Colon cancer survivor Rich Tyndall admits he’s a procrastinator. When he turned 50, his wife Terri Torrence began urging him to get screened for colorectal cancer. “He had no major health issues, but he’s a big guy, he eats a lot of bad foods, and we’re getting older, and I wanted to make sure everything was OK,” she said. “I just wanted peace of mind as we go into the future.” But Tyndall put it off.
Later that year, however, Tyndall’s employer rolled out a new benefit that included $100 in rewards for eligible employees who took part in certain healthy activities. “Health screening was on the list,” said Torrence. “I thought, ‘That’s a door in there.’” Tyndall scheduled a colonoscopy for September 22, 2017.
Tyndall says the bowel preparation “wasn’t that bad” and the procedure itself was even easier. “I went in, they gave me an IV in my arm, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up,” he said. Two weeks later, however, the doctor called Tyndall to come in for an appointment. He told Tyndall that a polyp he’d removed from Tyndall’s colon contained cancer. It was a common type of colon cancer called adenocarcinoma, and it was in an early stage.
“The first thing I thought about was my family and what would happen if something happened to me, '' said Tyndall. “I wasn’t thinking clearly, and I was talking to the doctor at the time, so I couldn’t call Terri to tell her. I texted her and I said, ‘I have cancer.’”
“My first response was, ‘No I’m not reading this, it’s not gonna happen.’ I was panicking,” said Torrence. “He came home 15 minutes later, but it seemed like an hour. He was crying. I said, ‘We are going to make it.’ But I was worried. What if they don’t get all the cancer? What are we going to do with the kids? What about our finances?”
Tyndall’s cancer had not spread beyond the polyp. But as a precaution, his doctor removed a small section of his colon and then reattached the remaining portion. Because the cancer was caught early, before it spread, he did not need chemotherapy or radiation. As part of his follow-up care, he will have another colonoscopy in 6 months.
Tyndall recovered well from the surgery, but he was out of work for a month without a paycheck. This put a strain on the family budget, because he is the only earner in the household. Torrence has health conditions that make it difficult for her to work. She is also the primary caregiver for their 20-year-old son, who is legally blind and has learning disabilities.
To help pay the bills, Tyndall and Torrence have cut back on expenses, such as cable TV service. At Christmas time, they agreed not to exchange presents. They got some relief from their landlord, who worked with them on a payment plan, and got help from one of their grown daughters, who worked extra hours to help with expenses. They also borrowed money from Tyndall’s parents and some friends. But they are still behind on bills and trying to catch up. “We have a good support team. We were together on Christmas and Thanksgiving, and that was important to me,” said Torrence.
Despite their financial challenges, Tyndall and Torrence are grateful for what they have. “Don’t take anything for granted,” says Torrence. “You learn to appreciate everything.”
Tyndall is back at work now. He’s changed his eating habits a little, and says he’s planning to do more. Torrence wants him to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. “I’m working on that,” she says, “He gives me that ‘Yes, Dear.’”
Looking back, Tyndall says he’s glad he didn’t procrastinate any longer than he did. “If it wasn’t for my work offering the money, I probably wouldn’t have gotten my screening done and it probably would have progressed into something a lot worse,” said Tyndall. “Go get a regular checkup; get your colonoscopy. It saved my life.”