In the year two thousand I self-administered a colo-rectal cancer test kit. It was as the result of a free program sponsored by Medicine Shoppes. A nice, pink postcard greeted me a few days later in my mail.
It was very matter of fact. It read…Your test came out positive;please see your local doctor…
I couldn’t believe it. Not me! Healthy as a horse, full of energy and vitality, viral and robust there was no way I could have colon cancer.
I ignored it as a scare tactic to sell me medication. Two weeks later reason reared its logical head and I decided to go to my local clinic. The Doctor did his proctology thing and told me there was no evidence of infection. However, he added, there are more thorough tests available and you should not rely on ‘just this one’.
I wrestled with it for two more weeks and reason again raised its unwelcome head. I went to my own doctor and he gave me two alternatives, either of which should give me a definitive answer. A sigmoidiscopic examination (the sigmoid is the lower part of the large intestine) was cheaper (I had no insurance) and less invasive than a colonoscopy so I opted for it.
They gave me a happy shot and I laughed myself into la-la land.
Later. when I could focus, my doctor consulted my chart. He was short and to the point. “You have a tumor in the bend of the sigmoid (that’s your large lower bowel).”
He paused and I waited…too stunned to ask the dreaded question. He said, “I have sent tissue to the lab but I can tell you right now it is malignant and needs your attention immediately.”
To foreshorten this article I am a veteran of World WarII and Korea so I ended that day being accepted under the care of the Veteran’s Administration.
The information from the medical team there was decisive and needed a no-nonsense answer now! I was informed I could take chemo and radiology which would force the tumor into remission but with no guarantee of terminating the murderous culprit. Or, I could let them use the knife and ‘probably’ forget the problem for the rest of my life.
I opted for the knife.
When I woke my Doctor happily informed me we had caught the tumor early enough so there was no further contamination in the lymph system. Chemo and radiology were unnecessary. They had taken a piece out of my colon about the length of my forearm and stitched me back together and I was good to go.
It’s likely rare for people to attempt to hide their love and/or addiction to chocolate, as being an admitted “chocoholic” is so common and socially acceptable. Chocolate has come to represent many positive emotions and feelings… and this is not just due to modern marketing practices. History demonstrates a long-held reverence for “Theobroma Cacao”.
Centuries ago, before chocolate became a sweet confection worthy of our loving, sensual indulgence it was pronounced to be a “food of the Gods”… a beverage with the power to strengthen armies. Like many of the primary ingredients of traditional popular candies, chocolate was revered for its medicinal qualities. The Mayans, Aztecs, and early Europeans whipped “cocao” into a frothy brew that they drank and recognized as a mild stimulant and nutrient rich protector of good health. They called it ‘bitter water”. Today, medical science recognizes chocolate (especially dark chocolate) as possessing strong antioxidants that protect the cardiovascular system. They credit it with the ability to prevent additional neural damage after a stroke and to improve mental outlook. The cocoa powder has more beneficial antioxidants than other chocolate products but, naturally, the processing and addition of sugar and other ingredients does decrease that content accordingly.
Scientists have identified substances in chocolate that make us feel better emotionally after eating it. This gives us the comfort of knowing it’s not just our imagination that we “need” a ‘chocolate fix’ from time to time. Most reasonable diets recognize and recommend that as long as we adjust our other food intake, we can occasionally enjoy this now recognized beneficial food in reasonable quantities. And why not? Our ancestors weren’t all privileged to enjoy the pleasure of chocolate. It was reserved for priests and the very wealthy members of the population. Milton Hershey, founder of Hershey’s Candy proclaimed in an early ad that a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar was “More sustaining than meat”. In one report, the USDA pointed out that one ounce of chocolate covered almonds contains 2.66 grams of protein; 255 mg. of Calcium, small amounts of Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as a bit of Folate. Surely, this beloved snack doesn’t deserve to be classified as “junk food”.
In the United States, the chocolate industry accounts for 17 Billion Dollars in revenue. In addition to being a satisfying part of a healthy diet, cocoa is available as an investment in the commodities market. The cocoa tree is grown in developing countries as a replacement for illegal crops, and that is doing wonders for the economy of millions. There appears to be little reason not to love chocolate. And if one is to be afflicted by an addiction, the addiction to chocolate (sometimes described as a “guilty pleasure) would likely appear number one under the heading “most benign”.