Many of my male patients have asked that I keep them alive for the sole purpose of walking their daughters down the aisle. I never appreciated the profound sense of completion that this act brings to a father until August 28, when I took my daughter's arm in mine and walked her down the aisle at her wedding. The child whose heartbeat I used to hold against my chest while I studied in medical school had grown into this beautiful woman, accomplished, worldly, independent. Her happiness on this day was more important than my circumstances. I handed her to her fiancé, a man who loved her as much as I did and would now be her partner for the adult portion of her life. I looked at her sisters and brother as they smiled with admiration at their big sister. I need to be there for them, too, when their wedding days arrive. So much of our lives aren't about us but rather the loved ones who need us. The next day, I shared with my children the results of my colonoscopy and their genetic predisposition. They had questions. They were supportive in the way only your family can be. I was now ready to share my story.
The next evening, I told the staff at the show what we would be shooting the next day. I told them how much they all meant to me. I told them that the next day's show would be one of the most important we had ever done, and the most personal for me. Many had questions, all had words of encouragement. I felt it was an important opportunity for everyone to feel a shared sense of mission in why we come to work every day. I told the staff that if we did our jobs right the next day, viewers would elect to get screened and lives would be saved. I believed it then, and I believe it now.
If you are reading this and you are 50, please waste no time in getting a colonoscopy. Thirty-two thousand people will die this year because they didn't go for a screening. I could have been one of them. If you are younger than 50 and have risk factors such as family history of polyps or cancer, obesity or tobacco use, have a conversation with your doctor about getting screened earlier. Do it for your loved ones. Do it for yourself. Play the hand you are dealt wisely.
Article originally appeared on The Huffington Post. Find out more information at DoctorOz.com.