Jim's Story

Sometimes It Is Possible To Anticipate Cancer ………..

My story started in February 1984, when my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was admitted for surgery immediately and had the offending section removed from his colon. Unfortunately, the cancer had already spread to his liver. The surgeon told my mother and me that he might expect to live for another six months.   In fact, he survived until 16thMay 1985 and, indeed, led a very full and positive life during the intervening fifteen months, only deteriorating noticeably, to both of us, in his last two or three weeks.
My father had had symptoms for some time, before going to see his doctor, but, because he was very fit in every other way, he put it off until it was too late.   He died at the age of 71.
His reluctance to seek medical advice was a source of serious regret to us all and I resolved, at this juncture, that I would get checked out, because I know that cancer of the colon shows hereditary patterns. Even so, it was not until fourteen years later, in early 1999, that I approached my doctor about being referred to a consultant for a colonoscopy. I had taken voluntary redundancy from teaching at the age of 57 and, although I continued to teach on a supply basis, I had no symptoms.    It was only then that I felt I had the time available to get checked out.
In early May 1999, I was called for a colonoscopy.   This is an internal examination of the colon, which is available as an out-patient in hospital, and takes about an hour.   I was informed, then and there, that I had a 2-inch diameter polyp in my colon.   It was expected not to be cancerous, but, nevertheless, was sent for biopsy. Five days later, on a Wednesday, I received a further letter from the hospital asking me to come for surgery on the following Monday. I discovered that the biopsy did not identify any cancer cells but the cells were at ‘the third level of activity’, i.e. pre-cancerous. The surgeon advised that we could not be sure that there was no cancer and, in any case, immediate surgery was essential.
The operation was duly performed on the Monday and I had to wait until Friday for the result of the biopsy. It turned out to be negative, no cancer, to my enormous relief. I have had follow-up checks every five years, up to the present time and have not had any recurrence of a polyp in my colon.
I am now 69 years old, very fit, and glad to be alive.   I am grateful to the medical profession for diagnosing and solving my problem. However, had it not been for the premature death of my father, and the lesson learned, I would most probably not have avoided cancer.   Following my operation, my younger brother was also checked, by colonoscopy, and was relieved to find that he had no polyps in his colon. 
In about 2006, my sister-in-law (aged 59 and not a blood relation) had an operation similar to mine.   The difference was that her polyp was cancerous and surgery was followed by a course of chemotherapy. However, following this treatment she has returned to good health and check-ups have confirmed that the disease has not returned over a period of five years.   
The three of us, my sister-in-law, my brother and myself, although having had different cancer experiences, have benefitted from the reassurance provided by routine medical checks and continue to enjoy good health, appreciative of the expert support we have received.