By Dany Hollingsworth
Now that its Fall in the South, I imagine many of you have spent several nights already either cheering your team to victory or bemoaning the loss amongst friends. And with temperatures (finally) starting to cool off, children might be requesting smores for dessert, and you might be looking forward to nights on the couch with your significant other, cozied up by a fire and binging your favorite show. I bet all of those image’s sound like a great way to spend an evening to you, right? What I bet doesn’t sound like such a great way to spend an evening would be chugging nauseatingly sweet liquid and cuddling up to your commode versus your couch. And I can’t say that I would disagree. In fact, if you told me that it sounded awful, I would say, I hear you loud and clear.
But if you’re 45 or older, I hope you hear me: a night prepping for a colonoscopy could ensure that you have more nights to do just as you please regardless of the season. Why? Because colorectal cancer is the SECOND most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States, but it is highly preventable. How? Through early detection during a colonoscopy or another viable screening tool like Cologuard, which is marketed as way less invasive (so maybe higher up on the fun scale?) Colonoscopies can detect and REMOVE polyps before they become deadly. (I promise I am not getting any kickbacks from the American Gastroenterological Association for writing this article. LOL!)
I know, a middle-aged woman pushing colonoscopies the way dealers push their products makes me just the type of fun person you don’t want to hang out with, but I am telling you this from the bottom of my heart. I would trade just about everything in the world, minus our two daughters, 17 and 14, if my beloved husband of 21 years, Jamey Hollingsworth, had had his colonoscopy at 45. Heck, I would be happy if he had had it at 46, or 47, or 48, or even 49. But he didn’t.
In September of 2021 he had his first colonoscopy at age 50, the age the Preventative Services Task Force used to recommend people schedule their first colonoscopy. But in May of 2021, just four months BEFORE he had his, about the same time he even began to let on that he was in discomfort, that age was lowered to 45. But of course, in May of 2021, Covid-19 was rampant, and routine medical procedures were being delayed, and people were discouraged from even going to the doctor for routine checkups.
So, my fit and trim, highly active, brilliant, talented, highly respected, and adored, husband abided by that deterrent and in fact, in pure Southern gentleman stoic fashion, , “poo-pooed” his symptoms. Sadly, because he chalked his symptoms up as to just what happens to men as they approach 50, we lost valuable treatment time, and I lost my plus one for the rest of my life.
The fact is, when you start showing symptoms, it is often already too late. And if not too late, you, at the very least, are facing an uphill battle riddled with chemo and potential surgeries and possibly a colostomy bag, if the cancer has metastasized, as it did in Jamey’s case. (Quick Public Service Announcement, symptoms to watch for are change in bathroom habits, blood in your stool, weight loss, cramps or lower back pain, fatigue, anemia, and feeling bloated. Also, note you do not have to have ALL the symptoms. To my knowledge, Jamey only had three before diagnosis.)
We were told on September 17, 2021, that Jamey not only had colorectal cancer, but that it had metastasized to his liver (stage four) and that we likely had one year to live. We didn’t. We had 10 months and two days. And let me tell you from firsthand experience, if you think a colonoscopy isn’t sexy or fun, try dying from or watching the love of your life die from colorectal cancer. While we did have 10 months, they weren’t good months. We weren’t traveling the world or crossing bucket-list items off our list, because Jamey didn’t feel good. Each month that went by was a month I saw my husband diminish just a little more before my very eyes.
Colorectal cancer, probably any cancer, is a very undignified way to go. One of our daughters said to me once, “I can’t believe so many people say they lost someone to cancer, and this is what they mean. This is so horrible and awful. I never imagined ‘dying of cancer’ was actually like this.”
But one good thing emerged from this tragedy, thanks to Jamey’s brilliant mind and servant’s heart. In the last few weeks of his life, in his hospice bed in the middle of our den, Jamey, the MBA business minded man that he was, drafted a business plan and then talked to all the right people and the best friends ever, to create the Hollingsworth Colorectal Cancer Awareness Fund.
Under the umbrella of the Reed Foundation, the Hollingsworth Colorectal Cancer Awareness Fund’s primary mission is to educate as many people as possible about the need for early detection. If you are still reading this article, then I know I have at least reached one person (mission partially accomplished), and one person’s life could be saved, and their spouse or significant other, or mother or father, or best friend, or son or daughter, will not have to walk the same dark path I am walking.
I hope this article and Jamey’s vision motivate you to schedule your colonoscopy. And if you’re inspired to give to a worthy cause that will spread the important message of early screening and detection, I invite you to donate and help us save someone else’s husband, wife, daddy, mother, brother, sister, friend, or colleague from a very ugly and unfair demise.
Jamey never would say that he regretted not talking about his symptoms sooner or going to see his doctor earlier, but I think his final charitable act on this earth speaks volumes to his character and to his regrets.
As for me, after losing my very best friend and former CEO of our family version 1.0, I’ve started a blog about our journey as a family of now three. To join us on that journey, follow along with the Family-two-point-o.comor blog right after you schedule your colonoscopy.
If you want to help spread awareness and detection of colorectal cancer—the second deadliest cancer in the U.S.– join the fight with the Hollingsworth Colorectal Cancer Awareness Fund, as part of the Reed Foundation. Formed by Jamey Hollingsworth in the weeks before his passing, the fund raises money to try to prevent colorectal cancer deaths. The disease is highly treatable, but only for people who know they have it.
So, get screened at age 45, ask your loved ones to do the same, and look us up online.
You can donate here.