This article is a contribution from Bruce Winges, recently retired as Editor of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Are you 45 years old? Are you turning 50?
If so, Jerry Andrews of Crandall Creek has a message for you: Get a colonoscopy.
When Jerry turned 50, he did not undergo the cancer screening procedure – he didn’t think he needed it.
Now, some 14 years later, the founder of the West Virginia bluegrass band wishes he had. This July Jerry finally had a colonoscopy. A week later Jerry was told he has colon cancer.
“I could kick myself for not doing this when I was 50,” Jerry says. “At that time, the doctors just would have had to remove a polyp.”
Now Jerry is facing surgery for colon cancer.
Admittedly, most people can find plenty of reasons to avoid getting a colonoscopy. At 50, Jerry was living a clean, healthy lifestyle as he always has and still does. He does not drink or smoke.
But in 2019 his sister-in-law was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Seven months later she passed away at age 65. That convinced Jerry to get the test.
Patients who are 50 or older account for 91 percent of new colon cancer cases.
The American Cancer Society recommends that people start screening for colon cancer at age 45, and people in good health should be screened every 10 years. Removing precancerous polyps by colonoscopy reduces the chance of getting colon cancer by up to 70 percent.
Jerry says his doctors are optimistic. The tumor is small. The next step is a screening to see if the cancer has spread. If that comes back clean, then Jerry is facing surgery and a good possibility of recovery.
Bluegrass singer and songwriter Steve Gulley also has been diagnosed with cancer.
Jerry wants to help through his Bluegrass Music Endeavors Foundation, a non-profit 501c3. The members of Crandall Creek donate a portion of the money they make to deserving charities through the foundation. They plan on making a donation to Steve.
(A GoFundMe campaign also has been launched to help Steve.)
If all goes well with Jerry, he will be back with Crandall Creek in the fall. The high-energy bluegrass band signed with Bell Buckle Records last year, and released three original songs this year – Drivin’ Me Insane, This Heart of Mine, and Headed South. The songs are getting noticed and are receiving airplay.
“I won’t be able to lift anything or drive for a while,” Jerry says. “But I did ask the doctor if it would be OK to lift a guitar and he said that would be fine.”
In the meantime, Jerry hopes that by sharing his story, someone will get a colonoscopy.
So… are you turning 50?
Bruce Winges retired as editor of the Akron Beacon Journal after more than 40 years in newspapering. He got his first guitar in 1969, and became hooked on old-time music and bluegrass while working in Huntington, WV. He lives in Ohio and sits in with his brother-in-law’s band, Crandall Creek, whenever he can.