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How a colon cancer screening saved my life

Colon cancer was never on Steve’s radar. He was young and healthy, with a wife and kids. Read how a recommendation to get a colonoscopy changed Steve’s life forever.

By Steve Jecha
August 11, 2017

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Feb. 5 is my cancer-versary.

On that day my wife of 25+ years took me to the gastroenterologist to have a colonoscopy.

Just two weeks earlier, I had visited my primary care physician as I had been experiencing symptoms and knew something wasn’t right. She told me to get screened immediately. I was lucky, in that I was experiencing symptoms. Most people don’t. That’s why regular screenings starting at 50 are so important.

I’d heard colonoscopies were uncomfortable so I wasn’t thrilled about it.  But I knew how important it was to heed my doctor’s advice. This pretty simple procedure ultimately saved my life.

It’s hard waking up from your colonoscopy to have your doctor tell you a) you have colon cancer, b) we are sending you over immediately for a scan to see how much it has spread outside the colon, and c) you are scheduled for major surgery next week, followed by six months of chemotherapy. Talk about an instant life-changing moment. 

My gastroenterologist was happy that I came in right away, as they are seeing younger patients with colon cancer. We would let our two kids, parents, and siblings know about the news that night.

Post-surgery, I learned that I was Stage III(B). Probably the scariest part is Googling your condition and seeing survival rates. At that time, Stage III(B) was showing a 50 percent survival rate. Today it is mid-70 percent. I have since learned that most Internet data is five years old and surgeries and treatments have come a long way – changing survivability rates dramatically. Still, colon cancer is the "quiet killer." I was just months from being Stage 4 where recovery rates are quite low.

I would highly recommend screening. If you are 50 or older, do it. And if you have parents who are 50 or older, make sure they take this important step to make sure everything looks ok. Today, all of my friends get lectured about getting a colonoscopy at age 50. There is also a quick and easy alternative called the FIT, a stool test you do at home. Both tests are covered 100 percent by most insurance plans, even if you haven’t met your deductible.

HealthPartners members: Check your coverage here.

Doctors estimated my golf ball sized tumor had been growing for upwards of five or more years. If you have any changes/symptoms, no matter your age, get checked immediately.

Make an appointment with your doctor to talk about screening options

Thankfully, today I test clear with no evidence of disease, but neuropathy side effects from chemo remind me daily to monitor my health.

Steve Jecha

Steve Jecha grew up in the Twin Cities and is a graduate of St. Olaf College. A lifetime hockey fan, he is the Executive Director of Minneapolis Youth Hockey and a Realtor with Remax Results. Aside from travel, Steve's favorite hobby is the Scandinavian sport of Bandy - ice hockey's forefather - where he has played and coached Internationally for more than 30 years. He's even a member of the USA Bandy Hall of Fame.

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