2017-06-15 / Views

The thing no one wants to talk about

A column by Amy Hubbell

Every once in a while, a reporter encounters a story that hits home.

I discovered two people’s stories last week that did just that.

Chris Harrington and Mike DePuy live in the county, but have never met. However, they share a common enemy in colorectal cancer.

Harrington’s roots are steeped in the north part of the peninsula. He and his mother, Donna Brown, operated the Treasure Chest Restaurant for years in Northport. His uncle, Charlie Brown, was former owner of The Willowbrook, also in Northport.

DePuy grew up on the shores of Glen Lake. A 1996 graduate of Glen Lake, he was a member of the Laker football team and has stayed active in the community after graduation.

Community involvement runs in the family. His father, John, is the retired Glen Arbor Township fire chief, a position he served well before the department consolidated with the Empire Township Department.

Like so many of us, Harrington and DePuy work hard and are devoted to their families, which also have busy lives.

So it stands to reason that in the “busyness” of life, they may have not been aware of some changes in their bodies ... symptoms of the cancer growing within them.

It wasn’t on their radar. And why would it be? Both are well below 50, the age adults begin receiving periodical colonoscopy screenings.

Ah, the rite of passage that no one looks forward to. That seemingly bottomless jug of viscous liquid with the consistency of spit does little to encourage participation in the screening.

Not to mention the after-effects of drinking the solution.

The intended consequences of the concoction is to make your colon squeaky clean, allowing doctors to fully examine your innards with a scope while you’re under sedation.

Not pleasant. But a very important tool in detecting colon cancer.

I had my first colonoscopy before age 40. You see, colon cancer runs in my family. My dad, Leonard Belanger, was 69 when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He had experienced difficulty eliminating and thought it was just part of the aging process.

A strong provider, he had recently retired from working as a mason and as a cherry grower. As nasty as today’s colonoscopy prep is, the procedure was perhaps more unpleasant and considered “taboo” during my father’s time.

Let’s face it, in our culture it isn’t “nice” to talk about one thing that every living being does — poop.

It’s so taboo that it took me 10 column inches of copy to say the word.

Content alert: We’re talking about it right now.

Many symptoms of colon cancer can also be caused by something that isn’t cancer — infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.

In most cases, people who have these symptoms do not have cancer. Still, if you have such problems, it is a sign that you should go to the doctor so the cause can be found and treated. Symptoms include a change in bowel habits, a feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so, rectal bleeding and dark stools.

By the time my father was diagnosed, the cancer — which doctors told us was a slow-growing type — had grown to the size of a grapefruit. Had he listened to his body, he may have been able to forgo surgeries and more surgery, infection, a colostomy, radiation, and chemotherapy.

But the treatments gave us years to share. My youngest child, Grace, just a baby when her grandpa was diagnosed, cherishes the memories of riding on the back of his tractor and Baskin Robbins ice cream on a hot day.

More than 20 years later, medical science has come a long way and offers Harrington and DePuy years of qualify life.

It’s great to see the communities of Lake Leelanau, Suttons Bay, Cedar, Maple City and Glen Arbor — and the county at large — come together to help these family men.

More than 140 individuals have contributed to DePuy’s GoFundMe account with donations totaling more than $20,000. Donations are still being accepted.

And in Lake Leelanau, Harrington’s family and friends have organized a benefit spaghetti dinner and brown bag auction for him Saturday at the VFW hall.

Their stories hit home. Listen to your body. It’s OK to talk about poop.

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Kickin' cancer in the *ss!

Kickin' cancer in the *ss! My thoughts and prayers go out to these two! Mike was my student my first year teaching at Glen Lake. I remember him as if it were yesterday. If Amy and my daughter beat cancer, you can too! Love to you all! God bless!

Kickin' cancer in the *ss!

Kickin' cancer in the *ss! My thoughts and prayers go out to these two! Mike was my student my first year teaching at Glen Lake. I remember him as if it were yesterday. If Amy and my daughter beat cancer, you can too! Love to you all! God bless!