Listen to Nancy: Screenings can provide early detection

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Sunday, June 12, 2011

You don’t have to be afraid to ask Nancy Welch how she is feeling. Feel free to discuss with her the surgery she is undergoing Monday at Mary Black Hospital.

“I have rectal cancer. Is there anything that sounds less lady-like? But it’s a body part. It is what it is. I’m sure men have body parts they don’t like to talk about,” Nancy said on the eve of her surgery.

“Cancer has no favorite friends – it can hit anyone. Just because you think you’re healthy isn’t necessarily so,” Nancy said. “My cancer is Stage 1. It is completely curable, I’ve been told.”

Nancy has undergone a comprehensive pre-surgery plan. “I’ve had chemo already. The treatments did what they were supposed to do,” Nancy said. Now they want to do surgery to get the scar tissue. The tumor is gone. The chemo took care of it, but they want to make sure the disease hasn’t spread.”

Nancy has tackled the disease head on. She has spoken publicly about it and will lead an aggressive public campaign to educate people that a screening will go a long way to prevent where she is today.

“The only way to not be sitting where I am is to take advantage of screening. This disease is completely curable if caught in time,” Nancy said. “You don’t have to have a doctor’s referral to have a colonoscopy.”

The mandate Nancy will carry forward is to let people know that, “I want people to better understand cancer. Fear and cancer go together. I want to take the fear out and put prevention in. I want people to have proper screening,” she said.

Nancy described how a routine visit to her doctor led to her having a colonoscopy and the disease diagnosed. “I had a colonoscopy seven years ago. I didn’t have any polyps then, and was told to have another one in 10 years,” Nancy said. “I had had some bloody discharge, but I thought it was from a hemorrhoid. I didn’t have any pain. But when I went to see my doctor, I mentioned it to him. He did an exam and said he didn’t see anything, but that I should go ahead and have a colonoscopy. He scheduled one, and they found three polyps – one was malignant.”

The surgery is scheduled for mid-afternoon. “The operation will be 3-5 hours, and I can go home when I begin processing food,” Nancy said.

Throughout the several month processes Nancy joked how, “I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about medicine.”

The past several weeks Nancy has gone public with her message. At a recent First Friday luncheon her surgeon, Dr. George Blestel, was the speaker on colorectal cancer being his practice. Nancy was in attendance at the coincidental meeting and shared her story with the crowd.

She has spoken with several people who have had the type surgery she will undergo and they have all offered a positive outlook. “I have talked to several people who have had this procedure, and they all came through it fine.”

When Nancy is ready she has a specific message to share. “I want to be the “poster child” for this disease. I want to encourage everyone I can to pay attention to their health and to get all the screenings. Early detection can save so many lives.

“I want to get this behind me – no pun intended.

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Nancy Welch


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