Thu | Dec 14, 2017

Gordon Robinson | I don’t like getting older

Published:Tuesday | December 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Last week, I was incommunicado for three days undergoing a minor medical procedure.

My disease? Getting older. Sing along with top-class American comedian Robert Klein to the tune of Dan Hill's 'Sometimes When We Touch'.

I don't like getting older.

It doesn't seem quite fair.

Your memory fades;

You need a

hearing aid

And you lose your hair.

The young men get the women

But I don't give a damn

'Cause there's something I get

more often than any

younger man.

A colonoscopy!

A colonoscopy!!

It stirs such feelings

deep inside of me.

When I turned 53, a colonoscopy

opened up a whole new world for me.

I've already chronicled my first experience with that daunting procedure ('Crack me up', April 16, 2013). Because I exhibited specific symptoms, my first colonoscopy was performed at age 32, since which time the great Michael Lee (now Professor Lee), another distinguished Campion College graduate, has kept me cancer free for more than 30 years.

But I'm asking all over-40s to take this ageing thingy seriously and start screening for curable illnesses, including colon cancer.

A tiny TV camera

Four feet inside of me.

Some valium

in a very large sum

and some Vaseline.

I don't have lots of courage.

I know myself no doubt

but my gastro-enterologist

knows me inside out.

Of course, valium is now old hat and, last Wednesday, I 'participated' in the procedure under sterner stuff smoothly and unobtrusively administered by outstanding St George's alum anaesthetist Dr Clarence McGaw (sends his best regards to schoolmate PAB), and in two-twos, unbeknown to me, it was all over. Thanks to these great doctors and to

Tony Thwaites nurses Foreman and Hall, what had previously been a nightmare procedure became a comfortable experience.

'Jamaica Moves' is a nice, catchy promotion that keeps Chris Tufton's committed relationship with cameras intact, but better the health ministry arrange that public health centres be equipped to perform these screening tests that are at least as important as exercise in preventing chronic disease. Jamaicans (especially men), please ignore cultural biases against screening for colon or prostate cancer and get tested regularly.

 

TWO SIMPLE TESTS

 

Jamaica has the highest incidence rate of prostate cancer (age-standardised rate 304/100,000 per year) and the highest mortality rate worldwide. Like colon cancer, nobody should die of prostate cancer in 2017. It needs only a firm rejection of ethnic phobias. A PSA test twice per year is only a beginning. If you're satisfied pretending you're keeping your manhood (Oh, dear!) by going no further, you're only fooling yourselves.

I have two true stories involving close male friends. The first, a Boys' Champs star who has lived in the United States for decades, took regular PSA tests. One result was in the teens ('normal' being 0-5, but the only truly safe result is zero). Standard procedure is to first treat for simple prostatitis with antibiotics. If antibiotics don't work, more serious investigation follows, beginning with the good old digital rectal exam (DRE), which also should be routine for over-40 males.

Antibiotics didn't help, so my friend went for the DRE. That was 'normal', but his PSA didn't relent. It became worse. So a biopsy was done, which also came back cancer-free. Eventually, after three years of high PSAs, a second biopsy located the cancer. Apparently, a DRE can only 'feel' one side of the prostate (when eventually diagnosed, the cancer was on the other side), and the first biopsy somehow missed all cancer-affected areas. Nowadays, urologists won't just 'digitalise' you, but also do an on-the-spot ultrasound.

My friend's wife (whose mother was a famous nurse) insists that she saved his life because she knew all along that he had cancer and fed him plain cheese pizza every day. I kid you not! She says lycopene in the pizza sauce restricted the cancer which, whether because of pizza or good luck, was still contained within the prostate when finally diagnosed three years later. My friend is now cancer-free.

Story number two involves a series of 'normal' PSA tests. Eventually, by chance, my friend had to see a different doctor, who noticed that although all results were within 'normal' range (0-5), each was incrementally higher than the one before. He was sent for a biopsy. Stage Two cancer was diagnosed (Level Seven on the Gleason scale). After surgery, my friend is now cancer-free.

So, brethren, don't die for fear of inserting medical instruments in your rectum. This is just plain stupid and wasteful. Get tested. Save your own life.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.