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Cancer Doesn’t Know “Invincible”

by Jennifer Henry, Director of Sales Operations at Colorado HealthOP

Where does time go? When do we cross that line from being “young and invincible” to understanding our limitations? Not to say we should limit ourselves; it is more about learning to accept ourselves as we are today.

I bring up these questions because too many times I’ve seen the consequences of ignoring our own limitations. I have seen those who never mature past their “invincible” stage, and personally I have been guilty of ignoring reality as well.

For every person, reality strikes at a different time in their life. For a close friend of mine it was not until he was 57. John worked hard and played harder. He worked out every day, and he would brag that he was still the same size and relative shape as in his 20s. I have to say it was true! He looked great, was hard to keep up with and was able to outpace his young kids. We all envied his vitality.

But he never had his colon checked. Like most of us the thought of a rectal exam or colonoscopy was not appealing, so he kept putting it off. Then one day, as part of a life insurance application, he was required to go through the whole gambit of wellness checks.

“CANCER” leads to so many other new terms one never wanted to have to learn.

Wham, his life changed! Imagine our reactions when he told us he had been diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer. He went through depression. He had to have surgery. He now has an ostomy bag (a bag which collects waste because they had to bypass the lower colon—not a fun thing to deal with). His health limited his activities and he had to face the possibility of not seeing his children grow up.

A diagnosis of cancer touches more than one life; survival can touch lives as well.

John’s diagnosis was just as hard on all of those that loved him. Our “life of the party,” friend and respected insurance agent was withering before us. Yes, he was a health insurance agent that preached to his clients the importance of wellness and health coverage. Funny how that works, when we still believe we are invincible—not everything applies to us.

Colon cancer can be detected through a routine colon screening. Wellness guidelines require insurance companies to cover colon cancer screenings at 100% (fully paid for) after age 50. Want a shock? On average, 20% to 25% of people under the age of 50 have polyps, yet only a third of those may become cancerous. Polyps all have the chance of becoming cancerous, so getting screened (especially when your health insurance covers it!) can make the difference.

John is not the same person. He lives life as fully as possible and pushes his limits on a regular basis, but he will tell you he is no longer “invincible”; unstoppable is the word he uses now. He has made it his mission to ensure all of his friends over 50 have had their screening. Three of our friends had pre-cancerous polyps, and all of them said they would never have had a colonoscopy. They simply didn’t want to go through the procedure!

We all thank John each day for his persistence and for possibly saving the lives of our three friends, even though his inspiration comes at a cost. His perseverance is largely why I’m running in the Undy 5000 this Saturday, and why I won’t ignore my own limitations… but I won’t let them stop me either.

Get involved with the Undy 5000 Denver, happening this Saturday, June 28 at City Park.

UPDATE: Jennifer led her coworkers in the Colorado HealthOP team for the 2014 Undy Run/Walk. Here’s to making a difference in more lives each year!

Thanks to Jennifer’s recruiting, Colorado HealthOP had a full team run/walk the 2014 Undy 5000.

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