Colon Cancer Prevention – Mike Giertz
Giertz Urges Others to Get Screened
Mike Giertz is no stranger to cancer or to the SBL Regional Cancer Center. When the Regional Cancer Center opened in its new location in the fall of 2016, Mike engraved all the leaves on the Tree of Life that is displayed on the wall. Two months later, he was a patient in the center, fighting colon cancer.
Mike and his wife, Peggy, of Gays had visited a childhood friend in Iowa over the summer who was undergoing treatment for colon cancer. “I told Peggy on the way home that I should have a colonoscopy,” Mike said. His routine colonoscopy was stopped midway through, because a tumor blocked his colon.
One month later, eight inches of Mike’s colon was removed, and because the tumor penetrated the colon, he underwent six months of chemotherapy. “I didn’t have any symptoms at all. We had just visited our friend who we hadn’t seen in probably 15 years. He was fighting colon cancer, and we just thought getting a colonoscopy was the right thing for us to do,” Mike explained.
Following the aborted colonoscopy, “It was a whirlwind,” Mike recalled. “Everything moved very quickly. I had a PET scan through which cancer was found in a lymph node, and then surgery was scheduled. I just wanted to get the tumor cut out, as soon as possible.”
Mike and Peggy are intimately aware of the cruelties of cancer, as their son, Jordan, lost his battle with bone cancer in 2011, at the age of 22. “I was just thinking: “How can I get better?’” Mike said. “Religion is an important part of our lives, and God has gotten us through a lot of things. You know, cancer affects the entire family, not just the person fighting it.”
Married for 34 years, the Giertzes rely on each other for their strength. “People often stopped us to ask about Jordan. There were days I couldn’t talk about Jordan, and other days when Peggy couldn’t. We just helped each other through it,” he said.
Since that first colonoscopy in 2016, Mike has had at least 10 other colonoscopies, and the latest one was the first time in which there were no polyps found. He urges others to get regular colonoscopies.
Despite what they have been through, the Giertzes give back to the community. “When Jordan was going through treatment at Barnes (Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis), a therapy dog visited him in the infusion room. The Giertzes planned to get a therapy dog, to similarly help others. They waited a year after Jordan passed away to move forward with their plans. They found Penny, a six-week-old Golden Retriever, and trained her.
Peggy said that when Mike was going through treatment, Penny sat patiently next to him, with her paw in his lap. Trained and certified, Penny visits the Regional Cancer Center regularly. “She’s a good girl. She knows when we put on our khaki pants, she’s ready to work.
For more information, or to make an appointment at SBL Gastroenterology and Special Procedures call 217-258-4155.