A British tabloid is reporting today that Madonna and her three children will be leaving the UK to visit her father, Tony Ciccone, who resides in Michigan.

And just a few years ago, Katie Couric’s husband (only 42) died from colon cancer. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the #2 cause of cancer death in the U.S. About 106,680 Americans will be diagnosed this year with the disease. So that means many, many more people—more than Madonna, more than Katie Couric are or have been affected by this disease. I count myself in this number, as my late husband (only 50) died of the disease.

Although colon cancer is no respecter of class, it does discriminate. A recent Polish study found that men were more likely than women to have this disease.

Undetected, colon cancer is lethal. And it can only be detected through colonoscopy. Once symptoms appear, it’s already Stage IV. And with Stage IV, at best 10% of those diagnosed make it to 5 years.

And colon cancer can be even more disfiguring than breast cancer. For breast cancer, there is reconstructive surgery that gives the appearance of a normal breast. For advanced colon cancer, there is a colostomy, where the colon is redirected outside the body, disposing of its waste in a bag that attaches to a “stoma” or “hole” in the person’s abdomen. And for many colostomy patients like my husband, that bowel couldn’t be reattached to resume its normal function. The psychological effect of this surgery is immense, as it crushes one’s body image.

Truly, not one cancer is worse than another. All cancers affect those who have it and those they love. By now we all know what pink ribbons mean and I’m glad that the awareness of breast cancer and funding it research has increased. But where are the ribbons for colon cancer? Is it that what is largely a woman’s concern rates more highly than a man’s? I would hope not, yet where is the activism on the behalf of men and colon cancer? And where is the uproar? Where is the awareness?

Perhaps this blog post can help add—at least a little bit—to that awareness.

Sandra Eggers

Author

Dying Body, Growing Faith

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