CLEARWATER TRIBUNE HOME

MARCH 4, 2010

Ruth May, (left) laughs with friend Theresa Uptmor.  Four years ago May was being treated for Colon Cancer.  She is speaking out during March, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

SMHC plans for Colorectal Cancer Awareness month

    On June 26, in 2005 Ruth May was diagnosed with colon cancer.  She was 56 years old.  “Every cancer survivor I’ve talked to can always tell you the exact date of their diagnosis,” said May who owns and operates the Reflections Inn outside of Kooskia with her husband, Jim, Development Director for Clearwater Valley and St. Mary’s Hospitals and Clinics.

    The seven medical clinics administered by CVHC and SMHC are giving out free fecal occult blood test (FOBT) kits and processing them at no cost during March, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

    The FOBT kits can help identify blood in the stool which can be an indicator of CRC.  The kits can be picked up and dropped off at their clinics in Cottonwood, Orofino, Kamiah, Kooskia, Nezperce, Craigmont and Pierce.  Result letters will be mailed to those who return the completed kits.

    “If telling my story prompts even one person to get screened when they should then I will consider it well worth it,” said May.  “Immediately before I moved from Ohio to Idaho I had a thorough physical exam and a colonoscopy.  That colonoscopy was clear and I was told I wouldn’t need another for ten years, but when I told my family practice physician in Idaho about my family history of colon cancer he told me to have another colonoscopy prior to ten years.”

    According to May, that’s where her story begins to fall apart. “I was really busy opening our bed and breakfast and had a million things to do so I kept postponing the procedure.  Two years went by and I just never found the time.  One day I was out helping put a fence post in the ground, fell down and, once I got up I felt progressively sicker throughout the day.  I ended up in the ER at 9 at night.  Originally, they suspected appendicitis.  It wasn’t long before the doctor knew it was more than that,” said May.  “Stage 3 colon cancer.”

    After emergency surgery, several months of chemotherapy and numerous visits with oncologists May returned to her normal life.  “Once you have cancer, I am not sure you ever really have a normal life again,” said May.  “If I were to do it over again, I certainly would never, ever postpone a screening. Now I am vigilant about having every screening I need and having it when I’m supposed to.  No more postponing.  If I had my screening when my doctor suggested, the cancer would probably have been caught in the very early stages and I wouldn’t have had to go through every thing I went through.  But, lesson learned and I certainly discovered that a cancer diagnosis is not the end of life.”

    May reports that every year her Christmas cards to her family include the question “Are you up to date on your screenings?”  Her brothers have had many colonoscopies and have had multiple polyps removed before they became cancerous.

    Idaho’s Cancer Data Registry estimates that approximately 60 people in Idaho and Lewis County will be diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer over a five year period.  Between 1997 & 2006 only about 28.6 % of Idaho County residents and 42% of Lewis County residents who should have been screened were screened. 

    The American Cancer Society recommends a screening colonoscopy at age 50 or earlier if there is a family history.  Medicare covers several colorectal cancer screening options. 

    “Anyone who is not insured or underinsured and is a candidate for a colonoscopy can make an appointment with one of our financial counselors to apply for our Charity Care program or look at other options for coverage for the procedure.  They can be reached by calling 476-4555 or 962-3251,” said Lenne Bonner, Chief Financial Officer.  “We work with patients to identify financial possibilities for this and other procedures.”