April 19, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 220
Colonoscopy Terror Vs. Cancer Vigilance
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, April 19-- What if
I were to propose that there is distinct link between colon
cancer and Osama bin Laden?
And further, what
if I were to maintain that Terrorism akin to that America experienced
on September 11, is the chief cause of undetected cancer of
I'm not a scientist
or a politician or a medical expert so don't expect me to try
and bury you in a pile of statistics flogging you to death with
one more reason why you need to stay Vigilant to ward off cancer.
going to talk simply and personally about Cancer Terrorism--the
kind that sneaks up on you when you least expect it and drops
a suicide bomber into your guts or breast or lungs or uterus
begins with a statement similar to this: "No way.
I'm never gonna let some doctor put one of those things up my
butt! No way!"
That was me--my
statement prior to being diagnosed with colon cancer..
homophobic, intimidated and absolutely complacent about having
anyone check out the status of my colon, I chose to turn my
back on the issue just as prior to September 11 the vast majority
of Americans gave no to little concern we all could be victims
of "third-world Terrorism."
hearing someone talk about the colonoscopy procedure made me
run the other way, knotted my insides, and drove my palms
to smother my ears as though the speaker was slowly dragging
his or her fingernails down a blackboard.
The macho man
in me--former Marine, six-foot-four, 265lbs, deep Voiced, heterosexual,
conservative republican--vehemently repelled the idea of humiliating
myself to such a test no matter how vital it might be to my
well being. I was Terrorized into non-action--a common
state we all retreat to when we wish to avoid the unpleasant.
Unfortunately, I wasn't alone in such thinking.
Most of the "guys" I hung out with were like Steve
Martin and John Candy in the movie Trains, Planes and Automobiles
when the two actors were forced to sleep together in a motel
and awoke, startled, and began to gruff and huff out their masculinity
so neither might think the other was "light in the loafers."
fear kills a lot of guys like me, and also an equal portion
of gals who run the other way when the idea of someone looking
into their most private original sanctuary--the bowels--looms.
and resulting Complacency about a colonoscopy almost cost me
of reckoning--my Nine Eleven--was January 15, Martin Luther
King Day, 1995. I was climbing the stairs in my
beautiful Laguna Niguel, California, thirty-six-hundred square
foot home when I fell to my knees, gasping. No matter
how hard I tried, I couldn't pull myself to my feet.
The room started
to spin. I shook it off, clutching the railing, trying
to regain some strength over the sudden collapse of my body.
For months I had been taking iron pills to combat physical malaise..
My doctor, who at the time was in the midst of a Phen-Phen diet,
overlooked the issue of my colon when I complained of feeling
run down. He
performed the common stool Guaiac test, and since
no blood showed up he diagnosed my problem as an iron deficiency.
Later, I would
learn that if there is a problem with the colon one bleeds intermittently,
making it highly probable to pass the "blood-in-the-stool"
test if the day one does the test the colon isn't bleeding.
Once I began
boosting myself with iron pills, they masked any signs
"treatment time" for iron deficiency my body was grinding
down. I had been sucking on Siberian ginseng and wolfing
down vitamins to overcome the daily drain I felt of my energy.
I found myself plodding through the day, growing ever weaker.
On Martin Luther
King Day seven years ago, when I couldn't right myself at the
top of the stairs, I knew I was in deep trouble.
My first thought was I was suffering from a peptic ulcer because
I was burping and feeling nauseous. Little did I know
then I was bleeding to death.
After I collapsed,
my wife rushed me to the doctor. My hemoglobin had dropped
to dangerous level of six. A healthy man averages between
15 and 18.
I was placed in the hospital.
A colonoscopy was performed. I had colon cancer--bad.
The blood loss was
so great they had to pump four pints into me prior to the operation.
The surgeon sliced out a chunk of my intestine and sowed it
back. I underwent chemotherapy for a year following surgery.
My story is not uncommon.
I was Terrorized by the idea of the "test," and avoided
it to the brinks of my own near demise.
