What You Need to Know About Colon Cancer: #ColonCancerACC Chat 3/20




This is my dad.

My dad was a wonderful person.

My dad was thoughtful and intelligent and kind.

My dad was a stubborn SOB and it killed him.

My dad never saw a doctor about suspicious symptoms. I assume it was because he was afraid.

I’ll never know, because when the cancer in his body metastasized and quickly swept his body he hid from me, believing he had a flu he couldn’t shake and saying he didn’t want to get my kids sick. Telling us to stay away. When I saw him a few weeks later he had lost a ton of weight, he was moaning in pain, he couldn’t get to the bathroom a few yards away. We called an ambulance to take him to the hospital a block away, where they pumped him full of morphine.

He never said another coherent word to me, other than to apologize for being so out of it. He barely resembled the father I knew from just a few weeks before; so frail and skeletal.

He died less than 48 hours later, alone in the ER. His brother, my uncle, had run to the phone to call us and tell us to come quickly, there wasn’t much time.

Cancer took my father and I’m still mad as hell about it. He should still be here. He should be cheering my daughter on at soccer games, playing guitar with my oldest, talking metaphysics with Maverick. He should have been at my brother’s wedding, he should be reading Dr Seuss to my brother’s two beautiful little girls.

It started as colon cancer, we were told, but by the time he died it was everywhere.

It didn’t have to be that way.

One in 20 people are affected by colon cancer. It’s the 3rd most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the US and the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in the US for men and women combined.

But colon cancer is often beatable when detected and treated in its early stages. It’s preventable. Polyps can be removed before they even develop into cancer.


What You Need to Know About Colon Cancer:
#ColonCancerACC Chat on 3/20

My husband Jeff suffers from ulcerative colitis, which can involve symptoms like those involved in colon cancer (persistent stomachaches, cramps and bloating, rapid weight loss, constant fatigue, bloody bowel movements). His heightened risk of developing the cancer that stole my father scares the living hell out of me, and the kids and I have the elevated risk associated with family history.

Unlike my dad, because of my dad, I can’t ignore facts out of fear, so I’ll be tuning into a Twitter chat this week as Penn Medicine and the Abramson Cancer Center discuss colon cancer, prevention, and the factors that increase your risk. If this touches your life at all, I hope you’ll check it out too— or share with someone who might benefit from the information.

It’s happening on Thursday, March 20 from noon to 1 pm EST, hashtag #ColonCancerACC.

Panelists will include:

  1. Timothy C. Hoops, MD, Director, Gastrointestinal Cancer Risk Evaluation Program at the Abramson Cancer Center
  2. Gregory G. Ginsberg, MD, Director Endoscopic Services at Penn Medicine
  3. Ursina Teitelbaum, MD, Medical Oncologist specializing in GI cancer at the Abramson Cancer Center
  4. Skandan Shanmugan, MD, Colon and Rectal Surgeon specialized in minimally invasive surgery for benign and malignant disease


If you don’t have any risk factors for colon cancer, you should start being screened at age 50. With my family history I should schedule my first colonoscopy by 40. I think my brother has erred on the side of caution and already begun. Jeff should go every year or every other, depending on his doctor’s assessment.

Colon cancer rates have dropped by 30% for people over 50 in the US over the last decade, and we have colonoscopy screenings to thank for that.

Colonoscopies save lives. I wish I’d known that a long time ago.


schedule colonoscopy


Penn Medicine Facebook Page / Twitter @PennMedicine
Penn Cancer Facebook Page / Twitter @PennCancer


1 Comment

  1. Thank you for spreading the word, Robin. I am so sorry for your loss. Cancer takes away too many people too soon.

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