Wicozani Yuonihan: Honor the Gift of Health

March is National Colon Cancer Awareness month. Tell all your friends—colon cancer is a preventable cancer—screening can find pre-cancerous polyps early and remove them, before they turn into cancer. So get screened. It can save your life.

One Indian Woman’s Story:

“My name is Carolyn Williams. I am Anishinaabe from White Earth. In May 2002 I learned I had colon cancer. I had no aches or pains, but a year before the cancer was found, I was tired most of the time. I would sleep all day if my husband would let me, and all weekend, too. My doctor said I should get a colonoscopy. I asked people I worked with if anyone had gone through this. The answer I got was, ‘Yes, I know someone. They said this was the most embarrassing thing and it is painful.’ Twice my doctor set up the appointment and I canceled. I went the third time. By that time I had started passing blood clots.

During the colonoscopy, I didn’t feel anything. I was not embarrassed. When I woke up I was told I had a 6-inch tumor, and that I would need surgery as soon as possible.

I did not hear anything but the word cancer. I thought to myself, ‘What did I do wrong? How can I tell my family? My kids are too young to lose their mom! My husband needs me!’

I was scheduled for surgery within 7 days because the doctor was afraid that the tumor was pressing on other organs. During surgery they took 18 inches of my colon. Cancer was in my lymph nodes, and had spread to my pelvis and rectal area. When I woke up the doctor said, ‘Everything looks good. We got the tumor out.’ But I still had to travel 160 miles round trip many times for 6 months of chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments.

I know my cancer may have been prevented if I had been tested earlier. I also know that if I had had the colonoscopy when my doctor first told me, I may not have needed chemotherapy and radiation. 

Everyone needs to know how important it is to get tested and that colonoscopies are not scary or painful. It is a lot easier and a lot better than going through treatment for colon cancer.

I recently saw my doctor to be rechecked and everything looks good. This makes me one of the lucky ones for my stage of cancer. Thank you, God, and everyone who prayed for me. I will always be an advocate for colon cancer screening.” —Miigwech, Carolyn Williams 

Colon cancer often starts quietly, with no warning. Many people ask why they should get a screening when they feel fine. But colon cancer rarely causes symptoms, until it has progressed. And by that time, it is much harder to treat. The good news is, there are tests that can find colon cancer early when it’s easier to treat. 

The American Cancer Society encourages all men and women age 50 and older to get screened (earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer). In addition to screening, there are steps you can take to prevent colon cancer.

The American Cancer Society encourages all men and women age 50 and older to get screened (earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer).

5 Easy Ways to Reduce your Risk of Colon Cancer:

1. Get active! Adults should be physically active every day for 30 minutes or more.

2. Limit red meat and avoid processed meat. Try lean proteins like chicken or turkey.

3. Quit Smoking. Tobacco use accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths. Quit today and stay cancer-free.

4. Avoid drinking. If you do drink, limit alcohol to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Best plan: don’t drink at all.

5. Maintain a healthy weight throughout life and avoid weight gain—particularly fat around the midsection. Making small changes to your diet can make a big difference!

For more information on colorectal cancer prevention, contact the American Cancer Society at 1.800.227.2345 or www.cancer.org. Talk to your doctor about getting tested. 

Tiwahenitawa Tokatakiya Wicozani. Stay healthy for your family’s future.