5.8.09

My brother's colon cancer

Sadly, I now realized, indeed my brother has colon cancer. Cory Aquino's condition and subsequent death convinced me. I could no longer deny it as much as when I found out the unfortunate news.

I can now openly talk about it. Does it help that my family had witnessed a couple of deaths caused by the big C? First, on my father's side was my aunt who died when she was 11 years old from cancer in the stomach. It was known then as tumor.

And then my grandfather; who also died from a certain type of digestive cancer. His brother also died from one. My grandad's daughter, my aunt; including, my cousin, her daughter, both died of bone cancer one year after another.

On my mother's side, her sister died of lung cancer. Last year their brother died of lung cancer. And then my cousin, my aunt's daughter, died of breast cancer just 2 years ago.

Forgetting this genetical misfortunes, this post's purpose is really just to document my observations of colon cancer as my dear bother goes through and hopefully and God willingly survive it.

When the doctors discovered the disease, some of the local symptoms he had was that, it was found out that he had been constipated for more than two weeks. And then stomach ballooned. It grew large as though he was 7 months pregnant.

Stubborn as he is, didn't want to see a doctor. But that day, he no longer had any choice. I understand that he was in great pain. And he was vomiting. He went to the hospital with his wife, a niece and his son. The doctor immediately decided to do an operation. A certain part of his large intestine had burst.

Bacteria was fast spreading all over his stomach. But they had to contain that first before doing the operation. And so the operation. A large portion of his large intestine was taken out.

According to wikipedia, colon cancer symptoms include: "a tumor that is large enough to fill the entire lumen of the bowel may cause bowel obstruction. This situation is characterized by constipation, abdominal pain, abdominal distension and vomiting. This occasionally leads to the obstructed and distended bowel perforating and causing peritonitis".

The few times I saw my brother before we all found out that he was sick, I noticed that he lost a lot of weight. That day he visited me at home, I asked him why. And he said he has lost appetite. I could not believe it. He ate well.

Wiki calls these "constitutional symptoms. If a tumor has caused chronic occult bleeding, iron deficiency anemia may occur; this may be experienced as fatigue, palpitations and noticed as pallor (pale appearance of the skin). Colorectal cancer may also lead to weight loss, generally due to a decreased appetite".

Still during that visit, I also noticed a certain sadness. What he said after, caught my surprise. He reminded and thanked me for all the things I have done for him and his family. How I had made an effort to enroll him for social security benefits when he worked for my business no matter how small it was. And how several years later, when I closed my business, I advised him to continue this membership on a voluntary basis to provide his family continued protection.

Humbly, he also told me that with out my help, and my ex-husband, it would have been impossible for him to acquire a house, no matter how small. His candor touched me. I had totally forgotten all these. I remember, reassuring him that he didn't need to thank me. I was just paying him back for all the kindness he showed my children, driving them to school or to where ever they want to be driven to -- everyday, without fail.

My brother displayed had almost all of the risk factors:

1. Age - he was 53. Our family had history of digestive cancers.

"The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age. Most cases occur in the 60s and 70s, while cases before age 50 are uncommon unless a family history of early colon cancer is present.

2. Heredity

"Family history of colon cancer, especially in a close relative before the age of 55 or multiple relatives."

3. Smoking - My brother smoked heavily. I constantly nagged him about it. But, the addiction was too much.

"Smokers are more likely to die of colorectal cancer than non-smokers. An American Cancer Society study found that "Women who smoked were more than 40% more likely to die from colorectal cancer than women who never had smoked. Male smokers had more than a 30% increase in risk of dying from the disease compared to men who never had smoked."

4. Diet - Although he ate well, meaning he loved vegetables and fruits and shunned red meat, at work he had limited choices.

"Studies show that a diet high in red meat and low in fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry and fish increases the risk of colorectal cancer. In June 2005, a study by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition suggested that diets high in red and processed meat, as well as those low in fiber, are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Individuals
who frequently eat fish showed a decreased risk. However, other studies have cast doubt on the claim that diets high in fiber decrease the risk of colorectal cancer; rather, low-fiber diet was associated with other risk factors, leading to confounding. The nature of the relationship between dietary fiber and risk of colorectal cancer remains controversial".

There are other risk factors but I don't think they are applicable to him. These are:

5. "Physical inactivity. People who are physically active are at lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.

6. Virus. Exposure to some viruses (such as particular strains of human papilloma virus) may be associated with colorectal cancer.

7. Primary sclerosing cholangitis offers a risk independent to ulcerative colitis

8. Low levels of selenium.

9. Inflammatory bowel disease. About one percent of colorectal cancer patients have a history of chronic ulcerative colitis. The risk of developing colorectal cancer varies inversely with the age of onset of the colitis and directly with the extent of colonic involvement and the duration of active disease. Patients with colorectal Crohn's disease have a more than average risk of colorectal cancer, but less than that of patients with ulcerative colitis.

10. Environmental factors. ] Industrialized countries are at a relatively increased risk compared to less developed countries that traditionally had high-fiber/low-fat diets. Studies of migrant populations have revealed a role for environmental factors, particularly dietary, in the etiology of colorectal cancers.

11. Exogenous hormones. The differences in the time trends in colorectal cancer in males and females could be explained by cohort effects in exposure to some sex-specific risk factor; one possibility that has been suggested is exposure to estrogens. There is, however, little evidence of an influence of endogenous hormones on the risk of colorectal cancer. In contrast, there is evidence that exogenous estrogens such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), tamoxifen, or oral contraceptives might be associated with colorectal tumors..

12. Alcohol. Drinking, especially heavily, may be a risk factor".

At this point, I think what would be most important is for me and the rest of the family to pray for him and, provide a positivity and a happy enviroenment around him.

As usual my mother is at the forefront. She stays with him all day, while the rest of family members are either in school or doing something in aid of finances.

Hail to all great mothers in the mold of Cory Aquino!!!


Thank you wikipedia for enlightening us.