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Preventing problems, following orders: Meier follows through to avoid greater health issues

WORTHINGTON -- When Shandra Meier fell ill with colitis last June, the Sanford Worthington Medical Center doctor who treated her thought it was odd. "I'm a little young to have it, and people generally don't get it at my age," said Meier, a 36-ye...

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Shandra Meier is an R.N. who works on casual status at the Sanford Worthington Clinic and is employed full-time at Sanford Westbrook Medical Center. (Special to The Globe)
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WORTHINGTON - When Shandra Meier fell ill with colitis last June, the Sanford Worthington Medical Center doctor who treated her thought it was odd.

 

“I’m a little young to have it, and people generally don’t get it at my age,” said Meier, a 36-year-old mother of four who lives in Fulda with her family.

 

“They wondered why I got it and were looking for a reason - so I had to have a colonoscopy,” she related.

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Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease are sometimes at the root of colitis; in Meier’s case, it turned out that an unrelated but underlying infection was to blame.

 

“It was a fluke thing,” she said, noting the colitis made itself known with a highly uncomfortable bout of persistent diarrhea and abdominal pain, “but it’s something you don’t mess around with.”

 

Besides, having a maternal aunt who successfully battled colon cancer in her early 50s, Meier wasn’t about to question the medical advice she received, especially since colorectal cancer was responsible for over 50,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2017 and is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths among U.S. women (and the second among U.S. men).

 

“Having a colonoscopy was a way to know I was OK, and mine looked good,” she shared. “And it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, either.”

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Because Meier, an R.N. who works on casual status at the Sanford Worthington Clinic and is employed full-time at Sanford Westbrook Medical Center, knew what to expect going in, she wasn’t rattled by the procedure.

 

“Even though it was my first colonoscopy, I’ve worked in surgery and have seen people having colonoscopies for years,” she said. That included teaching patients about colonoscopy preparation practices, so Meier went into it all with her eyes wide open.

 

“I knew what it entailed, that I would have to drink the stuff, that the day before wouldn’t be a fun time, but the procedure itself is just in and out and not bad, really,” she said.

 

Sanford surgeon Dr. Gaddum Reddy performed the procedure in Worthington, and Meier was glad to have the option of doing the colonoscopy relatively close to home.

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Getting a clean bill of health doesn’t mean Meier is off the hook permanently; she will now need to undergo colonoscopies every five years until further notice.

 

Until lately, Meier was a fairly healthy person overall. She safely carried and delivered all four of her children (ages 16, 14, 8 and 5), and they - plus husband Matthew, an engineer at Sanford Worthington Medical Center - are the primary motivators in her desire to remain as healthy as possible for decades to come.

 

But Meier, a native of Worthington who has lived in Fulda for several years, might have to forego her adopted hometown’s major festival.

 

“Wood Duck Festival is bad luck for me,” she stated with a laugh. “I don’t think I’m destined to go to it anymore.”

 

Last June, the community’s annual celebration unfortunately coincided with her colitis attack, which required her to be on IV antibiotics during a three-day hospital stay.

 

“I’m going to work over that weekend this year,” asserted Meier. “It’s been bad news for me the past two years so I won’t plan to attend anymore.”

 

Given the recent health challenges Meier has faced, she is all the more grateful for the skilled medical care available to her and other area residents in Worthington and its surrounding communities.

 

“Yes, I’m glad to have the care available right here,” she said. “And if a doctor tells you to have some tests done or get a colonoscopy, just do it because it’s so easy.”

 

Meier is currently in the midst of hectic child rearing and work commitments, allowing little time for personal recreational pursuits. She and her husband follow their kids’ athletic involvement - in basketball, volleyball, track and softball, among other activities.

 

“We have a little bit of everything,” she said.

Still, Meier looks forward to being healthy enough in the long-term future to branch out from being a Globe carrier (a role she filled from ages 12 to 14) to a globetrotter.

 

“I hope to travel sometime and see the world,” said Meier.

 

In the meantime, Meier urges others to heed their medical professionals’ orders.

 

“As a nurse, I’ve seen colon cancer treated at all its phases, and it’s a lot easier to deal with if it’s caught earlier than later,” Meier attested. “Follow your doctor’s advice and if you need one, get it - you’d be dumb not to do it.”

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