This May Save Your Life
This Article was written by Foundation 49, a body designed to raise awareness of Men's Health issues and, in particular, the need for 50 year olds to get colonoscopies. It was written in 2014.
"It's quite nice having a day off and waking up to a nice hot cup of tea and someone telling you you don't have cancer"
Marcus Padley is a stock broker, author and the founder, owner and writer of the Australian stock market newsletter Marcus Today. He is also well known as a regular but rare ABC TV and radio business commentator who is well known for 'telling it as it is' no matter how confronting, a role he also fulfils in his regular articles in the mainstream Australian Business press in which he came to our notice as he masterfully combined 'finance with life'.
He has a Masters of Applied Finance, is a Master of the Stockbroking Association of Australia and has four kids but claims to be the "Master of none".
Marcus is 52 (61 now!) and tells us about his atrial fibrillation. "No one seems to know how atrial fibrillation starts but I reckon it came on during an Australia versus England Rugby match at Telstra stadium in 2003. Although the doctors tell me it is unlikely, I was singing 'Jerusalem' at the top of my voice and my chest sort of prolapsed" he said "But it was worth it. My heart carried the English Rugby Union side to a 20-17 victory."
Marcus had an atrial fibrillation ablation in 2005 (and another one in 2018). He says, "You know that bit where you're lying in a hospital bed, and you wake up and the doctor walks in to tell you how it went? You know, the bit where he says 'It went fantastically, you're cured, go home'. Well, I didn't get that. Instead, after four hours of fiddling about in my heart via my groin, I got 'You've got very big veins haven't you?' and 'You know, some people come back and have this procedure twice'.
Not what I wanted to hear. In other words, I thought, I'm stuffed! I wasn't as it turned out, but I took a decision after that. I could do one of two things. I could either wrap my heart in cotton wool for the rest of my life and let everyone around me carry the burden of my feebleness, or I could treat it as a muscle and work it out. I decided on the latter".
And he did. Marcus took up martial arts and almost ten years later is now a black belt in Shukokai Karate, has run a marathon, regularly runs half marathons with his wife Emma ("We could run a half marathon falling out of the pub" he says), works out relentlessly and is about as fit as he's ever been.
Marcus says everyone needs a 'mortal moment' in their life to realise just how precious it is and how finite. "It was only after thinking I was going to die, which I wasn't, that I started to really live. In particular, I started to soak up my wife and kids. I also began to notice the people around me that had already sussed the value of life and were hell-bent on enjoying it. Emma for instance. What an incredibly positive person. She never looks back, always looks forward. In twenty-three years of knowing her I and her many friends have never ever known her to burden anyone else or, unlike me, sulk. She knows!"
Marcus's mother died of cancer when she was 60; his father got bowel cancer at 70. "That was a lesson," he says. "I didn't know my Mum's age until I read it on her coffin. I didn't know she had cancer until she was on morphine. Some people are just too private to get cancer. It wasn't diagnosed until far too late. With my Dad, they caught it before it got through the bowel wall so apart from an unsightly scar which he no doubt hates, he is OK now (he's dead now). But if it wasn't for my brother, a top radiologist in London (he does the Royal Family) and his insistence that Dad's 'feeling weary' might be something more terminal, I'd have found out his age from his coffin as well."
Marcus also tells the story of one 'young chap' he met at the Races one day in November in Melbourne. "He had sat through a very long lunch without going to the loo. When I jokingly commented on his camel-like abilities he quietly tapped his stomach and said 'I don't have to, I've got a bag'. He then told me about his terribly invasive bowel cancer and how, whilst the rest of us thought it was perfectly normal to dress up come out and have a good time, it had been a major task for his wife to (1) persuade him to come out and try and have a good time and (2) to get him there looking normal. With the knowledge that my gene pool would very likely condemn me to the same fate if left alone, I asked him what one thing he could tell me that would benefit a potential cancer victim. His reply was that he could take the bad luck of getting cancer but what he couldn't come to terms with was the fact that the whole episode had been entirely avoidable."
Marcus says "They say someone of my age should have a colonoscopy every three years but I lie about it and have them every two. It's only fair on Emma and the kids and anyway, it's quite nice having a day off and waking up to a nice hot cup of tea and someone telling you you don't have cancer."
Colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and the difference between a compromised life in perpetuity or death, is a colonoscopy. You have to ask, if you are over 50 and haven't had a colonoscopy, are you stupid? Because as Marcus says (and as Henry will find out this morning) - "It's quite nice having a day off and waking up to a nice hot cup of tea and someone telling you you don't have cancer".