Patient / Survivor
Hopatcong, New Jersey
We all have certain dates that we all remember. For me some of those dates are December 3rd (my birthday), March 23rd (my wife Kim’s birthday) and September 27th (our wedding anniversary). I can now add March 1, 2017 as one of the most important days of my life. As the doctor says, this is the day I saved my life!
This past December 3rd I turned 50 years old. Knowing that I had reached an important milestone, I did the right thing and scheduled a physical with my doctor. I had my blood work and urinalysis well in advance. The doctor had the results and I was ready for my physical.
I met with my doctor and the physical went great, all my tests came back with great results. My doctor was happy to report that for a 50-year-old guy I was in excellent health. He then set me up with a package of information and a referral for my first colonoscopy. I didn’t waste any time and scheduled my test. The test was scheduled for March 1st, 2017 at 8:30 am.
The night before, I started prepping for the test. This is by far the worst part of the test. Between not eating, clearing out and no coffee in the morning, it made for a grumpy start for the day. I checked into the doctor on schedule. I joked with both the doctor and anesthesiologist about this being my first test. The last thing I remember before going under is the doctor saying that the start time was 8:29am.
The next thing I know, I’m waking up in recovery. The nurse tells me the doctor will be in in a minute to talk to me. The nurse then suggests that Kim and I move to a private room. This is when we started to get a bad feeling.
The doctor came in with a copy of the report. He started by telling me what a little polyp farm is and how he removed three of them and burned the ends. I looked down at the bottom of the report and right away I could tell the picture did not look good. I even said to the doctor that I didn’t think it looked good. He agreed, explaining that it was a tumor. He said biopsies were taken and sent for testing.
Dr. Barbalinardo took all the time necessary to answer my questions and concerns. He told me the tumor had to be removed along with a section of my colon. He was very optimistic that the surgery would be fine and I would make a full recovery with no need for radiation or chemo. He said two things to me that I will always remember. He said I was lucky that I took this seriously and had my testing done at 50, because it saved my life. The other thing he told me was he wished there were a lot others like me.
The pathology reports for the biopsies showed signs of high grade dysplasia, which means the tumor is cancerous but can’t be confirmed until fully removed. My surgery was scheduled for Mar. 31, meaning that in one month I went from a very healthy 50 year old with no symptoms to having colon surgery.
The surgery was a success. Dr. Robert and Joseph Barbalinardo and the staff at Mountainside Hospital took good care of me. I was up and walking the same day as the surgery. Other than the reminder of some pain from the stitches and diet, I felt fine. Pathology came back that the cancer was contained to the tumor and I’m now clear.
My wife Kim was strong through the entire month and was by my side the entire time, as was our family and friends.
In the end, all cancer sucks and much more needs to be done. For me, I’m the text book case as to why they recommend screening at 50. I am a very healthy person who showed no symptoms. My doctor and those who gave a second opinion have all said, had I waited two years to get screened the end results would have been much different.
As I have a number of friends who have recently turned or are about to turn 50, I encourage everyone to get screened. I know we are all busy and it is not the most glamorous screening but it needs to be done.
It is my hope that by sharing my story, I’ll be able to convince at least one person on the importance of getting screened at age 50.
Laughter is great medicine. As horrible as the news may be, the one thing that helped me and my wife through was keeping a positive outlook and sense of humor throughout.