February 28, 2020 – Ask anyone to name their least favorite medical
procedure, and you will likely hear: “Colonoscopy.” Linda
Foster certainly felt that way. Put off by the preparation process, she
avoided having the important screening until age 73. That’s a good
20 years past the age recommended for a first colonoscopy.
Foster’s moment of truth arrived when she accompanied her husband,
Donny, to a doctor’s appointment to schedule his colonoscopy. “He
told Dr. Whitehead that I’d never had one,” she says. “I
later told Donny, ‘Thanks for throwing me under the bus!’
But by doing that, he actually saved my life.”
David C. Whitehead, M.D., MPH, scheduled Foster for a colonoscopy for the next week. A board-certified
gastroenterologist and hepatologist at
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates–Gastroenterology, Whitehead is also vice chief of the Health System’s Brunswick Campus
Department of Medicine.
The shocking truth
It’s a good thing Whitehead convinced Foster to have a colonoscopy
— the procedure revealed a large cancerous growth in her colon.
Whitehead gave the news to Foster after she awakened from anesthesia.
“I felt complete shock and devastation,” she says.
Foster explained that she experienced stomach pain after eating, but only
for about three months. Considering the size of the tumor, Whitehead told
her it would have taken three years to grow that large. “I’ve
always heard colon cancer is a silent killer, and now I believe it,”
A decisive moment
Things moved fast after the diagnosis. Whitehead immediately assembled
a health care team that included medical oncologist
Antonio Moran Jr., M.D., FACP,
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates–Hematology & Oncology, and general surgeon
Stephen F. Kitchen, M.D., FACS, a board-certified private practice surgeon.
“We received a call from Dr. Kitchen on Sunday morning telling us
the surgery was scheduled for Monday morning,” says Foster. “He
said, ‘Pack your bag, and go there today.’” Kitchen
arrived shortly after she settled into her hospital room. “He spent
at least 30 minutes with us, reviewing the procedure. He was so thorough,” she says.
A second chance
By Monday evening, Foster’s surgery was complete. Moran visited her
in the hospital, ordering tests to confirm her cancer was thoroughly removed.
Whitehead also checked in on her. “I couldn’t have asked for
better physicians and nurses. I’m very comfortable with my doctors
and my hospital,” she says. “These three doctors are my ‘dream
team,’ and I would never consider using anyone else.”
Her husband concurs: “They showed a phenomenal level of professionalism.
They are the best of the best. There’s no point to go anywhere else.”
He so appreciated his wife’s care that he delivered a cake to the
doctors and nurses afterward. It’s easy to understand their gratitude.
Thanks to her health care team, Foster is now cancer-free.
“You don’t realize how fragile life is until they say, ‘You’ve
got cancer,’” she says. “I have a whole new outlook
on life. Believe me, I’ll be back in a year for another colonoscopy.”
Asked what advice she would offer others dreading the procedure, Foster
replies: “Please don’t hesitate to have a colonoscopy. It
could very well save your life.”
Proactive Steps to Prevent Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. for
men and women, but it’s also one of the most preventable forms of
the disease. Protect yourself and your loved ones by reviewing these risk
factors and prevention tips:
- A family history of the disease or polyps
- A personal history of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
- Type 2 diabetes
- A diet high in red meat, processed meats and fried foods
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Lack of exercise
- Being 50 or older
- Ethnicity: African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews have a higher risk
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat healthy, such more fruits and vegetables and less red meat or processed meats
- Stay physically active
- Avoid alcohol, or drink in moderation
- Don’t smoke
- Get colonoscopy screenings at doctor-recommended intervals
For more information about colonoscopy screenings, call
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Gastroenterology at 912-267-0058.