This isn't one of your typical rants about the Bucks are in peril or how the Brewers will miss Prince Fielder. Rather than opine in this space as I normally do about who will play quarterback next year for the Badgers or left tackle next year for the Packers, I want to use this space for something entirely different and much, much more important, if you guys will indulge me.
Do I have your attention yet? I hope so, because while not all cancers are preventable, many are. We here at OnMilwaukee.com lost our dear friend and colleague Tim Cuprisin the day before Thanksgiving after a short but brave and valiant fight with an aggressive form of melanoma. In some way, each of us has been touched by this insidious disease that robs us of loved ones or ourselves.
When I was in college, my roommate and I would often go to his parents house in Wilmette, Ill., for the weekend. And while I never became a fan of any of their sports teams, it was through those visits that I got to know and love the city of Chicago. While staying at Andy's house I got to know his parents as well as his older brother and sister.
Beth was in graduate school by the time I met her. Andy's sister was about five or six years older than we were and was stunningly beautiful. She was not only gorgeous, but was also whip-smart and could disarm you with just her smile. Much to my chagrin at the time, she was also engaged.
Fast forward to April 2004. Beth, now a 37-year-old mother of two small children, was diagnosed with colon cancer. She did not have any family history of cancer of any kind and had seemed like she was otherwise in perfect health. She never smoked, rarely drank, ate well, and exercised.
Beth died in October of that year, leaving behind those two kids who have had to grow up without their mother.
About six weeks ago, I noticed blood in my stool. After a quick search on WebMD.com, I discovered that was one of the prime suspects of colon cancer. Alarmed, I made an appointment to see my doctor, who thought that it was probably a hemorrhoid but wanted to be sure.
Yesterday I had my first colonoscopy.
The word "colonoscopy" when spoken to friends often is met with squirms and a half-hearted "have fun!" After all, the reality of the procedure is that a tiny camera is snaked through your rectum through about four to five feet of intestines to see exactly what's going on up there. If there are any polyps, they are removed and sent to the lab for a biopsy. A day at the park, it isn't.
But while there is nothing "fun" about the procedure, after now having gone through it, I can tell you with all honesty and sincerity, there is nothing to fear about it at all.
I had to fast for 24 hours before the procedure and was prescribed mega-doses of laxative to flush everything out of my system (for obvious reasons). Without a doubt, that was the most unpleasant part of the entire process. I was tired, groggy, and running to the bathroom every 20 minutes, but there is a method to the madness.
Once I was prepped at the hospital and ready to be wheeled into the procedure room, I spoke with the doctor for a few minutes (most of it about sports) and was hooked up to an intravenous drip. The nurse rolled me over on my side, released some drugs from the drip to flow into me, and said "good night."
The next thing I remember I was awake in the recovery room with my wife beside me telling me that I was fine and that I came through with flying colors. There were just a few small internal hemorrhoids, which were explained to me as being quite normal, as well as explaining the blood I saw some six weeks earlier. Bottom line, no cancer.
As far as any discomfort from the procedure itself, I didn't feel a thing. Not in the hospital afterward, not now as I sit here and write this in my office at home.
I was lucky. But beyond luck, I didn't ignore the symptoms. Sometimes, especially us guys, feel like we can tough it through medical maladies. When the realization sets in that the problem won't just go away on its own, often times it is tragically too late.
Statistics show that if colon cancer is detected in its earliest stage, there is a 93 percent survival rate after five years. That number drops to a sobering eight percent if you let it linger until Stage IV, when by which time the malignancy has spread to other organs.
Modern medicine is incredible nowadays. If you think you might have something, it is better to be safe than sorry. As much as you might think it is a nuisance, as much as you might think you don't have time for a colonoscopy, it is important to you, your family, your friends, and even your career, that you stay on top of your health.
After all, who will do your job if you aren't around? Who will raise your kids? Eternity can wait. After all, no matter what your beliefs are, you only get one go-around in your present form. You might as well take care of the body you do have, right?
Besides, I can use all of the readers I can get. ;)
Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at OnMilwaukee.com.
Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.
Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.
Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.