By Natasha Muckova, MD PeaceHealth Medical Group, Gastroenterology
Larry Ryser’s medical survival story is not even remotely as dramatic or harrowing as the many he’s experienced at sea. In contrast with his tales of enduring long hours, intense conditions and unpredictable weather as a commercial fisherman, his account of receiving lifesaving care seems quite mundane.
Starting with salmon fishing and crabbing 50 years ago at the tender age of 12, the Alaska native’s career as a commercial fisherman included up to 20 hours a day of hard work and landed him on season five of Deadliest Catch.
The fisherman’s lifestyle didn’t always afford Ryser opportunities to seek medical care, but he felt fortunate to be in good health. An unexpected wakeup call quickly taught him not to take this health for granted.
He watched as a dear friend, fellow fisherman and mentor, Duke, died of colon cancer. He was at Duke’s side for his last week of life.
Ryser had no symptoms, but he didn’t want to press his luck any longer. In September of 2015, Larry decided it was time to go in for a routine colonoscopy.
This colonoscopy revealed and removed a large, aggressive polyp full of early cancer cells. Fortunately for Larry, all of the early cancer cells were still inside the polyp; therefore, colon surgery was not needed after the large polyp was removed. Larry’s gastroenterologist, Natasha Muckova, MD, reports that if he hadn’t been screened, he would have developed cancer and likely ended up needing an invasive surgery and a colostomy bag.
Instead, Ryser was back to his vigorous lifestyle immediately. A colonoscopy a year later revealed that he was free of all precancerous cells.
Dr. Muckova likens colonoscopies to routine car maintenance; one should never wait for symptoms because it’s often too late. Guidelines specify that colon cancer screenings should start at 45 years of age for African-American patients, and 50 years of age for all other groups. This may be even earlier for patients who have a family history of early-onset colon cancer in any first- or second-degree relatives.
Ryser now encourages others to get their colonoscopies. After all, one never knows what this simple procedure might catch.
Is it time? Call 360/752-5216 today to schedule your colonoscopy.