Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD 8th District) recently talked to us about how his journey through surviving stage III colon cancer began with a life-saving colonoscopy. He was diagnosed with the disease in 2010 and says “It was an excruciatingly difficult experience for me and my family. But we were fortunate to have fantastic doctors and nurses who saved my life."
It all began when he went to the doctor because he was experiencing reflux symptoms. The physician recommended Raskin have an endoscopy as well as a colonoscopy. Raskin fell asleep during the colonoscopy, but when we woke he was told that the screening revealed a mass the size of a walnut in his colon. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the mass was malignant, but several days later test results confirmed that it was. “It can happen to anybody--liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Independent, old, young, every race, and every ethnicity. It can happen to anybody. It was hard enough for someone like me, who has great health insurance, to deal with my diagnosis, I cannot imagine how devastating it must be for those who have no health insurance. So I want health insurance for everyone, colonoscopies for everyone.”
At the time of his diagnosis, Congressman Raskin was the floor leader in Maryland on marriage equality legislation. He says he was struck by how medical misfortune affected various segments of society, and became more determined than ever to increase every person’s access to affordable health care. “If you can't get health insurance because you love the wrong person or because you are unemployed or because you are too poor, that is not just a misfortune. That is an injustice because we, as a society, can do something about that. In a democratic society, our obligation is not to compound all the misfortunes of life—the illnesses, the accidents, the heartache—with governmental injustice; our job is to try to end injustice and reduce misfortune because we are all citizens together. "
Since the end of his cancer treatment, there has been no sign of recurrence of cancer but Raskin remains vigilant when it comes to his eating habits and overall health. He also has some advice for anyone who is due for a colonoscopy but has been delaying it. “Don’t put it off. It’s painless and you take a good nap. Don’t fool around. Just get it done.”