Ronnie James Dio, who was, at different stages of his career, the lead singer for Rainbow, Black Sabbath (and its later incarnation as Heaven & Hell), and also had a successful solo career as simply Dio, died of gastric cancer in 2010 at the age of 67. His wife began the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund to educate the public about lifesaving cancer screenings and detections. If Ronnie had undergone a colonoscopy or other cancer screening, he may have lived to entertain his audience for many more years. The American Cancer Foundation suggests a colonoscopy every 10 years, beginning at age 50 for both men and women, or more frequently if there’s a history of colon cancer.
I’ve thought about Dio many times over the last few years. Eddie Trunk, who used to host That Metal Show on VH1 Classic and who is still a huge advocate of metal and hard rock music on various outlets, including radio and podcasts, often talked about Dio’s cancer and has been active in supporting Wendy Dio’s cancer fund. Trunk mentioned that Dio’s death had motivated him to begin his cancer screenings. And, since we were about the same age, it made me begin to think about it as well.
Thinking about something isn’t necessarily the same as doing something about it. In the interim, my wife Sharon went through two colonoscopies, so I knew what to expect, both in the prep work and the actual process. I hadn’t been having any problems, as far as I knew, but I knew it was time. In fact, I had put it off a few years longer than I should’ve.
I’m not sure why there’s such a stigma associated with colonoscopies. I mean, I know why it’s not a subject for polite dinner conversation maybe, but no one really wants to talk about it. I dislike hospitals, as I imagine most people must. I don’t like going under anesthesia (even though it was pretty good, dreamless sleep). And, I don’t like the idea of anything being inserted . . .well, you know where.
But, it wasn’t that bad. Having to consume only a liquid diet for two days beforehand wasn’t great, but it wasn’t that difficult either. Drinking the prep solution that made sure my colon was ready for its close-up wasn’t the most pleasant thing, and it certainly made me appreciate having indoor plumbing in near proximity. But, it wasn’t that bad, either, in hindsight (no pun intended). The procedure itself did not take that long, although time really has no meaning to you when you’re properly knocked out.
After I came to in the recovery room, I got to see pictures taken from inside my colon. Pictures that definitely won’t make the scrapbook. My wife filled me in on a few things the doctor said. And, about a week later, I received a letter confirming that the doctor had removed 4 small polyps from my colon, which were found to be something called tubular adenomas. They are benign polyps that have the potential to turn into cancer if not resected. I looked up “resected,” and it means to be cut off. I also had a submucosal lesion in my right colon that was thought consistent with a lipoma, which is a collection of fat in the wall of the colon. As disgusting as that sounds, biopsies obtained from this lesion were benign as well.
So, this was good news. I’m cancer-free at the moment, and I’ve taken the initial step to make sure I stay that way. My doctor recommends that I implement a high fiber diet and have a repeat colonoscopy in 5 years instead of 10. I guess this was because of the tubular adenomas that can turn into cancer. I plan to follow my doc’s recommendations.
Again, I know this isn’t necessarily a popular topic, but it’s one we all need to feel more comfortable talking about. Katie Couric had her first colonoscopy on live television, if I’m remembering correctly. At least mine wasn’t televised.
If it helps, think about Dio, or maybe one of your loved ones who may have been given the gift of a few more years if they’d only undergone cancer screening. If you’re past your fifth decade, talk to your family doctor about it. You owe it to yourself and your family.