Vol. 7    No. 20
OCTOBER 4, 2012

The Capital City Hues
(608) 241-2000

Subscription Information:
The Capital City Hues
PO Box 259712
Madison, WI 53725
($45 a year)
Contact Number:
(608) 241-2000
Advertising: Claire G. Mendoza


Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Clarita G. Mendoza
Sales Manager

Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
Barrows, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang Kenneth
Haynes, Rebecca Her, Heidi
Pascual,  & Martinez White
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                                 Preventative health   
Like many men — I am tempted to say most men — I am not particularly fond of visiting the doctor.
Although I have had almost continuous coverage for the past 30 years, I have probably been to the doctor
5-10 times for myself during that period of time. Over that span, I would imagine that I and my one
employer during that span have paid in over $100,000, while the cost of the services that I have used
would be around $5,000 including the removal of a cyst on my left hand about 15-20 years ago.

Relatively speaking, I have been blessed with good health and I am so thankful to God for that blessing.
Especially after I crossed the threshold of 60-years-old, I realize that my health is the most precious thing I
possess along with my memories.

But I think that I have had this hidden fear — this deep-down fear — that a doctor would find something
wrong with me, open me up during a consequent operation and my life would never be the same again. In
essence, I would cede control over my life to another individual. Or should I say individuals because it
seemed that every time that I did see the doctor, someone different was in charge of my care. Once they
open you up, my thinking went; another chapter of your life begins.

And so when I turned 50-years-old, I got a letter in the mail from my health care provider strongly advising
me that I should get a colonoscopy. It was something that I foolishly ignored, I now feel in hindsight. After
all, it had been only 13 years earlier that my own father died of colon cancer, which put me at risk to get
that fatal disease.

That was a horrible time in my life. I — and all of my siblings — dearly loved my father. He had his first
colon cancer operation in 1984 and died in 1989. It was a slow process that seemed to involve an annual
operation as the New Year began and they would take out another segment of his colon until there wasn’t
enough left to take out.

I remember sitting with my father right after Christmas Day 1988 as a friend of his stopped by to see about
my dad. And my dad told him that it was the end of the line. A little over four weeks later, my dad was
dead. His body had been eaten away so much that by the end, he looked like an Auschwitz victim. My dad
died at home and all of his children took time to care for him and to be with my mother. When we lifted him,
he was in excruciating pain. My father died a horrible death, one that he certainly did not deserve, a death
that I have a hard time thinking about to this day.

And it is his death that should have made me answer that letter from my health care provider because I am
at risk of getting colon cancer myself. I rationalized not answering it that my father died of colon cancer
because of his fondness for char-broiled steak and the carcinogens that get created when the charcoal
ashes are released onto the steak when the fat drips down. So I didn’t think that I was at risk. I am so
good at avoidance and rationalization.

For the past 6-7 years, my health insurance has been paid through the newspaper. Since we are print
medium with relatively paltry revenues, I have catastrophic health insurance. Currently, the cost is $571
per month even though I have to pay for the first $1,000 in services. I pay a higher premium because I am
a group of one and so there are no economies of scale. While my own personal circumstances of rarely
using the health care system would appear to warrant a lower premium, my age and lack of volume
dictate a higher premium.

And so, I always put off having a colonoscopy done because I didn’t want to have to pay 100 percent of
the procedure that might lead to a big change in my life or tell me that nothing was wrong except I knew
something was going on because at times I had tenderness on the left side of my abdomen.

A couple of years ago, two things happened to change my mind about the colonoscopy. One of the
reasons that I deliver my own newspapers — apart from the fact that it is regular exercise — is because I
run into people on my route and we might chat for a minute or two. One of those people is Wanda up in
the mayor’s office. I forget how the subject came up, but once she learned that I hadn’t had a colonoscopy
at my age, she would ask about it when I delivered The Hues to the mayor’s office. Sometimes she would
just give me a look and I would shy away because I hadn’t acted on it. She did it in a nice way and so it
always kept it at the back of my mind.

The other thing that happened was the passage of the Affordable Care Act. One of the provisions
required health care providers to do some preventative screenings at no cost. I would say free, but after
all, I am paying $571 per month for health care. The ACA took away one of the primary reasons for me not
doing my colonoscopy. It also, I hope, allow me to join a health insurance exchange — when Governor
Walker finally starts to create one here in Wisconsin — so that I can become a member of a group, which
will allow me to take advantage of more preventative measures at the same cost. If or one am grateful that
President Obama pushed the AHCA through, which eventually all of us will benefit from.

And so, when the reminder about my need to get a colonoscopy came in the mail as I turned 60-years-old,
I reluctantly signed up to get the procedure done. Basically, a colonoscopy involves the doctor looking —
via a camera that is inserted into you — at your large intestine to make sure that there aren’t any growths
that are or could become cancerous.

Overall, the colonoscopy wasn’t half as bad as the horror stories that I heard had led me to believe. And
the doctor found two things. He discovered two polyps, which are growths on the colon that can become
cancerous. He snipped those out while he was there, tested them and told me they were benign — or
non-cancerous. WHEW! The second thing that he found was that I have diverticulosis, which is small
pockets that develop on the walls of the large intestine. If these get material stuck in them, diverticulitis, an
inflammation in the intestine wall, may occur. That is where the tenderness on the left side of my abdomen
would come from. I now have to eat a higher-fiber diet to keep the diverticulitis at bay.

My doctor told me that I should have another colonoscopy in five years and I will have that one done on
time. My foolishness in delaying and delaying the colonoscopy could have led to me developing colon
cancer. While I am not the type of person who runs to the doctor when anything happens with my body, I
will now utilize some of the preventative services that are available and made affordable by the ACA.

A needless number of men — particularly African American men — die of colon cancer each year
because they haven’t undergone the colonoscopy in time to treat any pre-cancerous conditions they may
have. My brothers, have this checked out. We need your wisdom, skills and experience in our families and
community for years to come. Listen to the “Wandas” in your life and take advantage of what President
Obama paid a heavy price for so that you could get these screenings at no cost. It just might save your life
and let you avoid the very painful death that my father experienced. Call your health provider today to
schedule a colonoscopy or any other preventative health procedure that you have been putting off. We
need you to be vital for years to come.