(Longtime Lansing radio show personality Rich Michaels is now a financial planner and retirement adviser.)
How does it start? A nightmarish slow motion of disbelief. Overwhelming grief. Yelling at God! Hiding teary-eyed from reality under the comfort of blankets for days. Eventually, encouragement from friends fortify you to rise up and slowly peek at the dragon and then gradually you buck yourself up on wobbly legs to stare him down. Then, you start your battle.
Out of the blue, without any health warning signs, it was a routine colonoscopy where I heard: “Rich, you have a Stage 3 tumor in your upper intestine.” Terror. For seven months, I hid it and lied about it while furtively dealing with one doctor visit after another. I felt like a defect. I am not going to fib about the downside to cancer treatment. But I’ll take it and the struggles any day, because the choice to ignore it will lead to tragic results and I’m not ready to meet my maker.
The Oxaliplatin in Folfox brought ravaging fevers and put me into the hospital more than once as my body rejected it. It was awful. At the nadir, riding the meat wagon to Sparrow with a blood pressure of 49/24, we knew we had to change the drug cocktail. This one, Folfiri, has its own special delights as it turns your intestines into Mount Vesuvius and aching bones make it hard to breathe. But what is the alternative?
How do we become so prideful and ignore our bodies? We’re not living in the 1700s! A rectal exam, gentlemen, is not rape or a violation of your sensitivities or manhood! If it makes you feel better, ask the doc to leave you chocolates and flowers. Ask a female friend about the kinds of procedures THEY endure, being prodded, fingered, and probed with cold metallic Jaws of Life objects. Butch up, boys. For me, there are new mountains to climb. A bucket list of dreams, travels, diverse cultures to explore, an exciting new growing business. Grandchildren, someday.
Why do I implore you (especially men) to get a colorectal screening? Because many of you are my friends. You blessed my life the past 30 years. I want you around. Even if you are too bashful to do it for yourself, would you stop and think about all those who depend on you? Your partner, a child, employees, coworkers and others who need your guidance, knowledge, leadership, financial assistance and support. Flipping the argument around, if THEY were gone from YOUR life, how would you do without THEM?
Drop your pride. Drop your drawers. I am mortified by the inflatable large rubber colons or polyp costumes, but I know a catchy phrase or goofy symbol is what some people need to get their attention.
When we hit our 40s and then 50, a lot of people start disappearing.They’re gone. It took me years to DELETE these friends from Microsoft Outlook as I couldn’t bear to make the admission they were dead. Then I was knocked up alongside the noggin not once, but twice last year.
Bill’s cancer, started at age 51. He was one of my best friends from the Class of ‘78. The evil dragon flew off with his precious life last September. Devastated, I dragged myself back to Pennsylvania to show final respects. I abhor funerals. Three months later, a very kind and beloved police officer, Jason Gooley of Grand Ledge, was ripped from the community by the cancer dragon. Dear God, why? Colon Cancer at age 32, which decimated him by 37, leaving a young widow and 9 year old daughter. I heard the voice loud and clear: “Hey moron, you were supposed to get that butt check several years ago. Are you not getting the message?” So I picked up the phone.
And that’s when they found it. Friday the 13th of March. Stage 3 colon cancer, 6 out of 21 nodes cancerous, but the dragon had just made it through the intestinal lining. No other organ had yet been affected! Thank you, Jesus.
With the tremendous advances in medicine, many of us will live enjoyable and meaningful lives to age 100. How can you abbreviate such a beautiful opportunity being offered to you? Think about all the mountains YOU have yet to climb. We all have talents and purpose here and it’s a one way ticket on a train I want to ride for a long time.
Reach out to a friend. Tell them you want them around. Get tested! Drop your pride! Drop your drawers. I’ll say it again if it takes that to knock you alongside the head. You can have a very full life ahead of you. Don’t ignore dragons, take them head on.