My fear and
ego conspired to the point of nearly killing me.
didn't apply the principles of Vigilance toward my body, or
protecting it from harm. Instead, I became complacent
and allowed the threat of cancer to overcome sound protection
against a very insidious and dangerous disease that attacks
both men and women with equal ferocity and surprise.
As a rugged
individualist, I naturally abhor authority when it is placed
on me against my will. "Having to go to the
doctor," is one of those issues I fight.
Surprisingly, nearly one-third of the U.S. population has never
seen a doctor as an adult, and not just because they can't afford
it, but primarily because they fear what a doctor might say,
or have some deep-seeded mistrust of them.
In my case,
the Terror of having someone "invade my bowel's privacy"
was an overpowering thought which made me shy from promoting
my doctor to give me such a test.. After all,
I was healthy, strong, vibrant prior to my body suddenly running
down. Why should I humiliate myself, I thought.
I was a victim
of Terroristic Thinking. I learned a lot about humility
during the course of my bout with cancer, and especially the
need for Vigilance when it comes to certain prophylactic tests
that can detect early signs of cancer and help one not let the
problem turn into a life-threatening crisis.
For a man or woman over forty, and certainly no later than fifty,
a colonoscopy is a must. Detecting any signs of
the disease can stop its growth and contain it so that surgery
may not be necessary.
I found, is one of those "it can't happen to me" diseases.
In my case there was no history of the disease on either side
of my family. No one I was aware of had ever died
from it, or, been its victim. That gave me a false
sense of security when it came down to the issue of checking
myself against the disease.
Women face a double threat since they are attacked by colon
cancer on an equal rate as are men. In addition
to the colon, they must stand Vigilant against the specter of
breast cancer, annually receiving a mammogram and looking for
lumps that might indicate warning signs.
the true problem lies is its danger to a person's children.
Once one has such a disease, the odds that one's children might
be vulnerable to its attack dramatically increases.
I could parade a host of statistics out on the table of men
and women who, like me, refused or didn't demand such tests
by their doctors. You can take a deep breath. I'm
not going to do that.
will talk a bit about the need to become a Parent of Vigilance
to your own body.
If one thinks
about it, cancer is nothing more than a Terrorist inside your
body, lurking, stalking, waiting to attack.
No one can say exactly
where cancer originates, but once it takes root it has a voracious
appetite to kill its most fierce enemies--living, thriving cells.
It is like a suicide bomber
or the 19 Terrorists who attacked the United States on September
Its purpose is to strangle
the life out of the unsuspecting, and it preys on one's Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency.
Cancer for me was all about
the unknown, the unexpected. I was ambushed by it.
I was raped and ravaged by its insidiousness, and my own lack
of Vigilance to protect myself from its growth within.
As with our nation's
attitude against Terrorism, the Complacent thinking that "it
can't happen to me," opens the door to its ease of entrance.
In a way, cancer is alive in its thinking, always Vigilant for
the weakness within the body it can attack and permutated itself.
Osama bin Laden's
al-Queda is composed of cells, not unlike cancer cells.
They are perched in various sectors of America and the world
waiting for the right moment to attack, for some weakness to
present itself so they can rush in and destroy the living and
expand the dead, leaving in their wake a hollow emptiness that
makes those around its epicenter live in Fear, Intimidation
and feel Complacent that they are powerless to stop it.
In so many ways human
Terrorism is exactly like cancer's Terrorism. In
both cases one finds it difficult to accept he or she can be
its victim, and, as is common with both cancer and Terrorism,
tends to turn their back on its potential to attack "them,"
to single them out of the "crowd."
I certainly felt that way.
Even when I was told I had cancer my mind refused to accept
the facts. It took hours before the truth sank in,
and the cold shockwaves of my mortality loomed before me.
Yesterday, I wrote a story about
a man who bled to death in my arms in Vietnam, a and how he
clutched me in his final gasp of life and choked out the words:
"Why me? Why not you?"
I felt the same way about
cancer. "Why me? Why not you?"
