So remember when I warned you that I was probably going to offend people on a regular basis? Yeah, that might start today. I’ve waited until almost the end of another pink-infused October, with it’s constant reminders about Breast Cancer Awareness, to discuss this. First, let’s put it out there that I think what the Breast Cancer community has done to promote awareness of the disease is nothing short of amazing, and it has no doubt helped save countless lives that may have succumbed to the horrid disease. I applaud those that donate their time, money and resources to the cause. And still, every October as we are inundated with everything in varying shades of pink from football jerseys to water bottle labels and can holders, it upsets me that more recognition is not dedicated to the colon and it’s maladies. Of course, May 19th is World IBD Day, though I’m sure that if you asked the average person, they’d have no idea it existed, and way back in 2000, President Clinton declared the month of March as Colon Cancer Awareness Month. It was even given its own symbol, the blue star, by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable. When was the last time you saw tons of blue star products and commercials in the month of March???
Some may ask why I am lumping these two issues (IBD and Colorectal Cancer) together, to which I will respond that there is a bridge between the two, a rarely talked about condition known as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), an inherited condition which causes those afflicted to develop multiple polyps in the colon as early as their teen years. There is almost a guaranteed risk that these polyps will become malignant in these individuals by a fairly young age unless the colon is completely removed, a process that some with Ulcerative Colitis and/or Crohn’s Disease have elected or been forced to do as well.
So why is everyone so afraid to talk about diseases of the colon? There was a similar stigma years ago with breast cancer, before individuals gathered together to give both a face and a voice to the disease. Let’s face it, it was sexed up. Now there are t-shirts with sayings like “Save the Ta-Ta’s” and “Save a Life, Grope Your Wife”. They’ve assigned a pretty and (appropriately) feminine symbol to it as well. The pink ribbon. A symbol of all things pretty and girly. This was pure marketing genius. It got people talking about breast cancer in a way they hadn’t before, which was the ultimate goal, and years later, we’ve seen the results. Again, I applaud their efforts and the results; my question is, how the hell do we do the same thing for issues of the colon?
First of all, let’s face it – everyone has one. From the flabbiest butt to the firmest, from the ones of gargantuan proportions to the ones flat as a board, between every set of those cheeks is a hole. And it’s not like we don’t talk about butts at all – quite the opposite!!! Hardly a day goes by that there’s not some tabloid news site talking about Kim Kardashian’s rear, or that of the age-defying Jennifer Lopez. There are entire songs devoted to butts. (Come on, you know the opening lyrics to “Baby Got Back” are running through your head right now). Our society loves butts. We’re halfway there. So what has to be done to get awareness raised of issues that threaten the beloved butt? Do we have to threaten amputation of our Lady Lumps (or Man Lumps, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it) if it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves?
I suppose brown isn’t a color as universally appealing as pink, and that t-shirt slogans of things like “Respect the Rectum” and “Protect your Poopchute” don’t have that same kind of ring to them as the ones for breast cancer, but can we find some happy medium? Can we at least talk about the issues publicly next March, discussing both colorectal cancer and IBD/FAP together? Perhaps a combined force is best, maximizing our voices and giving more awareness to IBD than one miserable day in the month of May that barely anyone knows about anyway? Let’s put some blue stars and purple ribbons (IBD awareness symbol) all over the place, or come up with a new logo altogether. What about a superhero named Senor Sphincter? He could have a cape and everything. I’m open to suggestions. But for god’s sake, let’s TALK about it and start educating the public about these conditions, so that we’re not met with quizzical looks from people when we say we have Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s or FAP, and maybe calm some fears about the most dreaded of procedures, the colonoscopy. (It’s not that bad, people. Yes, you have to live on lime Jell-O for a day and will be flowing like a poorly-designed fountain for a few hours during the prep, but they give you some pretty awesome drugs for the procedure itself and you are practically ensured a great nap).
Can we all commit to talking about our illnesses of the dear colon a bit more, and without the embarrassment that I know we’ve all felt at one time or another? Senor Sphincter would want us to, no???