Pre-vivor Paige Kornblue says observing her mother’s surprise battle with colon cancer inspired her to take her health seriously, even during a pandemic.
As told to Taylor Novak
In December 2009, I was anchoring and reporting at WPTV News. That’s the NBC affiliate in West Palm Beach. My mom loved Dr. Oz, who was coming to the station to do some promo videos, so she came to meet him. She brings one of his books and when she meets him, they take some pictures and she says, ‘Doctor, because of you I scheduled my first colonoscopy.’ We all were laughing, and he wrote in the book, ‘Enjoy your colonoscopy.’
Of course, she was a little late to the game in scheduling that first colonoscopy. But she had seen on his show a picture of a good colon and a bad colon, and I guess that one image did the trick, thank goodness. Unfortunately, her colonoscopy results were not great, and they discovered cancerous polyps—probably more than most because it was a little delayed in her life. She was just one of those people who didn’t even enjoy a massage, so the thought of a colonoscopy wasn’t ideal for her.
She was such a vibrant personality and someone who was the ‘glass is always half full, and I’m going to be just fine, no matter what’ type. The doctors removed her colon, and she went on her way. I actually got engaged and married shortly after that and moved to Dallas. In 2014, they found the cancer had returned and this time it had metastasized to the lung in the lymph nodes.
By this time, I have a daughter and twin boys, so we decided to move home. My husband would commute, and the kids and I would support my parents in this journey because it doesn’t only affect the one who has cancer. I think it was harder on my father.
We rented a place near them and I’d pop the kids in a stroller and walk back and forth, and just be there every day. It’s a journey. But it made all the difference in the world to be able to go to appointments and chemo, radiation and doctor appointment after doctor appointment. I was by her side—by their side—the entire time.
The disease progressed. She stayed strong but unfortunately lost her hard-fought battle to cancer in August 2018. Two years later, I turned 40 and my internist suggested that I start checking on my colon because I was high risk. Never for a moment did I hesitate. I have my list of things to do and that was the priority. The one hiccup, I would say, is that my 40th birthday fell during the pandemic. So, I was a little hesitant, like many, to schedule the appointment. My doctor said, ‘Listen, if you feel more comfortable, just wait a few months. Just make sure you get in there.’ But I didn’t let it delay me for too long.
Because I’m a mom of three little ones, it’s not about just myself anymore.
Lynn Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida, is where I got scheduled and had my first colonoscopy procedure, and it couldn’t have been better, truly, from point A to point Z. It was painless. I always tell my friends, ‘I don’t know why it gets such a bad rap.’ It’s not fun, but it’s kind of like the flu shot for kids. I think it seems so much worse than it truly is.
They did discover precancerous polyps on me, and of course the doctor removed it right away. And he said, ‘This is exactly why we do what we do and why these early screenings are so important.’
Because I’m a mom of three little ones, it’s not about just myself anymore. I’m here every step of the way for them and I hope I can be here longer as a grandmother to their children than my mom was able to be for us. That was her biggest joy in the world—raising my brother and myself, and to be able to help and love her grandchildren. I want to do that too, and I want to do that for a long time.
My children are very aware that their grandmother died from colon cancer. It’s a very open conversation, and I plan for it to always be. I plan for that to always be part of their knowledge, their information. It’s part of their history.
Just [get your screenings]. Put aside your fears and hesitations and think of the big picture and realize that it may not be all that bad. As challenging as a colonoscopy might be, it’s far better than the flip side where you wait and one day find cancerous polyps in your colon. The work is going to be so much harder. With all of the procedures and the chemo and the radiation, the flip side is a lot harder. So nip it in the bud early on.
Paige Kornblue is a mom of three and TV-anchor-turned-lifestyle blogger. Learn more about her at paigekornblue.com.