I called the number on the post-it note Thursday and now I have a date.
April 12 at 9 a.m. My first colonoscopy.
I’m 58, long past the recommended age for a baseline exam, and my doctor’s office has been hounding me to the point of harassment.
They’ve called and left messages, which I promptly deleted.
They followed up with a letter: Have you scheduled your appointment yet? We care about you!
My stubbornness — Don’t tell me what I have to do — had kept me from picking up the phone.
And then there was the inconvenience. Missing work, the special colon-clearing medication and the twilight-inducing drugs and the whole idea of a wand with a camera snaking through my insides.
Then I thought about Abbey Schnell.
Abbey died Tuesday from colon cancer, her family at her side.
A 32-year-old who lived in Lincoln with her husband, Adam, and their two boys, Urijah and Remy. She was beautiful and fierce and kind and funny. She played softball and sand volleyball.
She worked as an underwriter. She called herself the momager of the Schnell household. She called Adam her rock.
I met her in the summer of 2016. She’d just returned from a retreat in the woods near Nashville, Tennessee. She and 11 others who had been chosen by the Colon Club to appear in four-page magazine photo spreads.
Stories of strong men and women living with colorectal cancer, all of them under 50 when they were diagnosed.
The goal: to take away stigma, to promote awareness and to encourage people to pay attention to their bodies and the symptoms of colon cancer.
Abbey wanted that, too.
The Lincoln Southwest High School and Doane College graduate had thought the blood in her stools during her second pregnancy meant she had hemorrhoids.
Her doctor thought so, too.
Instead, two weeks after she came home from the hospital with her second son she experienced uncontrolled rectal bleeding.
A colonoscopy followed and a diagnosis of colon cancer that, despite surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, metastasized to her lungs.
For seven years, she fought hard.
She scheduled chemo for Thursdays so she wouldn’t miss work. She cooked healthy meals. She taught her boys to throw a softball.
She lived by her grandfather’s motto, tattooed across her right foot: Hope for the best. Expect the worst. Take what you get.
She lived for her boys.
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She had fun.
And she had an army of cheerleaders, 1,400 followers who called themselves Abbey’s Supporters on Facebook.
In January, she flew to Arizona with her family for a dream vacation and when she got back she broke the news that the chemo wasn’t working and there would be no more.
“Keep my family in your prayers especially these boys,” she wrote on Facebook. “It's not fair to them but it's life.”
And Abbey kept living.
Two weeks ago, friends from her 2016 Colon Club retreat descended on Lincoln to surprise her.
They threw axes and toured Robber's Cave and drank beer and cut into a big cookie decorated with a frosting poo emoji and four words in blue: Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
March is Colorectal Awareness Month.
An annual reminder for people to watch for signs of colorectal cancer and to take them seriously.
Things like: unexplained diarrhea or constipation, weight loss or gain, vomiting, narrow stools or changes in stools, blood in stools, gas, bloating, cramps, severe abdominal pain, anemia.
During her illness, Abbey educated people.
She spoke at National Cancer Day at the zoo, at CHI Saint Elizabeth, anytime anyone asked.
Know your family history, she’d say. Push your doctor for testing. Know your body.
Get that colonoscopy.
In one of Abbey’s last posts, she thanked everyone for their prayers and good wishes and help. She said she was growing tired, and to forgive her for not responding personally.
She was burrowing down, she said. Making memories for her boys and teaching Adam the things he needed to know when she was gone.
“I think he’s catching on more and more,” she wrote, adding a smiley face.
You can still find that strong woman from Lincoln on the Colon Club’s website.
She’s wearing a red scarf on her head tied on top, like Rosie the Riveter. She’s flexing one arm, showing off her biceps.
She’s wearing laced-up boots, her shirt riding high to show off her belly, her colostomy bag poking out the top of her jean shorts.
Abbey at her photo shoot.
Abbey had to apply to be accepted on the retreat. She wrote her own story, describing herself in the third person.
She wrote about her boys and Adam, her incurable diagnosis and her desire to make life normal and happy for them. She wrote about her wish to be remembered for doing good with the time she had.
She wrote: “Abbey likes to have her positive attitude be contagious.”