorry, too, about your sister, especially because none of the docs caught the issue in time. And, no, we forget to mention the expense. We've had various insurance plans, some better than others. Emily makes a point that does take out some of the sting -- the colonoscopy generally is done many years apart. But especially in this economy, the cost still can be scary.

And I'm very happy to hear about your own breast cancer smackdown story, Edie!

EmilyBryan said...

I did a little web surfing and found: http://coloncancer.about.com/od/screening/a/Uninsured.htm.

There are several sites listed with info about help for the uninsured and underinsured. The CDC has set up screening clinics in NY, MD, St. Louis, Lincoln, NE and several sites in the Seattle area where free or reduced procedures are given. I would recommend talking frankly with your doctor because many hospitals have special programs that may help if money is a problem.

Please don't let it keep you from a potentially life-saving test.

orannia said...

Thank you Emily, Michelle and everyone for sharing your stories!

My mother's birthday would have been next week - she passed away just over 18 months ago due to pneumonia secondary to the chemotherapy she was receiving for metastatic breast cancer. Her breast cancer was diagnosed via a routine mammogram, although once treated the cancer never returned to the primary site. Instead it appeared in her liver and then...well, just about everywhere. Yes she was unlucky but...at least we got to spend as much time with her as we did.

Edie - I wish all the best!

2nd Chance said...

Emily, you inspired me. My sister had polyps show up some years ago and has been subject to regular colonoscopies ever since. Last one saw her clear for a few years. Told my doc about it and now I have my appointment...next month.

Not looking forward to the prep work...though I wonder...will I lose some weight!?

After nearly dying of an electrical short in my heart two years ago, I find hospitals a combination of safe and terrifying. That's my big worry right now, is going back to the hospital... Hoping my PTSD doesn't speak up!

MaureenB aka 2nd Chance

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Awesome news, 2nd chance! And I'm laughing about the weight thing! Not eating for a day + the prep can feel kind of slimming. :)

That's wild about your hospital experience! it's really brave of you to still go through with getting the testl check back with us to let us know how it went. You'll probably be all, "oh, it was no big." Good news on your sister.

Orannia, you've had such a rough couple of years taking care of people you love. Thank you for sharing that your mom got information through routine diagnosis, that she was brave and responsible enough to take care of herself. I wish it could have turned out differently for you and your family. We are here for you, as I hope you know, if these next days/weeks get bumpy.

Thanks for that information, Emily. Just placed it in your post.

2nd Chance said...

Thanks, Michelle...

The hospital didn't cause the short. Don't want to give that impression. My docs don't know why it happened, but it was at home and the DH saved my life with CPR... But waking up in the hospital with no idea what had happened sort of set me up for some ambivalent feelings reg. hospital beds!

Just as Emily talks of colon screening, every woman needs to be informed about her heart. Mine was a fluke, but too many are totally preventable.

I'll have to be sure to weigh myself before and after, just for grins...

Maureen aka 2nd Chance

Helen said...

Hi Emily and Michelle
I am so glad you are well now Emily. My hubby was diognosed with CC when he was 39 and has a colostomy and had to have chemo and radiation therapy put is now 53and fit and well and yes we laugh often about it you have to I think and I am always telling people to get checked CC runs in our families on both sides and our children who are in their 20's are starting to get checked now because as you say early detection is very important.
We don't have a blue day here in Australia but I will wear blue today and remind people to have a check up.
Looking forward to your new book Emily I am waiting for my order to arrive.

Have Fun
Helen

EmilyBryan said...

Orannia--Sending cyber-hugs. I'm so sorry about your mother. You're so right to treasure the time you had.

Guess that's why I decided if cancer was going to take me down I'd go laughing. Life is terminal. Why not savor the joy.

Maureen--YAY for YOU! So many people have written to let me know I bumped them off the fence and they've had or will have their colonoscopy. Not knowing is infinitely worse.

Yes, the prep will make you lose weight, but let's just say, it's more like "loosing" weight. Not the recommended method!

You're so right about telling women about heart issues. My DH's niece died of sudden heart failure and left a husband and two darling little boys, just days away from her doctor's appointment.

If you have a feeling that something's not right, go to the emergency room and make the doc listen to you. Often women's heart issues are under-diagnosed because they don't present in the same way men's do.

