Written By: Elysia Hayden, in memory of her brother.
On May 15, 2013, after months of abdominal pain and fatigue, my big brother, Caleb went to the emergency room. He became ill with flu-like symptoms and hadn’t been able to keep anything down for 72 hours. Upon his arrival, the doctor ordered some labs. The doctor was alarmed by his white blood cell count and admitted him to the hospital soon after. A CT scan was also ordered and it was thought that Caleb might have Krohns disease. He spent the night in the hospital and was scheduled to meet with a surgeon the next morning. Caleb was obviously in a lot of pain and didn’t want to talk much. Between his girlfriend, my mom, my sister, and I, we worked out a schedule where at least one of us would stay with Caleb in his hospital room so we could monitor him and help answer any questions from either the doctors or nurses.
During my sister’s shift in the early morning hours of May 16th, Caleb had passed out and hit his head. She immediately contacted my mother and I, and instructed us to come to the hospital. I arrived at about 7:30am that morning. I informed Caleb I was there and told him that I loved him. Less than a half an hour later, he coded and we were told we had to leave his room. An influx of doctors and nurses came in the room and we could hear them call the “code blue” over the loudspeaker. It was the scariest moment of my entire life. Twenty minutes later when the doctor came to speak to us, he didn’t even have to say the words, we could tell by the expression on his face. My brother had passed away.
Caleb was 36 years old and he never heard the diagnosis “Colon cancer”. He also never had a colonoscopy. I think perhaps he was too scared and too embarrassed. We found out through autopsy that he had a baseball-sized tumor in the right side of his colon. Since discovering that, my sister and I have done a lot of research on colon cancer and we’ve talked with our doctors about our increased risk. At the ages of 29 and 34, we each had a colonoscopy. We are passionate about raising awareness about colon cancer in our community and, during May 2014, we marked the 1-year anniversary of Caleb’s passing by organizing a 5k-colon cancer run/walk. It was a very successful event with over 75 participants and over $1,500 in donations. We made up t-shirts with our team name: Caleb’s Colonoscopy Crew.