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Scoping things out: McNab’s colonoscopy is potential lifesaver

BREWSTER -- Join the club.That's what Dave McNab was thinking as he turned 50 last year; visions of AARP cards, imminent senior discounts and true "middle age" danced in the Sanford Worthington ambulance manager's head.So did a nagging voice that...

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Dave McNab is pictured with his wife, Kaley. (Submitted photo)

BREWSTER - Join the club.
That’s what Dave McNab was thinking as he turned 50 last year; visions of AARP cards, imminent senior discounts and true “middle age” danced in the Sanford Worthington ambulance manager’s head.
So did a nagging voice that reminded, “Time to get a colonoscopy,” a phrase even more unavoidable for McNab, who has been associated with the local hospital as part of its ambulance crew for over 22 years.
“I wasn’t having any big problems - no family history of cancer, no diabetes, and other than being somewhat overweight like most people, my annual Sanford health screening always turned out OK,” listed McNab, a Brewster resident.
Dutifully, although several months after his 50th birthday, McNab scheduled a routine colonoscopy with Sanford Worthington surgeon Dr. Gaddum Reddy, anticipating a little discomfort but not much else.
“The colonoscopy prep wasn’t that bad,” attested McNab. “The worst part for me was probably not being able to eat for a day, and when I was doing the prep, my three kids (ages 11, 19 and 26) were upstairs making Christmas cookies.
“I was downstairs watching football, and the smell of the cookies had my stomach growling like crazy.”
McNab’s procedure went smoothly, and his wife Kaley was with him in the recovery room when Dr. Reddy arrived to review the results.
“I knew he must have found something when he said he’d have to get some pictures to show me, and he told us he’d found two different things: some pre-cancerous polyps and, further in, a large mass,” reported McNab.
“That was unexpected, because I’d had no problems or symptoms of any kind.”
Reddy talked the McNabs through all the possibilities, including the potential need for chemotherapy, radiation or a complete resection of the colon.
“I just said, ‘Let’s get it taken care of,’” recalled McNab.
The next step was meeting with Dr. Matthew Tschetter, a Sanford colorectal surgical specialist in Sioux Falls, S.D. Dr. Tschetter examined McNab twice, saying he wanted to be very certain about the specific location of the mass before going in to remove it.
Ultimately, a surgical procedure was performed in January, a few weeks following McNab’s initial colonoscopy, and “they got as much as they could,” said McNab.
The pathology report revealed the doctors’ speculation had been correct.
“It was the exact type of mass they had described, a fast-growing, pre-cancerous mass, but it was about ready to turn the corner and become a full-blown cancer,” shared McNab.
Dr. Reddy marked the spot of the mass so that when it is revisited in future exams, it will be clear if any new activity is or isn’t occurring in McNab’s colon.
“For now, I’m not on chemotherapy or radiation or anything, but they’re monitoring me closely every few months,” McNab noted.
“I was pretty happy when the pathology report came back negative, but they told me to keep my feet on the ground because I could be right back at Ground Zero in three to six months.”
According to McNab, Drs. Reddy and Tschetter were of the expert opinion the mass in his colon had been growing for three to four years.
“They were really surprised I hadn’t experienced any signs or symptoms,” said McNab.
But McNab is maintaining a positive outlook, feeling grateful he followed the general recommendation to have a colonoscopy at age 50 and realizing his outlook could be much bleaker.
“There are so many people who have so many worse things going on,” expressed McNab, who’s seen his share of human suffering on the job over the past 20-plus years.
“Other than maybe for the first few days after the diagnosis, I didn’t feel sorry for myself; I just said, ‘Suck it up, you’ve got work to do, you’ve got to deal with this.
“The surgical staff told me that was a good attitude to have.”
McNab is overwhelmingly grateful for the advancements in medical technology that made his relatively early “catch” possible, as well as for the skilled medical professionals who have handled his care to date.
“I didn’t have to go to Sioux Falls or Rochester for my initial colonoscopy,” reiterated McNab. “They did that right in Worthington, and were able to diagnose what was going on and make arrangements for the next step.”
Over the past few months, McNab’s family, including his mother-in-law and many friends, have been “tremendous supports” to him, and he feels fortunate for the care and assistance that’s been provided him.
His advice to other mid-century birthday celebrants?
“Be proactive and get the stuff done,” he urged, adding that his own recent medical experiences have only increased his understanding of the people he encounters on the job.
“Anytime you go through something that affects you personally, like an auto accident or a cancer scare, it gives you that much more empathy,” McNab assured.
He’s proceeding with hope, a can-do attitude and trusting that the medical professionals who have guided his journey to date will continue to skillfully monitor his condition and aid him in making the right decisions going forward.
“I know I’m in good hands,” he professed, “and I’ll let the chips fall where they do; if I have to go to the next step, I will. We’ll see where the story takes us next.
“Some people think having a colonoscopy isn’t the most fun thing in the world, but it’s just a tiny investment of your time and energy to either get a clean bill of health or to find out, hopefully in time, what you need to deal with,” he continued. “Getting a colonoscopy is a very small price to pay for peace of mind.
“I’m normally a relatively private person in regard to my personal life. I don’t even have Facebook. My parents raised me with the understanding in the importance of helping others. So, I feel that if the example of my elective screening and subsequent diagnosis can help even one person, then it’s a story worth telling.”

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