The ‘talk’ with my, yuck, colon!

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Feeling overwhelmed these days by the events of the world – Sony incident, the tragedy in France, seemingly never-ending race issues, battle lines drawn up by politicians, you name it – I think back to a piece penned by William Wordsworth, that gives me perspective; “The World Is Too Much With Us; Late and Soon.”

True, so doggone true!

Searching for music to augment that poetry, and for more perspective, I sat yesterday with my wife and son staring quietly at the dark screen of credits after watching the movie Selma amid a cross-current of emotions racing through my head when these lyrics from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s going on,” came to mind:

“Mother, mother, there’s too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying. You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some lovin’ here today. Picket lines and picket signs, don’t punish me with brutality’’…. 

True, so doggone true!

Now when overwhelmed it’s easy to throw up our hands feeling powerless as to what to do to. What follows is what I decided to do. My hope is that it will inspire you in some way, maybe make a difference and perhaps even save someone’s life. It is a “talk” I had with my colon:

COLON: Terry, glad you finally stopped down here. You’ve been neglecting me.

ME: Quite frankly, I didn’t exactly cherish the idea of visiting you of all things colon. Besides, it’s so dark, damp and dreary down here. And on top of that, it doesn’t exactly smell like a bed of roses. 

COLON: C’mon, this tour won’t be that bad, I promise. 

ME: I can’t imagine it being worse than that awful stuff I had to drink last night in preparation for this, that’s for sure. Plus I haven’t eaten any solid foods in 24 hours. So let’s get this thing over with. I’m dying for a cheeseburger.

COLON: Okay, let’s get started. But watch your step.

(30 minutes later at the end of my tour):

COLON: Okay Terry, you successfully completely your tour. I’ll see you again in five years.

ME: Whew, I’m so glad you didn’t find anything. What should I do in the meantime?

COLON: Encourage as many people as possible to get cancer screened.

ME: Better still, I’ll make this a focus of my next article and hope that my readers won’t be turned off by my addressing something as, ugh, unsightly as a colon. Oops, sorry. Please don’t take that personally colon.

COLON: Get them to see it this way; a colon is unsightly only if it is ridden with lots of ominous polys and cancer itself. In the absence of any of that maybe it’s not so unsightly after all. It’s a matter of perspective.

A few articles ago, I wrote that initiating “the talk” about stereotypes based on race, gender, religion, etc., may be a lifesaver for someone dear to you. That one generated quite a few comments.

Now here’s another bit of potential lifesaving advice for you (or someone dear to you) based on my talk and tour with my color and exchanges with “Cecily” and “Walt” further down;

Get thou a colonoscopy…seriously!

And while on the topic, get any of the screenings that may detect early signs of a preventable cancer. For, as the “the talk” with my colon indicated, I did and am here to tell you that it is well worth it if it provides a peace of mind if the test results show no signs of a problem.

To backtrack, I woke up from my “tour” described above light-headed from anesthesia and, once able to focus my groggy eyes on my beautiful wife and the doctor, I scanned their faces for signs of trouble.

Didn’t see any. Ah, oh what a relief it is.

In fact, his words were like music to my ears: “You did well. I didn’t find any problems,” said the good doctor while pointing to photos of my unsightly colon.

Now there’s more to my story; the stories of “Cecily” and “Walt.”

You see, out of the blue I got a call a few years ago from “Cecily”, a classmate from college. She tracked me down through our alumni association. I gave her a snapshot of my life since college – my career, my wife and two great sons – then asked her to tell me what she’d been doing all those years.The casual matter-of-factness of her response with lots of laughter blew me away

“0ther than a career in education, raising a beautiful daughter, having gone through a divorce and dealing with pancreatic and liver cancer, I’m doing just fine. Life has been real good to me. My biggest regret is not getting myself tested for cancer years ago.” .

Despite my loss for words, we committed to staying in touch.

I hung up stunned by her disclosure about something so personal and, at her wise advice, committed to getting my overdue examinations scheduled right away.

Fast forward to six months later. I was one of a dozen or so folks Cecily sent her medical update to. Here’s how it read:

I just completed the six-week scan review. The results were mixed but promising. The pancreatic cancer and several of those on the liver have been reduced. However, there is one tumor on the liver that has grown quite a bit. The doctors are planning to attack it. Two weeks after that I return for another form of radiation. Once the results are in, I will give you my final update. I have decided not to speak of this disease after that. As always, I thank you for your support. (Sadly she passed away four months after that.)

Now have I gotten your attention or have I crossed the line into something too personal for your liking? How willing are you now to have “the talk” and “tour” with your colon, prostrate, breasts, skin, lungs or other organs?

And if you’re in great health and see no need for a screening, how willing are you now to initiate “the talk” with others about getting themselves screened?

Enter diversity — “The talk” along gender and other lines 

Brace yourselves because I’m about to make a dangerous assumption here. But to girlfriends, wives and partners of the men in your lives, you may have to work a little harder in initiating “the talk” with them about having prostate and colon examines since many men (and I included myself in that category until recently) are hard-headedly reluctant to do that. There’s just something about men, manhood, male pride and…why don’t I just leave it right there!

And if you are a man of color (black men in particular are at a higher risk for prostate cancer), or in a relationship with one, a “talk & tour” could be one of the best decisions you, or they, will ever make. My late African-American friend “Walt” offers a prime example.Here’s a snippet from a conversation we had at a sidewalk café two years before he died:

WALT: Terry, I can only blame myself for my current condition.

ME: What do you mean?

WALT: Despite advice from family and friends, I refused to get examined. I just didn’t have time, plus I heard that the experience is humiliating. Now I’m dealing with colon cancer.

The talk, or the dreaded call? The choice is now in your hands.

“…It makes you wanna holler, throw up both your hands!” -Marvin Gaye


Questions for a deeper analysis:

(1)What, if anything piqued your interest (or bothered you) while reading this?

(2) What are you more or likely to do now?

(3) If you develop a list of at least five people who may benefit from you sharing this article with, who might they be?

© Terry Howard is an award-winning inclusion guru, trainer, writer, corporate story teller and senior associate with Diversity Wealth (www.DiversityWealth.www) based in Douglasville, Georgia. He can be reached at (470) 556-7310 or

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