Who, me? No way.

This is my story. I make no apologies for my words or the contents. My facts are not gory or gruesome, merely facts. So, pull up your socks, sit back and read my story, if you dare. The life you save may be yours or that of someone you dearly love. I challenge you to read it to the end.

I was born in 1932, in my grandma’s house on Killaly Street, Port Colborne, in the bed where my mother slept as a girl. As a young married woman about to have her first baby, she returned to that same single bed, and, with a midwife’s help, I was born.

I was told that from the beginning my father carved very small suppositories from soap to help his baby daughter learn a most important daily ritual. And so, my “cranky colon” began. For years I experienced irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, flatulence, constipation, distention and pain. This conflict with my colon became part of my lifestyle as I sought for sage advice on how to at least control the culprit. Food, too, was my enemy, and everything I ate or drank could cause an attack. Going out for dinner and entertaining became a challenge. Sadly, two of my children inherited my affliction. And so, the years passed, and I accepted my health issue as others accept hay fever or rashes or gout.

We all have some medical issue that, while perhaps not life- threatening, is lifestyle-altering. I did see doctors. I did have tests. I did have ultrasounds. I did have fecal occult blood (FOB) tests. The FOB reported blood in three-day samples and led to a colonoscopy in 2017, when a pre-cancerous node was removed. Following the procedure, my blood pressure shot sky-high and my A-Fib kicked in. It was determined that future colonoscopies might be a bit dangerous.

In November 2019 I received a sudden and urgent phone call from my sister in Florida, a call I never expected, a call that saved my life. My sister, five years my junior, beautiful, talented, well-educated, well-loved, and very, very bright, who had never been in a hospital except to have three babies, had just been told November 3 that she was “full of cancer” and no surgery could be performed.

She had had a swollen belly, loss of appetite, thought it was indigestion, and had finally gone to her doctor. Tests revealed the cancer had invaded most of her abdominal organs. She died 18 days later, November 21, 2019. But…before she died, she made me promise to have a CT scan and a colonoscopy.

Through my efforts and that of my family doctor and my wonderful surgeon, both were arranged. I hastened both by speaking directly with the hospital. I had the scan and a month later the scope, and nine days after that the colon cancer surgery. Nearly half of my bowel was removed, as were 24 lymph nodes and a t4 tumour. Soon it would have closed the opening.

I spent 11 days in hospital. I am home now with my family. I have all kinds of support from Care Partners, Home Instead, Community Support, Pelham Cares, LHIN and my distant families in the USA, B.C. and parts of Ontario. I have a surgeon and his staff who care deeply about this little old lady and friends far and near who email or call. I am truly blessed.

This benevolence was possible because I listened to my dying sister’s words. I hope you will listen to mine. If you have any symptoms of bloating, weight loss (I actually gained), poor appetite, pain, a “gut” feeling, and if you are over 50, take the newly available fecal immunochemical test (FIT), which is now recommended as a far less intrusive means of early detection than a colonoscopy. You poop, you scoop, you send it off. Get one from your doctor.

I have written this article because I care, about my family, about my friends and about you, my Pelham neighbours.