As a former president of the Lions Club of Grand Cayman, Andrew Eden was at the forefront of pushing the message of screening for colon cancer for the service organisation.
Little did he know that taking his own advice would lead to his own early cancer diagnosis.
“We had a doctor, Dr. Rod, who used to come to our Lions Club many years ago. I was in my early forties when he came there and explained to us the importance of being checked regularly. So, right away, I got started on getting the colonoscopy, and from the very first time they found a bunch of polyps in me,” Eden, 72, told the Cayman Compass in an interview on Wednesday.
None of those polyps were cancerous.
However, he said, things changed 10 years ago when he completed an annual check-up.
“I went in and the doctor said, ‘Well, everything is great, except you were anaemic’ and that caught me by surprise. I mean, I thought I was in perfect health. He said, ‘Well, go have a colonoscopy,’ which I’d done less than two years before and, sure enough, when the doctor went in, he found this mass that couldn’t be removed with the colonoscopy,” he said.
Eden said the mass had developed between the folds of the caecum area where the small and large intestines connect.
“They sent it off and they told me it was colon cancer. I had half of my colon, part of my small intestine removed over nine years ago, and, thank God, up until now… no recurrence, but it’s certainly very important to be checked. You know, they tell you after 50 [to get checked]. Hey, forget about that. I was about 42 when they first found polyps in me,” he said.
Eden has a history of colon cancer in his family. His mother Coreen passed away from that disease.
He said when he was diagnosed,he was not scared since he knew “something happens, I go get it taken care of. I’m someone who’s not worried about things.”
Eden said over the years he has also had his gall bladder and tonsils removed, so he was prepared for the removal of another body part.
He said there may be a stigma or apprehension to screening for prostate or colon cancer, but Eden said it’s better to be tested than find out too late.
Eden has been cancer-free for the last 10 years, but said he continues to follow the doctor’s advice to do regular colonoscopies.
Cancer returns, but not for Andrew
Cancer made its return to the Eden family this year. This time the target was Eden’s son, Linbern, 42, who came face to face with his own cancer struggles.
Linbern, popularly known as DJ Lin, has also been routinely doing colonoscopies to guard against colon cancer. It’s a practice his father instilled in him, as well as one he learned through his work with the Lions Club Prostate and Colon Cancer Event (PACCE).
Polyps were found during his examination, but they were not cancerous. However, if left untreated, polyps can develop into cancer.
While Linbern was determined to be free of colon cancer, a fun ride on the WaveRunner on 2 Jan. would change things for him and the Eden family.
“I think that the movements of the jet ski shifted a tumour which was attached to my back muscles at a time. [It] gave me this sharp pain in my back, it almost felt as if someone had taken an ice pick and stabbed me. I went to the doctor’s and spent nine hours there doing different scans, tests and stuff. [I] did a CT scan and [it] confirmed that a tumour was there,” he said.
For Linbern, a father of three, priority shifted to his children.
“At first I was scared for my kids ‘cause I wondered what would happen with them, you know, and not having a father. That was the first thing that was on my mind,” he said.
He was diagnosed with stage four adrenal carcinoma after a tumour was found in his adrenal glands.
On 7 Feb., specialist Dr. Chad Ritch and his team at the University of Miami operated for over four hours on Linbern, removing a five-pound tumour from his adrenal glands.
“I had to remove one of my kidneys, my adrenal glands, and part of my liver,” he said, adding that after that surgery he faced some complications.
“It was very long and painful process. I counted at one point in time for 70 days, I had continuous pain for 24 hours a day. No breaks, no release, just continuous pain for 70 days straight at least,” he said.
Regular check-ups recommended
Linbern said his most recent tests show no traces of cancer, and he is thankful for that.
“My father also had colon cancer as well and so he instilled in me from a young age the importance of getting checked, getting tested. Even so much so that at the age of 35 I chose voluntarily to do my first colonoscopy. So, I had the mental frame of mind that I need to prepare myself rather than wait till something happened and react,” he said.
The Lions Club of Grand Cayman will be hosting a free PACCE cancer awareness meeting at the Lions Centre on 5 Oct., at 7pm.
PACCE committee chairman Ercley Bodden said free Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing will be done at the awareness meeting.
“One of our Past President’s Lion Delano Hislop lost his battle to Colon cancer in January 2011. In honour of his courageous fight and to bring more awareness particularly to men in our community regarding the epidemic called cancer, the Club decided to host the Delano Hislop Memorial Walk/Run Journey For Life,” he said.
Bodden added, “The event is called PACCE, an acronym for “Prostate And Colon Cancer Event”. We do however also include Testicular Cancer. Our goal is to educate and bring awareness to as many persons on this epidemic, for early detection is the key to these curable disease.”