What is going on–A view from a semi-colon

Robert - Santa Cruz, California
Entered on March 23, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: illness

When I started San Jose State’s Masters in Public Health Program, I knew I wanted to increase my knowledge and understanding of health in our world. I wanted to accept and run with challenges and opportunities that would be presented to me. As a thirty-something, ‘healthy male’ I never thought that my own health would be a focus of my studies and a personal concern.

When UC San Francisco Minority Population/Cancer Control Research Program offered a summer course for twenty-five students across the country, I applied and was accepted. Concurrently, I was writing a paper on testicular cancer screening/awareness, which discussed the signs, symptoms and issues with screening, early detection and understanding of the problem. A week after my acceptance, I suddenly felt a flash of pain on my side, which though brief, became a daily occurrence. After a week of these weird pains, I went to my doctor to get checked and she requested more tests. I had blood tests, x-rays, cat-scans and a colonoscopy performed, until it was discovered that I had a tumor in my colon that had to come out immediately, along with half of my colon and be tested for cancer. So not only was I studying cancer research, but now I might have cancer. I was shocked, for I didn’t smoke or do drugs, exercised regularly, and felt “healthy”. I remember shouting, “What is going on…. I’m going to have half a colon, HALF a COLON!” It was then I realized that I was going to be a SEMI-COLON for the rest of my life. However, that wasn’t the lesson I was to learn from this experience.

What I realized was:

1) What was going on was–I had irritable bowel syndrome and chose to ignore my symptoms and a tumor developed that fortunately was benign.

2) What was going on was—I was fortunate enough to have a good job with benefits, so I could afford the operation that I needed so desperately.

3) What was going on was–I’m blessed with loving, supportive family/friends that will take care of me after surgery so I could regain my strength.

4) What was going on was—I was studying men’s health/cancer research and could utilize this experience in my research and gain valuable information from my professors/colleagues and possibly help educate someone else afflicted with this problem.

5) What IS going on is that I have been interviewed for newspaper articles, filmed public service announcements, taped television shows and performed in a documentary film wherein I have discussed my experiences with tumors and one’s own health. — I realized then, that is “what’s going on.”

By taking my experiences and using them as an educational tool for others, I became a product of my passion, learning to walk the talk, promoting health education while I went through the process and giving my community as well as the world a better understanding about appreciating and taking charge of one’s own health….

……and this I believe.