A Steve Martin movie fan, I am reminded of the scene in our
family's favorite movie, The Jerk, when an angry psychopath
stabs his finger into a phone book and spears Steve Martin's
name randomly. The man is looking for anyone, no
one in particular, to vent his rage upon. He has a hunting
rifle and is planning to seek out the person he calls "random
bastard" to deliver them a bullet.
While the movie is full of uproarious
scenes, that particular one is about as close as one can get
to the impact of Terrorism upon the unsuspecting.
People who acquire cancer are, as The Jerk so humorously portrays,
just "random bastards."
That makes facing the dangers
of cancer or, for that matter, Terrorism, more difficult.
"Why me? Why not you?"
It is so much easier for
one to think: "That can't happen to me!"
But it can. It does. And it will.
Vigilance is about "expecting
the unexpected." It involves the them:
"Ready for anything counting on nothing."
To be vigilant, one cannot exclude any potential threat to one's
well being, or to that of his or her loved ones.
At the same time there is a matter of balance required for healthy
living. One must not go overboard and enter the
realm of paranoia where everything poses such a threat that
one lives in the ice jambs of fear, frozen into a state of Complacency
where no action is taken because the worrying dominates the
What is healthy is to "expect
the unexpected," to believe that one is ultimately powerless
over the attack of a cancer cell or a Terrorist.
But, one can protect himself or herself from the damages that
might result in case of such a confrontation with Terror.
A child's self worth, for example,
is a ripe target for the Cancer of Terrorism. Tiny
cells of self-worthlessness and self-depreciation can begin
to gnaw at a child's belief in his or her dreams unless those
dreams are nurtured by a parent or loved one.
Children have many fears, rampant
intimidations, and often these grow into the cancer of Complacency
where a child feels he or she is stuck in a rut, a victim of
circumstances based on how he or she is trained to think.
A skinny child might come to believe he or she is abnormal,
or a fat child resign himself or herself to a world of hiding
behind food, or an abused child might take up gauntlet of personal
Terrorism as retaliatory action against not receiving the love
and affection children so desperately need in their formative
Parents who are too busy
to become "friends" with their child may radar to
them an indifference which creates walls of isolation between
the two generations. This lack of parenting causes the child
to feel he or she must act out of defiance rather than conciliation
around the home front, and rather than bonding to the power
of love, grow up disenfranchised from his or her parents and
act out in such ways as to become "trouble" rather
Cancers of the Emotion
as well as Physical state of mind and body thrive on separation
between parties. I held fast to my premise that I knew
more than the medical profession about my own health.
I was wrong. Had I been Vigilant, I would have insisted
on a colonoscopy years before I
was attacked, just as the United States learned its alleged
security was faulty because it felt "insulated" from
attack by a Third World force.
If we have learned one lesson
from September 11th, let it be Vigilance in all of our thinking.
America has been diagnosed with cancer
as a result of Nine Eleven. All 300 million of us
know now that we can awaken to a new disaster. Our shells of
security have been cracked. No longer can we say,
"why me, why not you?"
Cancer doesn't care much for personalities.
Neither does Terrorism. It can kill anyone at anytime
at its whim--with one major exception.
It shies away from those who are Vigilant.
It attacks weakness not strength.
It feeds off Complacency.
If you are in your forties or early fifties and you've never
had a colonoscopy for whatever reason, stop and give it another
look. What if you imagined that Osama bin Laden
was hiding in your body, and he was a mere tiny cell full of
decay and destruction, just waiting to attack you internally
without your knowledge. Under these conditions,
would you consider it prudent to have your Sentinel of Vigilant
doctor perform an intelligence mission to root out the hiding
place, and, if at all possible, attack and destroy the "evil
within" before it could grow?
I believe our attitude toward
defending ourselves against Cancer is not unlike the attitude
necessary to combat Terrorism.
If you haven't, go get a colonoscopy
.....or a mammogram. Don't wait until your body
faces a September 11th disaster. It just might be too
Go To April 18--Sorrow
On Independence Day