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The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. When I turned 50, I realized it was one of those preventive screenings I had not scheduled, but Covid was peaking, and I quickly dismissed the thought of scheduling an appointment. Two years later, my wife’s family member was diagnosed with colon cancer, and this prompted me to order a Cologuard kit which came back positive. I scheduled a colonoscopy which found some polyps and a lesion was biopsied. Six months later, I had a repeat colonoscopy which showed the lesion had changed, and I had additional polyps. This prompted an MRI test, and within a few days, my doctor told me that I had Stage 3 colorectal cancer and referred me to a colorectal surgeon.
I have been a Building Inspector & Code Enforcement Officer for a municipality for 30+ years. I can inspect construction sites to ensure the structure and plumbing and electrical systems meet codes and ordinances, but I will be the first to admit I know little about medical issues, and receiving this diagnosis resulted in some sleepless nights. I knew I needed help and contacted ConnectCare3, an employer-sponsored nurse navigation service, for guidance and support.
A ConnectCare3 nurse navigator contacted me on the next day and suggested I consider a nationally known cancer institute as she felt their team could offer treatment that might not be available to me locally. She contacted their intake coordinator and assisted with faxing my medical records for their review. The following week, I had an appointment with a colorectal specialist.
I was extremely impressed with the colorectal surgeon who evaluated me, his knowledge and professionalism put him and his institution in a league of their own. The confidence he displayed assured me I was at the right place. He completed a repeat scope along with biopsies and blood work. Based on his examination, he told me that he did not believe the tumor was malignant and that he would call to confirm this as soon as the pathology report was available. I started to feel a glimmer of hope! Three weeks later, I had a telemedicine appointment with him to discuss the biopsy results.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief when all biopsies came back negative for cancer. My doctor ordered an additional CT scan to rule out anything else. Six months later, after careful monitoring and evaluation, I was given a clean bill of health. My family and I were elated to hear this news!
Strangely enough, a letter from my local health system arrived stating there was a recall on the gel used to illuminate the “lesion” during my first colonoscopy. The gel causes lesions to raise up in the MRI and appear cancerous, resulting in misdiagnosis and the possibility of unnecessary surgery and treatment.
I am beyond grateful for the assistance I received from ConnectCare3. My nurse navigator informed me of a cancer center and physician that I would not have known about had I conducted research on my own. This information certainly set my course on a different path from what was offered to me locally, as my local physician told me I needed surgery immediately and sent me for a surgical consultation. I was told by the colorectal surgeon at the nationally known cancer center that if my tumor had been malignant, radiation and chemo would be recommended before any surgery as rectal surgery can have life-altering side effects.
I am offering this testimonial to emphasize the importance of seeking a second opinion and to recognize the resources available at ConnectCare3. My call to them saved me from an unnecessary surgery, and I cannot thank my nurse navigator enough for guiding me to the resources that I needed at a truly pivotal point in making treatment decisions.