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Cleaning up for colon health: Timmerman plays it safe

James Timmerman is pictured with his wife, Wendy. (Special to the Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — For a mechanic like James Timmerman, making sure his vehicle and its engine are operational is a no-brainer.

“Most people do some form of pre-winter or springtime maintenance on their cars,” observed Timmerman. “And you usually at least get an oil change and check your tires before heading out for a vacation.”

How much more important, then, to ensure one’s body is healthy and ready to add more miles?

Well, if you’re like Timmerman, it’s much easier to take the truck in to the shop than it is to arrange routine medical checkups — or schedule that first colonoscopy at the recommended age of 50.

A 2016 study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year.

“I pretty much went to the doctor on an ‘as needed’ — or ‘as-forced’ — basis,” admitted Timmerman.

Luckily for Timmerman, his wife Wendy — a nurse at Sanford Worthington Clinic — urged him to see a doctor for a bad cough and cold he was experiencing in 2015.

“I saw Dr. Kevin Ree for that, and we got to talking about stuff and he said, ‘You’re getting old enough, you should have a colonoscopy,’” recounted Timmerman, now 57.

“So I had one (done by Dr. Gaddum Reddy of Sanford Worthington Medical Center), and they found a fairly good-sized polyp.

“He cut it off and had it tested — it wasn’t cancerous, but it was kind of a fast-growing deal — and told me to come back in a few months.”

Two months later, Dr. Reddy performed a sigmoidoscopy on Timmerman and discovered the polyp had returned.

Again, Dr. Reddy removed it, but at that point he consulted with Sioux Falls, S.D.-based colorectal surgeon Dr. Matthew Tschetter — who fortunately agreed it wasn’t anything serious.

“Then they did a sigmoidoscopy six months later, and there was nothing there,” said Timmerman. “That was in July 2016, and they said I should go back in by the end of the year for a full colonoscopy.”

But as often happens, the Reading resident found time getting away from him.

Timmerman has been a mechanic with Nobles County Public Works for the past 15 years. Previously, the Rock Rapids, Iowa, native worked at Worthington’s Anderson Alignment for 20 years.

He and Wendy have two sons who live in the area — Ben and his family reside in Fulda, and Kyle and his family live near Lakefield — so between keeping up with the four grandkids and his winter workload, scheduling another colonoscopy slipped down the list of Timmerman’s priorities.

“I finally went in, in February, and Dr. Reddy didn’t find anything where the original polyp had been but he found a small one in a different spot,” revealed Timmerman. “It’s a good thing I went in, a very good thing I did.”

Timmerman’s latest polyp wasn’t cancerous either, but he was advised to return for a full colonoscopy again in two years — and that’s an appointment he plans to keep.

“Getting a colonoscopy really isn’t a big deal,” he affirmed. “The worst part is drinking that damn liquid, but other than that, with the colonoscopy itself you’re put out, and afterwards you really don’t even notice anything happened.

“No, I didn’t enjoy the prep — I don’t think too many people do.”

But, as Wendy pointed out to him, if you follow the doctor’s directions for preparation, colonoscopies are fairly routine procedures.

“You don’t want to have to do it all over again because you didn’t do the prep right the first time, that’s for sure,” agreed Timmerman.

The Timmermans will celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary in mid-April. When they’re not working, they enjoy riding motorcycles during the warmer months.

Timmerman also works with motors for a friend involved with stock car racing at tracks including Fairmont, Jackson and Slayton. Making time for their children and grandchildren is also important to the Timmermans.

“I’m a pretty plain guy,” he laughed. “Yeah, I’m glad Wendy pushed me to see a doctor and get the first colonoscopy.

“It wasn’t that I was against doing it; it was just, eh, I don’t have the time, I didn’t make it a priority.”

Today Timmerman realizes the value of a short checkup, and equates getting a colonoscopy and eliminating any pesky polyps before they turn cancerous with making sure your road trip won’t be interrupted by a dead battery, a flat tire or a low level of anti-freeze.

“If they find something soon enough, they can take care of it and it’s very treatable,” said Timmerman. “It feels good knowing they’re on top of it, and I know to get it checked whenever they say to do it.

“I want to be around to watch my grandkids grow up, and I don’t want nothing to happen to me if I can help it.”

Therefore, Timmerman recommends that others (without family histories of colo-rectal cancer or related issues; guidelines are different for such individuals, who should consult with their physicians) make the effort to schedule colonoscopies around the time of their 50th birthdays.

“Definitely, get in,” urged Timmerman. “Have yourself checked over; it’s not that big a deal.”