By Joe Arnold
WHAS11 Anchor/Reporter and 2014 Walk Away from Colon Cancer & 5K Run Honorary Chair
On March 11, 2014, the one year anniversary of my sister Maria’s death from colorectal cancer, I took to Twitter to share my colonoscopy story from prep to recovery room.
The live-tweeting of my colonoscopy was a collaboration between Norton Healthcare and WHAS11 to demystify the procedure, educate the public and save lives.
It also fulfilled my dear sister’s dying wish that her story be shared to help prevent others from suffering from what she called “this hideous disease.”
Maria did not recognize her symptoms soon enough. She was diagnosed with advanced stage colorectal cancer in 2004 when she was 45 years old.
The next year was absolute hell for her. Radiation, chemotherapy and surgeries sapped Maria of all but her last ounce of energy and nearly all of her resolve. Yet, with the help of caring doctors and a dedicated family, Maria not only survived this death blow, she lived to see the marriages of her three children and the birth of her first grandchild.
With her marketing expert husband, Wayne, at her side, Maria worked to raise awareness of colon cancer. Their "Uncorking a Cure" initiative and “Undy 5000” event in Cincinnati raised money for screening and research.
It was in that spirit that Norton Healthcare and I documented my colonoscopy with live tweets and Instagram videos as Martin Mark, M.D. of Norton Gastroenterology Consultants performed and narrated the procedure.
Though no problems were discovered in my examination, Mark was prepared to address any polyps or abnormal growths.
It's not embarrassing or painful. It's a medical procedure often 100 percent covered by health insurance. It just makes sense for anyone 50 or older and anyone whose risk factors call for it earlier.
Kentucky's high incidence of colorectal cancer and low screening rates are the target of Dr. Whitney Jones and the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, which I am proud to support. Kentucky is now providing funding for the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program, which helps low-income, uninsured residents get screenings.
At her funeral, Maria’s son, Chris, revealed that a recipient of Maria's efforts, the Colon Cancer Alliance in the Cincinnati area, had just experienced its first “save.” A person who underwent a colonoscopy with its help had been diagnosed early enough to achieve a complete recovery.
One week before her death, as Wayne appeared with one of Maria's doctors to mark colon cancer awareness month on a Cincinnati television station, I watched the broadcast at her bedside in their home. As I told her how proud I was of her that she was willing to use her story to help other people, Maria nodded in agreement as a tear rolled down her cheek.
This was her hallmark, caring for others with simple acts of kindness: a plate of brownies, a vase of flowers, a greeting card “just because.”
I think Maria would be proud as we perpetuate her legacy. Do your own family and your latent anxieties a favor and schedule your colonoscopy today.