It’s the last thing you want to hear as you’re in recovery, snuggled under a warm blanket as you yawn and drift in and out of sleep following a colonoscopy.
“I found one polyp, but could only get to about 90% of your colon,” the doctor said as he walked into the room. “I’m going to need you to come back for another colonoscopy. Would you mind?”
Mind? Me? Nah. I mean, another day of clear liquids only. More gulps of nasty-tasting prep solution that has you staying near the bathroom. No problem.
But (pardon the pun), for me it’s necessary. I can thank my father for that. He had a condition that caused him to grow lots of polyps in his colon and, in fact, had about half of his colon surgically removed because of it. It can be inherited, so apparently I get to have an annual colonoscopy.
So far, so good and let’s keep it that way. Colon cancer doesn’t sound like anything I want.
This, by the way, is something I just found out about recently. While we’re all from West Virginia, most of my immediate family has lived in South Carolina for decades. I live in Indiana and one brother — a nuclear engineer turned consultant — lives all over the place.
I’m not physically close enough to any of them to hear a lot of the family gossip. My baby brother, who took care of Dad, just kind of dropped that little tidbit in my ear — and now I can’t get hold of him for the details. Baby Bro, that is. Dad is no longer with us.
It reminded me that, in addition to keeping up with everything that diabetes can impact, we also have medical details to follow that have nothing to do with diabetes. Maybe. At least I don’t think colon cancer and the prevention of such has anything to do with diabetes, although I’m convinced Type 2 diabetes is at the root of my gray hair. Or maybe it’s the children. [Editor's note: Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for colorectal cancer. See this page from the American Cancer Society for more information.]
(Actually, being overweight is a risk factor for many things, and most people with Type 2 diabetes, and some with Type 1, are overweight.)
As with most things, the frequency with which you need to have tests run, etc., depends on the risk factors. If you’re not at higher risk for colon cancer, you can go several years without savoring an uncountable number of chugs of prep solution.
Other things we need to be checked for include breast cancer. Men, you are NOT immune. You do have breast tissue, even if you don’t have man boobs. You just don’t have as much breast tissue as women.
The American Cancer Society estimates that, in 2013, “about 2,240 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men” and “about 410 men will die from breast cancer.” Not a lot of cases — unless one of these cases is you.
So, ladies and gentlemen alike, check for lumps around your armpits and the breast area. If you need more specific information, WebMD has a detailed guide.
This is a good place to go to learn about early detection of all kinds of cancer. You’ll find more details there than I can give you.
While you’re scheduling this, that, and the other thing, don’t forget to factor in diabetes self-management education and nutritional education. Look for people who are certified diabetes educators (CDEs) to help you learn how to manage your diabetes. Ideally, they should teach you how to fit diabetes into your lifestyle. At least, that’s what worked for me. It made caring for diabetes a lot less onerous.
We have been diagnosed with a condition that isn’t going to go away and that can have some pretty nasty consequences if ignored. In fact, there’s a saying I’ve run across that says something like, “you may ignore diabetes but, rest assured, diabetes is not ignoring you.”
None of us were born knowing how to walk, talk, read, dress ourselves…in fact, we didn’t know much of anything. We had to learn. Being diagnosed with diabetes is, in a way, like being born. There are things we’re going to have to learn. We don’t automagically know what to do; how to gain some control of the Diabeastie.
Luckily, we have CDEs to help us through the early times, to bring us up-to-date when changes occur and to, at least figuratively, hold our hands or cheer us on when needed.
If your doctor has not referred you to education, ask that he do so. I understand that some places don’t have educators. If you live in one of those places and figured out how to arrange for diabetes self-management education, please comment and let us know what you did. It could be helpful to somebody else.