Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Colonoscopy three

Peter Cairns, organist, pianist, singer and entrepreneur, died four years ago from cancer of the colon, as they say, survived by his wife Suzanne and three infants, the youngest only two.

Pete was one of the toughest blokes I have ever met. His life story is one of overcoming adversity and of hard work. And in a way, it was his work ethic that killed him.

Always in a hurry, he could scoff a steak in less time than I could swallow a sprout. There was never enough time to fit everything in, but his professional preparation for gigs was always impeccable. He brought the whole box and dice and lumped it all in and set it up without help. Lighting and sound, incidental music tapes, bags of scores, one for each instrument covering every song in the repertoire and one special bag that looked like the others, but no matter which instrument you played, that bag was visited. In it was a selection of the best spirits money could buy, free with compliments from Pete, that saved us many dollars in visits to the bar!

But that was not all he did. He had a music store, repaired and hired pianos in the hundreds and in the last few years of his life started a corporate garbage disposal service, which he ran solo. He made money but he treated his body like the enemy. Pills were popped to keep going and he never complained about being sick or having too much to do. No time to be sick, he just kept on.

But the lump and what it was doing to his bowel could not be ignored. He finally deigned to take himself to a doctor who diagnosed bowel cancer and ordered him into hospital immediately. Typically, Pete said he was too busy now and could he ‘have it after Christmas’.

The doctor told him if he didn’t get it our right away he ‘wouldn’t see Christmas’ but it was all too late. They did what they could, took out the primary and many secondaries over two operations, extending his life by many months, but it spread to his lungs and eventually his brain.

Typically, he worked right up until his death, doubled over and in great pain, dulled enough by whatever Medicine could offer for his last performance to be as professional as any other.

But Pete was the mate who urged me to have my first colonoscopy. There in the hospital, with tubes going God knows where, clearly just hanging in, he was more concerned with my health than his own.

So, after visiting my GP yesterday for his verdict, I thought it important to pass on the results and urge you, despite having to drink ‘prep’ and sit on toilets every few minutes for a day or so, to get tested. If there are symptoms or even if you are merely worried, go do it.

Five polyps were removed, three pre-cancerous in this, my third colonoscopy. With ten polyps gone, I guess I am a veteran of ‘innuendo’. I have never had symptoms. So if it had not been for Pete, I would not be here either. Some people leave holes in our lives when they go but he left a crater.


  1. This story about Peter is awesome. This is such a valuable lesson, and I am glad that you are still around to keep sharing the message and lesson that Peter's life taught you. Always truly a joy to read your writing! :-)
    Actually, I have an amazing colonoscopy story to share...remind me to tell you of it sometime. :-)

  2. You made me miss this fellow
    You left me wondering about those poor children and wife...
    Yes that test is so important..though not one of my favorite...but a true life saver
    Glad you are doing well smiley

  3. Carrie and Suz, Peter's wife is a very capable young woman and great mother. She is doing fine, but as you say, the message needs to be stated and restated. Being one of 'those' organs, for some, any procedure 'down there' carries silly taboos that leave many vulnerable. I can assure everyone, professional people do this work with discression and understanding, and it is not at all unpleasant.
    Carrie, we are all waiting for your story!

  4. Good one Stafford for spreading the word and especially good to see a male (yourself) getting to the GP and getting screened - so many guys won't go near a doctor. Females, probably because of having children get used to all the medical attention. Unfortunately my Mum was recently diagnosed with bowel cancer - I'm in Brisbane with her at the moment - and it is inoperable and has spread. Maybe if she had been screened earlier she would have been able to have something done about it. I'll have to be screened to because of the genetic component.

  5. Thanks B 2 " Dawkins " that you are Ok once again " Melody Man "

    R.I.P. " Dear Peter Cairns "

  6. Funny you should mention this subject right now. In fact, I had just made up my mind this morning to get in to the doctor's to get checked in that area! Thanks for the reminder. I'm a breast cancer survivor (10 years now!), but I guess there's no point in returning the favour and reminding you to have a mammogram!!!! (They do say, though, that guys can have breast cancer!)

  7. Okay Stafford I will share my colonoscopy story on my other blog "what a seagull never told you"... there is a link to it on the one you follow. I will post it soon... :-) Hope you have an awesome Wednesday! :-)

  8. Chartreuse, I was aware of that because I researched and ghost wrote a book on massage and its effect on breast cancer rates. In that research I found some very disturbing facts that related some aspects of Western lifestyle to the high rate of breast cancer, now about 10% and rising.
    One article I read placed breast cancer in men at about the same rate as some indigenous women. Some older men suffer a decrease in testosterone and a rise in estrogen, promoting estrogen based cancers. The rate quoted was 0.67%.

    And there is no way I will be presenting myself at a breast screening clinic to be put through the tit squasher! Heaven forbid!

  9. Oh this is such a touching story. Sometimes if feels like some people are here to show the others the way ... I'm sorry for the loss of your friend and I'm glad for you to be here and for the kindness to share this story with all of us. Who knows how many lives you may help to safe ...

  10. I am sorry to hear of the loss of your friend but am glad you are getting screened. I agree with Birdie - it is a touching story.


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