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Know anybody 50 or older?

For as long as I can remember, my mom has been saying that she wants to live to be 100.

And she’s not kidding around. She might have the healthiest diet of anyone I know (not surprising–she’s a dietitian), and she’s passionate about fitness–swimming, running, yoga, you name it.

Butย she made one mistake: She waited until age 53 to get a colonoscopy. She didn’t wait until 60. She didn’t wait until 55. She waited to 53.

…and it almost killed her.

The colonoscopy and ensuing tests showed that Mom had Stage IV colon cancer. (Stage IV is the most advanced stage of cancer–it means that the cancer has spread to other organs. Statistical survival rates for stage IV colon cancer aren’t exactly promising: 8-15% chance of surviving 5 years beyond diagnosis.)

That was in August. Since then, she’s had 10 inches of her large intestine removed, 5 months of chemotherapy with a whole list of terrible side effects, and–just this last week–20% of her liver removed.

Based on the information we have at the moment, she’s now cancer-free. (Woohoo! ๐Ÿ˜€)

It’s worth noting, however, that:

  1. If Mom had waited until 54 instead of 53…Well, according to her doctors, she wouldn’t have made it to 54.
  2. If Mom hadn’t been in super shape (cancer notwithstanding), this would have gone far worse than it has.

What does this have to do with personal finance?

A few things, I guess:

  • Cancer treatment is expensive,
  • Health insurance is essential, and
  • Missing 5 months of work isn’t great for one’s finances.

But that’s not really why I’m bringing this up. I’m bringing this up because my Mom almost died–completely unnecessarily. This whole thing was entirely avoidable. From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

“Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer.”

Please don’t wait until you’re 53 to get a colonoscopy.

And tell your loved ones, too.

I know it’s not an easy thing to slip into a conversation. Conveniently, March happens to be Colon Cancer Awareness Month, so perhaps you could use that as an opener. ๐Ÿ™‚

A Note on Risk Factors

Aside from her age, my mom had precisely none of the risk factors involved with colon cancer. But she got it anyway. Please don’t put off getting tested just because you don’t fit the mold of somebody at high risk for colon cancer.


  1. I’m glad to hear they got all the cancer! I’ll be sure to pray for you and your family. I’m sure this was a difficult time for all of you (including your mom). And thanks for the PSA! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I am happy to hear that your mom is doing great! Sometimes there are just more important things to worry about then personal finance, investing and your blog.

    Congrats and I hope she has another 50 in her.

  3. Thank you for your prayers, Paul. My family and I appreciate them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Indeed. Sometimes other things are more important.

    And, I hope she has another 50 too!

  5. Congratulations to your Mother on being cancer-free! This type of screening (as well as others) is important. It seems like screening should begin even before the age recommended (50).

    My Father never got screened for anything (“too busy”) and died from preventable prostate cancer a year after being diagnosed (I think they estimated that he had it for nearly 8 years).

    Thanks for the reminder about the importance of screening and good luck to your Mom.

  6. Oh my gracious. I’m very sorry to hear that.

    Thank you sincerely for being willing to talk about it, though. Hopefully the sharing of stories like your father’s will give another reader here enough of a push to go get screened.

    And thank you for the good luck wish to my mom.

  7. Great news and great advice. Thanks Mike.

  8. This is VERY important and DO NOT wait until after 50 whether you are male or female. My wife got hers at 48 and they found a HUGE polyp that the doctor said would have become seriously cancerous way before she turned 50.

    Our health insurance would not pay for the exam of course because she was suppose to wait until 50. We felt strongly that she should get it so we paid for the whole thing out of pocket and thank goodness. They found the polyp on the first exam, then in a 2 hour turn around put her back under to look again at the whole shebang and removed the polyp.

    She is good to go but needs regular colonoscopies from here on in.

    Kind of screwed up with the whole insurance bullshit, especially when we have a $3000 each deductible and pay close to $8000 a year…isnt there suppose to be something about ENCOURAGING PREVENTIVE medicine…but I digress. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Kind regards, Capt. Mike

  9. Of course I’m relieved that your mom is well.

    I feel for you though because I can only imagine how frightening this must have been for your entire family.

    Thanks for turning this into a teachable moment Mike. I think maybe you just saved some lives.

  10. Mike

    I wholeheartedly give my sincere wishes to your family. I always believe in one simple thing, “Health is Wealth”.

    Finally, the thing you shared is just an other example of how important that it is that we look after our health and get all the respective tests done in time.

    Best in Health to your Mom and its great to hear she doing great.

  11. Mike, I’m so pleased to hear your mother is free of her cancer, and that you’ve felt able to share it with us here.

    I’m also very impressed that I’ve communicated with you a few times over the past few months and never suspected a thing.

    I hope she gets her wish! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I actually dodged this bullet myself and I wasn’t close to 50! Screening was actually what saved me, as they got it in a late pre-cancerous state.

    One strong word on screening, and on taking care of your health in general…the time to take care of yourself is before something goes wrong. Once you experience a major illness, health insurance becomes prohibitive, if you can get it at all. In many cases, serious illnesses can’t be avoided, but we should work to head off those that can be.

    Someone recently Tweeted “health is wealth” and I think that has boatloads of merit!

  13. Susan Tiner says:

    Thanks for sharing this story. I am glad your Mom is okay and pray that she will be cancer free from now on. I waited until this year, just 3 weeks before turning 52 to get my colonoscopy (clean). I procrastinated because the prep is unpleasant, a poor but common excuse. What motivated me to get it done is that an acquaintance of ours recently died from colon cancer–never got the test. My significant other had his colonoscopy November ’09 and a large (benign) polyp was removed. This was enough reality for me to make the appointment and get mine done, despite the cost. I hope your story about your Mom will motivate others to get this important test.

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