Timely colonoscopy vital in battling colon cancer

46-year-old American Hospital patient reveals how he and his family fought the physical and mental toll of cancer

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Published: Mon 15 Apr 2024, 1:48 PM

Last updated: Thu 18 Apr 2024, 12:28 PM

Charlie Parish, 46, diagnosed with colon cancer around three years ago, confesses living with cancer affects not only the individual but their wider circle emotionally.

Besides handling the physical aspects of surgery and chemotherapy, there is the underestimated mental toll that cancer takes on you, especially post-treatment, says Parish, a Dubai-based resident who had undergone successful colon cancer treatment with Dr Maroun El Khoury's oncology team at American Hospital Dubai.

Colon cancer is the second highest form of cancer in the UAE, and early detection through a colonoscopy increases the chances of speedy and better recovery. A colonoscopy is a life-saving, simple procedure that allows your healthcare provider to inspect the inside of your large intestine or colon.

Parish initially complained of severe stomach pain, waking up in the middle of the night. Up to that point, however, he showed no symptoms. He consulted his GP that morning, who then directed him to a gastroenterologist. Having met a gastroenterologist, he was then referred to Dr Maher Abbas, a specialist consultant colorectal surgeon, for a colonoscopy and endoscopy in March '21 and was diagnosed with colon cancer.

He said, "Having undergone a colectomy within a few weeks of diagnosis to remove the tumour (we 'affectionately' named him 'Nasty Nigel'), we then had to wait on the biopsy results of sample lymph nodes, which confirmed stage 3 colon cancer and underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy under the support of Dr Maroun and his team at American Hospital Dubai. He admits that not knowing what lay ahead while waiting to hear the complete diagnosis was a challenging phase in his journey of combating cancer. "This was a particularly anxious and scary phase for my loved ones and myself. The initial challenge was the shock and how quickly we had to adjust as a family. My son was two years old then, and my wife and I had our own businesses. So we had to make rapid adjustments; my wife was incredible and my rock support."

"Having met with Dr Maroun and had my treatment plan confirmed, it was then a case of being focused and dealing with the chemo that lay ahead. Twelve rounds of Folfox over six months certainly had their moments, but my wife and family, nurses and support network (you know who you are!) made the 'journey' all the easier. Moreover, my employers were hugely supportive, and colleagues would step up in my absence, especially post-surgery. I have untold respect for the medical professionals who have cared for me. I also found speaking to fellow cancer survivors (the C Club!) very therapeutic. I've also changed my diet significantly and generally care better for my body and mental well-being," he says.

He has annual colonoscopies, follow-up CT Scans, and blood tests post-treatment. "Regular examinations give a tremendous amount of comfort, knowing you are being looked after. I recently had my annual colonoscopy, which removed two small polyps, which proves my point. Early detection plays a crucial role, and I believe that given the significant number of people impacted by colon cancer and its treatability when detected early, there should be broader availability of screening colonoscopies for patients as it is lifesaving."

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