Have you ever had a friend die of cancer? How did you handle it?

A friend and former K-8 classmate passed away peacefully after a 2 year battle with colorectal cancer. We mostly lived in different cities after 8th grade (went to different high schools), and while not super-super close (e.g. not at the level of being a groomsman at wedding), we kept in touch over the years and would catch up every now and then.

Has anyone been a similar situation? How did you handle it?

Also, my friend was young, still in his 30s when he passed away. The diagnosis from 2 years ago was very unexpected and was already "advanced stage" when it became conclusive...

I think medical guidelines for screening colorectal cancer are age 45 or 50 (?) for people with average risk, but I wonder if I should consider getting myself screened now? I realize it's a low probability event (lifetime risk for men is 1 in 23 or 4.3%) and my friend just happened to get unlucky, but since colorectal cancer is highly treatable if detected early, I wonder if there is no downside to getting myself screened now?

Has anyone does this? Would you be willing to share your experience?

Comments (6)

Most Helpful
Aug 8, 2022 - 4:26pm
financeabc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

There is no medical downside to getting screened for colon cancer in your 30s.  There could be financial downside, as I am not sure if all insurance companies would pay for the procedure.  I read some kind of crazy statistic ( may be it was here) but something like 40 - 50% of people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. A former boss of mine died of colon cancer at the age of about 50.  The treatment for cancer can be rough. Going through chemotherapy is terrible.  I occasionally think about the inevitability of getting cancer because as a kid, I lived in a house in which people smoked heavily. I did not smoke but for years, I must have breathed in this stuff.  

  • 5
Aug 8, 2022 - 5:15pm
OverlyAdjustedEBITDA, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I've had this exact same thought and have actually also considered getting screened earlier than the guidelines suggest.  From discussing with friends in medicine, it certainly anecdotally does feel like incidences of colorectal cancer are popping up earlier and earlier.  I don't have any hard data of that but have no reasons to doubt that given how much processed foods and bad habits have permeated our society.

Aug 8, 2022 - 5:38pm
JG_wentworth, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Dang, sorry to hear about your friend. Regarding screening, I'm in my 20s and asked my doctor to refer me for a colonoscopy; despite me making it clear that both sides of my family have a history of colon cancer, the doctor brushed it off and said I can get one in my 40's. Your post has encouraged me to schedule an appointment and finally get checked out. As you mentioned, it's highly treatable if found early, but many find it too late. Also, apparently a new pre-procedure protocol has been approved for colonoscopies; instead of having to drink a gallon of nasty, repugnant trash water, you can simply swallow some (well, like 12) pills which is still a much better route.

Aug 9, 2022 - 12:23am
tackytech, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yes, but it was unfortunately due to him beating around the bush for too long. He didn't go to the doctor until he nearly passed out from the pain, even while popping painkillers on a daily basis for lower back pain. Turned out to be testicular cancer which had metastasized to his lungs. He went through some extremely taxing treatment, which put the cancer in remission. Unfortunately the cancer came back with a vengeance, and had spread to all over his body. Passed a couple of months later.

  • 1
Aug 9, 2022 - 12:20pm
AnonymousGoon, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yes. Somebody I was extremely close to in high school / early college recently died of cancer. They were in their early / mid 20s and it was all very sudden from when the diagnosis was made public to when they passed. Life was going very well for them prior to that

By the time I found out, things had already really progressed and quality of life was severely impacted. Getting on the phone to catch up or check in would've been a real push, and they had a strong support network with them and intentionally chose to keep things small so it wasn't like I was 'needed' in the situation. I sent a note or two but made the decision that trying to communicate more would've been more 'for me' than anything else given how taxing it'd be, so there's also an element where I'm sad I never got to speak with them one more time (I don't regret it -- it was a conscious decision to avoid causing them any more suffering than they already had to go through)

It's sad that when our core small group reconnects that they'll never be there. We'll never get to see how their life turned out or reminisce over our core shared foundational experiences. Worst of all is thinking about the negative impact to the family who have been through so much

In terms of what to actually do about it, I think it's important to keep in mind that an early death typically comes from a long tail of unpredictable causes. I'd say take the reasonable precautions and if certain extra screenings make you feel good then go for it, but I wouldn't disrupt your life significantly for risks that are not significant in probability

Aug 9, 2022 - 6:58pm
Angus Macgyver, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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