Susie Jennings has been looking forward to this summer. For nearly a year, she’s kept her eyes on a date in August. It’s the day she undergoes her next colonoscopy.
She declared, “I’m looking forward to my next colonoscopy.”
Jennings isn’t kidding.
She knows the power of the medical procedure in which a doctor can look at the entire length of the colon and rectum and biopsy suspicious areas to find cancer and save lives.
Last summer, Jennings was experiencing abdominal pain and knew something wasn’t right. Her doctor scheduled a colonoscopy. She delayed it – a visit to the West Coast to see her beloved grandchildren took priority – but she kept the rescheduled appointment on Sept. 5.
Jennings said she’ll never forget the conversation she had with her doctor as she was waking up from the sedation.
He was straight to the point, saying, “You have cancer. You need surgery.”
Her response was equally to the point. “What do we do about it? Let’s get it out.”
He replied, “That’s what I want to hear.”
Jennings recalled that she wasn’t afraid. At 71, she said, she’s learned to turn issues that she has no power over to God.
The coming days were, however, a whirlwind as she prepared for the surgery that took place less than two weeks later on Sept. 18 and a family celebration for her mother’s 91st birthday that was scheduled just days before the operation.
The surgery was successful. The surgeon believed he got all the cancer, which was contained entirely within the colon.
She recovered well. Jennings, who has gone through three hip replacements and other surgeries, said she didn’t experience much pain.
She was in the hospital for three days and then promptly sent her husband off on a golfing vacation so she could heal with her friends.
Jennings explained that long before they knew what their future would hold, her husband had planned a five-day golf trip with his friends. She had arranged for her friend, Judy Fulton, to visit during that time.
“When my surgery happened a few days before he was to leave, I absolutely insisted that he go golfing. The week turned out to be so much fun with friends coming and going all the time.”
However, Jennings also had a message for her friends: Don’t skip colonoscopies.
Jennings, who serves on the Marion Town Council, shared that message with her fellow council members and those in attendance when she returned to her duties. It’s a message she’ll share anytime she gets the opportunity.
“It can be lifesaving,” she declared.
Jennings acknowledges that the prep, which cleans out the colon and rectum, is unpleasant, but, she said, “Your life is worth more than a couple days of inconvenient prep.”
She’s now urging her 45-year-old son to be screened. She knows that colon cancer can strike at any age.
The American Cancer Society recommends regular colorectal cancer screening for people at average risk starting at age 45. The society notes that while “colorectal cancer death rates declined 53 percent from 1970 to 2016 among men and women because of increased screening and improvements in treatment…, in adults younger than age 55, new cases of colorectal cancer have increased almost 2 percent per year since the mid-1990s.”
Jennings lives a healthy lifestyle, eating what would be considered a preventative diet for colon cancer and exercising. She did have some family history of the disease, including a grandfather and aunt who had colon cancer. She also noted that colon cancer is quite common in this region.
Having a colonoscopy, she said, “is a gift people can give themselves.”
The cancer society concurs, saying, “When colorectal cancer is found early, before it has spread anywhere, the five-year relative survival rate is 92 percent. This means more than 9 out of 10 people with early-stage cancer survive at least five years. But if the cancer has had a chance to spread outside the colon or rectum, survival rates are lower.”
Jennings’ August colonoscopy is especially important. It will confirm that the cancer is indeed gone.
She’s grateful for her medical care and the support of her family and friends. She’s still got a lot of living and loving of grandchildren to do.