There Should Be No Shame in Preventative Care
Yeah, some medical procedures are embarrassing, but they might just save your life.
Before we begin, let me warn you that there is an image of my dad’s abdomen post-surgery. It’s quite jarring, but he allowed me to share it as a warning to people who forgo preventative treatment. If you’re squeamish, look away… But, please, do read on.
Five years ago, dad called me at work to talk about the abdominal pain that had haunted him for days. He wanted to know what to do, since no amount of antacid or pain medication was helping. I told him to call and make an appointment with his physician. While I do have a doctorate in public health, I’m not a physician. (Even if I were a physician, I would probably find it unethical to treat a loved one. You know? Conflicts of interest and all.) A day later, his physician called me at dad’s request. He was sending dad off to get a CT scan of the abdomen. A day later, we’d be on the phone again, because the CT scan revealed a mass in dad’s large intestine.
The following weeks were all about managing dad’s pain for a few days before surgery, then going through the surgery, being at his bedside, and leaving him in good shape before returning to the States. (I’ll spare you the story of having to travel to dad’s hometown in Mexico, finding a private hospital to do the surgery, and then paying comparatively little out of pocket to what we would have had to pay in the United States.)
The tumor in dad’s large intestine did not spread, thankfully. It could have, but it was in a spot in his intestine that caused him acute pain, and that acute pain led to the discovery of the tumor. Had it been in some other part, it may have not caused pain until it started spreading to vital organs. It would have been too late by then.
Then again, the tumor didn’t have to be there at all. Had dad started getting colon cancer screenings as recommended, the polyp that eventually became a tumor could have been removed. But the machismo culture told him anything “up the butt” was unacceptable, or subject to embarrassment. It was associated with homosexuality or stigmatized personal preferences. With that in mind, dad never got a colonoscopy, or checked his prostate.