Helen--Thanks so much for sharing your DH's experience! Life goes on and we love and laugh together. What's better than that?

Thanks so much for ordering VEXING THE VISCOUNT. I hope you love it.

Michelle--Thanks for posting that info.

One of my dear friends was diagnosed with liver cancer and his doc told him, "Do everything you want to do this summer." He did and he lived for 5 more summers. We all get only so many trips around the sun. We should do what we dream of doing while we can.

And while I still dream of a "round the world" cruise, mostly that means telling the people I love how much they mean to me.

Every day.

Julie in Ohio said...

All I can say is WOW!! The positivity here is overwelming wonderful.
I have a tendency to find the funny in most situations. Appropriatness(?) be darned. However that doesn't mean I don't take it seriously. That's just how I deal with stress.

I feel as though I spend my life in doctor's offices. However, not for myself. I'm pretty sure the last time I went for me was the last time I was pregnant and that was 7 years ago. I'm not saying it's good but sometimes it's just how it works out.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Jules. Get thee to the doc. Don't make me come to ohio and embarrass you. attn: overbearing mom-like statement follows -- If you don't take care of yourself, how can you care for anyone else inthe longrung.

oh, and Jules, did you see the size of the duodenum on ColoRectal Man? Talk about big in all ways...

ev said...

Sorry to have missed this today. Just finally able to get on.

When I hit 35, they did a baseline Mamo- and found something. No biggie, all gone now.

Last year at my annual gyn, she found something, sent me for a sonogram and a month later, I am without a uterus and no more period. Gotta love that!!

Next year I will be 50 and getting my first Colonoscopy. With my track record, I am not really looking forward to it, but what the hell! When I woke up from my hysterectomy hubby gave me the news we had won $900 on the lottery. Next time- Mega Bucks Baby!!

My daddy (not my biological father) died 4 years ago next month from a combination of CC, Parkinson's and Prostate Cancer. Personally, I think once the Macrodegeneration took most of his eyesight, and he couldn't make comments about girls and their boobs anymore, he decided he had nothing left to live for. Mom always said he was married, not dead. He liked to look. It got to the point where we would point them out if he missed one- not often.

So yes we deal with things with a bad sense of humor. We had the church in hysterics at the funeral and at the cemetary, well, let's not go there. That was my daddy.

ev said...

Jules- I am seconding Michele's comment- call the Dr. You will do no one any good if you get sick.

More cyber hugs to the rest of you, especially the survivors.

Gotta go break up a cat/dog fight. The dog is losing.

EmilyBryan said...

Julie--Definitely, you need to take time for yourself.

About using humor--When I was in the thick of things, not sure how far the cancer had advanced or what my cute surgeon would find when he opened me up, I needed humor even more. There's something insulating about laughter, something that reminds you that you're still you despite your circumstances.

And I can't minimize the importance of prayer in my recovery. I received so many emails from readers, friends and family, telling me that they were praying for me and sending healing thoughts. God is good and life is good. And I'm so grateful.

Michelle--Size DOES matter, huh?

Ev--I had a hysterectomy in 97. Since then it's "anytime, anywhere!" My DH is thrilled!

Sending positive thoughts for your virgin colonoscopy!

I love it when funerals are peppered with laughter. Your daddy must have been quite the fellow!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Ev, what is it with you and the funeral stories? you've got a million of em! I'm glad you're all better now, as they say. And I'm laughing about the mac degen and the nothing left to live for. btw, cats rule, dogs drool. imho. But we've had that convo before, I think. :)

Oh, no, Emily! The dreaded 'cute' surgeon! I once told my doc I loved him as I was coming out of anesthesia. I was 19 at the time and mortified. Poor guy.

Can't thank you enough, Emily, for sharing your story and time with us today. I know lots of folks have had a laugh, got some food for thougth (yuk) and have been motivated to get some tests done.

To all who've shared your stories today, your own and your loved ones', thank you so much for giving us that gift.

I'll see you all tomorrow. Emily, grazie mille. I think I'll do a reread of Vexing the Viscount soon for fun. And we'll be looking forward to your next novel, and hearing news about your continued great health as the years go on. :)

Buona notte, Bellas!

EmilyBryan said...

Thank, Michelle!

You've done a great service by getting the word out about how important screening colonoscopies are.

Now let's get back to dishing about hotties! ;)

Hugs all around,
Emily