March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month – and it is very important, especially to me.
Let me tell you why.
My dad was in the US Army and served in the Korean War. What you may not know is that my dad was a patient of the VA Healthcare System. But not always and not at the end of his life.
For most of his life, my dad used the VA for his healthcare due to a combination of service-connection disabilities and a low income. He was a very typical patient of his era. Whenever asked by his doctor, everything was fine, and he felt fine. He did not ask questions of his doctor and only sought care when things were bad.
As Dad got older, he started to get sick. Real sick. By then, I had pulled him from the VA system because of several big health issues that were not diagnosed nor treated. I felt I could get him better care outside with my own PCP. There he was treated well and got the care he needed. We were all very happy. Until he got very sick.
When they discovered the tumor, it was large enough to be close to obstructing his bowel. We were shocked. How could we have missed this? Surely it would have been picked up on a colonoscopy. However, at that time I learned my dad never had a colonoscopy. He had never been offered one nor did he ever ask for one. Since I had been only taking care of him for a few years, I just assumed he had had at least one while he was a patient in the VA. Never assume anything I have learned so many times. This is the time that really mattered.
My dad died just a couple of months after his diagnosis. He was too sick and frail for surgery and he did not want any other treatment.
Colonoscopies can save lives.
Don’t avoid it because it is awkward or uncomfortable. If you know someone, Veteran or not, encourage them to get theirs. It matters. I am about to get my second.
My dad is the biggest driving factor behind why I am trying to improve the care that Veterans receive. They should not have to ask for basic screening or come into the doctor’s office with their own diagnosis in hand.
Veterans should be treated with honor and dignity and receive the best we have to offer in this country.
Even if I can only make it better for one more person, I will continue to try.