Cancer IQ

Since my diagnosis I have not participated in any outside program related to cancer. At first I was uncomfortable with the idea of identifying myself with cancer. I am not one to just bring it up and a conversation. Who really wants to hear depressing shit? The only place I have felt truly comfortable saying whatever is on my mind, is in my colon cancer group. There, everyone has the same problems more or less. During one of those meetings the opportunity was presented to volunteer at a local hockey game to promote Colon Cancer Awareness Month. I was intrigued and thought this would be a perfect way to start giving back. 

When I received the information on what we would be speaking about, I discovered it was not so much about colon cancer, but more about promoting a new website entitled “Cancer IQ”. We were encouraged to try it out first. This site asks the user approximately 15 questions, and then identifies what their risk factor is for a specific cancer. I decided to fill out my form based on myself one year ago – before my diagnosis. To my surprise my risk for colon cancer was only 10%. Is this site useful? Absolutely – it brings awareness to the user, and maybe reminds them to go and speak to their healthcare professional about being tested. What this site does not do however is ask the right questions. The biggest sign for colon cancer is all about the way your poop looks. Is it pencil shaped? Is there blood? Is it a solid or a loose movement? These questions would greatly help determine whether or not a person should be concerned. But no – not one single poop question. No wonder I only received a 10% risk factor. Imagine someone like me out there took this? They would pat themselves on the back and go back to sleep. No worries in the world. Wrong. 

What does this teach us? Do not take one opinion as the be all end all. If you have concerns, ask around. Each person will provide you with a different piece of the puzzle. 

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History of Colon Cancer

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I do not remember the specifics around when my nana passed away, but I always knew it was the liver cancer that did it. I was in grade 5, and my nana was like my second mom. I was devastated when she passed, and to this day the thought of it still brings tears to my eyes.

Three days before my colonoscopy, I asked my mom to provide me with more details around how the cancer killed her. She let me know that nana let her colon get so bad (and hid it from her family), that by the end she was sitting on towels at home due to the amount of blood coming out of her bottom. Those signs were clear indicators that things were really bad, so no one was surprised with her diagnosis that it had spread to her liver. She passed away close to 6 months later.

After her diagnosis, approximately two years later my grandfather (still on my mom’s side), was also diagnosed with colon cancer. He was lucky to have caught it much sooner and his had not spread. He was a cancer survivor. I remember knowing as a young kid that grandpa had a “poo bag”, properly known as a colostomy bag. We went out for lunch one time, and half way through he said he had to leave. In the car on the drive home I realized that his bag had popped open and leaked on his sweater. That memory always stuck with me, and I knew I never wanted a “poo bag”.

Around the age of 17 I began to noticed little traces of blood myself. Since i now knew from my family history that this was the biggest sign of colon cancer, I pushed my doctor to allow me to receive a colonoscopy. It is not common at that age to have that procedure, but I am thankful I did. They discovered I had a fissure, and let me know throughout the years it will be common to see a little bit of ribboning. As the years passed I slowly began to notice it more. Being a paranoid person I would google images of bowel moments from colon cancer patients (FYI, it is disgusting so only do this if you really need to lol). Those images looked nothing like mine, so I brushed it off.

I should also note I had a horrible experience during my first colonoscopy. I was so hungry the night before during my prep I was nauseous. The day of the procedure I had a major anxiety attack on the operating table due to my fear of needles. It was bad, I truthfully I was never looking forward to ever having to do it again. This also clearly played a part as to why I didn’t repush another colonoscopy when my gut was telling me too.