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Sullivan Man Urges Others to Have Colorectal Cancer Screens

May 17, 2017 3:48 p.m.

Bill Cordell had turned 65 before his wife convinced him to have a colonoscopy.

“I knew I should have one because of what my dad went through, but I wasn’t having any symptoms so I thought everything was fine,” Cordell said. He remembers watching his father suffer from colon cancer.

Cordell finally made the call to his family doctor to request a colonoscopy. He was scheduled with Sarah Bush Lincoln Gastroenterologist Alexis Ayonote, MD. While the procedure was painless and the prep was not as bad as he had anticipated, Cordell immediately knew something was up when he learned that the doctor wanted to see him the next day.

“The first thing Dr. Ayonote said when he entered the room was ‘I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news. The bad news is you’ve got colon cancer. The good news is we caught it early,’” Bill said. Dr. Ayonote had removed two polyps from Cordell’s colon during the exam, and one was cancerous.

“The first thing I said was ‘Let’s get it out of there,’” Cordell remembers. “I was surprised because I hadn’t had any symptoms.” He immediately made an appointment with SBL Surgeon Curtis Green, MD, who performed colon resection surgery in July 2016. Cordell and his wife were thankful to learn that the surgery was successful and that the cancer hadn’t spread beyond the innermost layer of his colon, which meant that he wouldn’t need chemotherapy. “I was ready to accept it if I had to have it, but that was great news,” he said.

Cordell is grateful for the compassionate care he received during his four-day stay at Sarah Bush Lincoln. “Dr. Green was great, and the nurses were wonderful,” he said. Living in rural Sullivan, he spent the next six weeks recuperating and enjoying the scenery from his wraparound front porch, before returning to work. For 25 years, Cordell has been on the road, traveling to various banks in the region where he services equipment and ATM machines.

Cordell urges people to take advantage of a free screening offered by Sarah Bush Lincoln instead of waiting to get screened like he did. A limited number of free Hemosure colon cancer screens are available on a first-come first-served basis at the following times/locations: 11 am to 1 pm, June 2, Mattoon Rural King; June 9, Sullivan Ace Hardware; June 16, SBL Tuscola Clinic; and June 23, SBL Casey Clinic.

Nine months after his surgery, Cordell feels like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders. “I’m not sure why I waited so long to have a colonoscopy. I think part of it was that I wasn’t ready to address the possibility of ‘what if they find something,’” he said.

Cordell’s advice to others is “Don’t wait! It’s well worth having a colonoscopy to avoid having to go through surgery or cancer treatments. I would say getting the colonoscopy probably saved my life,” he said.

Beginning at age 50, both men and women at average risk of developing colorectal cancer should undergo screening for colon cancer. People in high-risk categories should start earlier. Yet, 23 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 aren't getting screened as recommended. As a result, colorectal cancer remains the second-leading cancer killer in the United States.

“It’s well worth the time and any possible inconvenience to have the screening,” Dr. Ayonote said. “Too many people think ‘I’m healthy, so I don’t need to do anything.’  In its early stages, colorectal cancer has no symptoms. But by the time people notice bleeding, bowel changes and bloating, it’s often too late.” Routine screening could save an estimated 30,000 lives each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

For more information, or to make an appointment at SBL Gastroenterology and Special Procedures call (217) 258-4155 or go to www.sarahbush.org.

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