March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and Owensville, Missouri native, Mark Lough, is encouraging as many as he can to get their preventative colonoscopy screenings. Something, at first, he brushed off, until it was too late.
Two years ago, Lough was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer after experiencing constipation. He was 54 at the time, but doctors recommend you start getting preventative colonoscopies at age 50.
"It's the third most common solid tumor," said Dr. David Cort, Mercy Hospital Gastroenterologist. Dr. Cort says Missouri has one of the lowest screening rates in the country with only 64% of eligible adults getting routine colonoscopies. "People give a lot of excuses and I just say to them, 'Listen this is your life,'" said Cort.
During a colonoscopy procedure, doctors will examine the inside of the colon looking for pre-cancerous polyps and removing them.
At the initial diagnosis, Lough's doctor at Mercy Hospital estimated he had 10 months to live. Today, it's been 24 months since that prediction. Lough hopeful his life will continue to be extended. However, he recently learned the cancer has spread to both lungs and he starts a new round of chemo in the coming days.
His dog Dunkin has been his crutch and the friend he's been leaning on as he battles this disease. Since diagnosis, his perspective on life has changed. "Made me realize I had a lot of friends. I can't imagine anything more humbling, I just can't. It changes your outlook on life. It makes you a nicer person, at least I hope it made me a nicer person. I try to be," said Lough.
Lough says he regrets being stubborn about going to the doctor for preventative screenings. He says the inconvenience is always worth it, if it keeps you healthy. "It's been extremely painful. I don't want anybody to ever have to go through this," said Lough.
Lough and his dog Dunkin have become Colon Cancer Advocates by talking to anyone who will listen and spreading awareness on social media. Lough posts all his updates on his Facebook Page. "I'll go to the top of the highest mountain and scream it until I lose my voice," said Lough.
The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable created an initiative to get more adults 50-75 years old screened. It's called 80x18, which is the pledge to get 80% of eligible adults in the country screened by the end of 2018. So far, only 56% of St. Louis adults get screened.
Copyright 2018 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved