After beating colon cancer about four years ago, the now 81-year-old Cartersville resident had a recurrence in August when a biopsy detected cancer in his right lung. Currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments, one of his most touching memories occurred when he was surrounded by family last Christmas.
"I was carving a turkey and was just about finished and getting ready to wash my hands and my wife grabbed me by the arm and she said, 'I've got a little surprise for you,'" Hickom said. "And I walked out of the kitchen around into the living room area and there sat my three sons, three grandsons and a grandson-in-law and they'd all shaved their heads in my honor. First of all, I just sat there with my mouth open. And then tears came to my eyes because I knew that they really loved their daddy.
"They've come and taken me to my treatments -- all of the children have, and they continually call to see how dad is doing and the grandchildren [do] too, so it's been a walk of love for my family," he said, adding his wife, Delores, also has been a great source of support. "And then my church, [Sam Jones Memorial United Methodist Church], has been so supportive in prayers. In fact there's [also] a little Methodist church in Illinois where my wife and I got married 59 years ago -- it will be 60 this August -- they send me a card at least once or twice a month with all their names on it, telling me that I'm in their prayers."
As National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, Hickom as well as the Cartersville Medical Center is emphasizing the need for prevention and screening to help area residents reduce their risk for developing cancer of the colon or rectum.
Now undergoing routine screenings, Hickom said his first colonoscopy was conducted in December 2007 when his cancer was initially detected. Stressing the importance of prevention to his fellow Bartow neighbors, he said earlier screenings could have pinpointed his colon cancer sooner, possibly reducing his chemotherapy regimen. By the time Hickom's was detected, about 35 percent of his colon needed to be removed, which was followed by 12 chemotherapy treatments over a six-month period.
"Colorectal cancer often starts as a polyp, long before symptoms appear," said Dr. Yaman Tayara, gastroenterologist on staff at Cartersville Medical Center, in a press release. "Age is the single most important risk factor for the disease. The key is taking healthy steps to prevent colorectal cancer, as well as scheduling a regular screening -- colonoscopy -- to potentially catch the disease in the earliest stages when it is most treatable."
Citing the risk increases as a person ages, CMC data reveals "more than 90 percent of colorectal cancer diagnoses occur in people aged 50 years or older."
To help decrease the occurrence of colorectal cancer, CMC encourages people to begin screenings at age 50 with colonoscopies scheduled earlier or more frequent if there is a personal or family history; eat healthy with a low-fat diet; exercise daily for at least 30 minutes for a minimum of five days each week; quit using tobacco products; and avoid alcohol.
For more information about colorectal cancer -- which the American Cancer Society reports is the third most prevalent cancer diagnosis in the U.S. for both men and women -- call MedLine at 1-800-242-5662.