Unpleasant tests can save lives

There should be some limit drawn about what married couples share together, but the VanDuyns love togetherness.

They both had rectal surgery on the same day at the same hospital.

We need to be grownups today and talk about polyps and colonoscopies.

Dan Bates / The Herald

Forest and Dorothy VanDuyn, who have been married 56 years and say they share just about everything, both had colonoscopies, discovered polyps and underwent surgery at the same time.

During a colonoscopy, a physician inserts a long, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum and slowly guides it into your colon. The doctor examines the lining of the large intestine looking for signs of cancer or causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits.

TV host Katie Couric had a colonoscopy on the “Today Show.” In 1997, her husband, Jay Monahan, was diagnosed with colon cancer. He died at age 42, leaving two young daughters.

Couric testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Aging, saying: “During this terrible struggle, motivated by fear and desperation, I got a quick and painful education about this devastating disease. I learned that colon cancer is the second-leading cancer killer: 130,000 people are diagnosed with it every year; 56,000 of them die.”

She testified there is a 90 percent cure rate if detected early.

The VanDuyns said they are happy they had the test that revealed polyps.

Retired in Granite Falls, the couple was well aware of cancer checks because Dorothy VanDuyn, 75, had colon cancer, discovered after a colonoscopy, some 20 years ago. She is also a breast cancer survivor.

Forest VanDuyn, 79, who had gall bladder surgery, an appendectomy and heart surgery, understood the importance of having a colonoscopy.

“We preach to have the test,” Dorothy VanDuyn said. “Everybody should have it, at least by age 50.”

I admit, I haven’t had the test. My husband’s doctor wanted him to have a colonoscopy, but our insurance doesn’t cover it. One is paid for if there is an apparent problem, but not as a routine matter.

When both VanDuyns were found to have polyps, they decided to have the surgery at Providence Everett Medical Center in Everett on the same day.

“We got there at 9 a.m.,” Dorothy VanDuyn said. “They said, ‘Oh, you’re the two.’ “

They spent four days in the same room recovering. Long-time staff members could not recall post-operative couples ever bunking together. The surgery was no picnic, the couple said. At home, their grandson and daughter helped with their care. They walked around their patio and rode an exercise bike to regain their strength.

For those having a colonoscopy, there is fasting involved and cleansing of the colon. It’s worth the inconvenience.

Folks with relatives who had rectal cancer should have colonoscopies 10 years before their relative was diagnosed. Dr. J. William Finley, a surgeon with The Everett Clinic, said if someone had rectal cancer at age 45, for example, the relative should have a colonoscopy at age 35.

Finley and his partner, Dr. Timothy Graves, operated on the VanDuyns. It was the first time they performed surgery on a married couple on the same day, Finley said.

The VanDuyns, married for 56 years, both recommend that folks have proper medical tests. They both manage type 2 diabetes.

“We do everything together,” they said.

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451 or oharran@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mt. Baker visible from the summit of Mt. Dickerman on a late summer day in 2017. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Hornets pester hikers on popular Mountain Loop trails

“You cannot out run the stings,” one hiker wrote in a trip report. The Forest Service has posted alerts at two trailheads.

A view of a 6 parcel, 4.4 acre piece of land in Edmonds, south of Edmonds-Woodway High School on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Housing authority seeks more property in Edmonds

The Housing Authority of Snohomish County doesn’t have specific plans for land near 80th Avenue West, if its offer is accepted.

Nursing Administration Supervisor Susan Williams points at a list of current COVID patients at Providence Regional Medical Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dozens of Providence patients in medical limbo for months, even years

About 100 people are stuck in Everett hospital beds without an urgent medical reason. New laws aim for a solution.

Emergency responders surround an ultralight airplane that crashed Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at the Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington, Washington, resulting in the pilot's death. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Pilot dead in ultralight plane crash at Arlington Municipal Airport

There were no other injuries or fatalities reported, a city spokesperson said.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
County Council delays vote on requiring businesses to take cash

Concerns over information and enforcement postponed the council’s scheduled vote on the ordinance Wednesday in Snohomish County.

A girl walks her dog along a path lined with dandelions at Willis D. Tucker Community Park on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Spraying in Willis Tucker Park resurfaces debate over herbicides

Park staff treated about 11,000 square feet with glyphosate and 2,4-D. When applied correctly, staff said they aren’t harmful.

One of Snohomish County PUD’s new smart readers is installed at a single family home Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Mill Creek, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
PUD program seeks to make energy grid smarter for 380K customers

The public utility’s ConnectUp program will update 380,000 electric meters and 23,000 water meters in the next few years.

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

Most Read