Colorectal Cancer Awareness

Normalizing Colonoscopies: A Family Tradition

Summary: If 30 is the new 45* for a colonoscopy in certain patients with a family history of colon cancer, then Josh Reinert is all in.

Coming to terms at an early age with the death of a loved one is an indelible milestone. For Josh Reinert, it was the loss of his grandfather on his maternal side. He was 18. “At that age you’re not really friends with a lot of adults, but my grandfather was one of my best friends at that time. He was my buddy,” Josh recalled. “We did a lot together.” He remembers helping at the corner store that his grandfather ran in Trexlertown, PA, helping with his vending machine business, and hunting with the man. He also recalls his grandfather’s severe stomach pain that led to a hospitalization. It was stage 4 colon cancer. “By the time they found it, the tumor was very large, and the cancer had already metastasized” he said. “He didn’t live long after that; maybe a year.”

Curiosity and speculation

Naturally, grief prompts questions like ‘why’? But Josh’s grandfather’s death sent him on an investigative journey into family history and disease state. “At that point in time I found out that there was colon cancer on both sides of my family,” he said. In his senior year at high school, “I decided to write a report on colon cancer … I wanted to understand the disease, what ‘stage 4’ meant, what ‘cancer metastasizing’ meant,” as well as the typical prognosis of advanced colon cancer.

He learned that his grandfather’s experience with colon cancer wasn’t uncommon; a diminished quality of life that included chemotherapy and a colostomy bag. Josh also contemplated an alternative outcome: What if his grandfather had opted to be screened for colon cancer, as was recommended, nearly a decade before his death? 

Josh Reinert

Joshua Reinert Program Manager Infection Prevention
Center of Excellence - Endoscopic Solutions Division
Olympus Corporation

Dermatologist recommended

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Josh’s father started getting colonoscopies around age 30, on the advice of an unlikely source. “My dad went to the dermatologist for a routine skin tag removal,” said Josh. “Something on the intake form caused his doctor to recommend that he go for a colonoscopy.” A question related to his father’s family history of cancer likely led the doctor to nudge him into action. 

Josh also investigated further into his family history. “In addition to my grandfather on my mom’s side, I found out that my great grandmother and a great uncle on my dad’s side also passed away from the disease,” he said. “One of my great aunts on that side also passed away in her 60s from colon cancer, and I ultimately found out that none of the family members that passed away from it had ever been screened.” 

On the other hand, Josh’s paternal grandfather and another one of his great aunts on that side of the family, both now deceased, routinely had been screened for colon cancer. They both had colon resections; but neither developed colon cancer, according to Josh. Another of the siblings on that side of the family, Josh’s great aunt, has been undergoing regular colonoscopies for decades and is “still trucking at 96,” he added. 

Josh’s father still gets routine colonoscopies. “He’s in his mid- to late-60s, has been screened for 30+ years, and continues to do it to prevent cancer,” said Josh. His father’s routine also made Josh’s decision to get screened a simple one.

It’s time!

When Josh turned 30 he was resolved to get his first colonoscopy. “I think seeing my dad go every three years just normalized it for me,” said Josh. Although he does recall his friends’ initial reactions when he told them of his plans. “They were like, wait, you’re going for a colonoscopy? What is wrong with you?” 

The good news for Josh is that nothing was wrong, and he’s certain it was the right time to start. “When I told the doctor about my history, he said, ‘I’m glad you took the initiative to come in because this is truly a life-saving procedure for somebody with this type of history.’” 

Keeping up with traditions

Josh is a prep pro now. “I just had my fourth exam. I’ve had polyps removed in the past,” he said, adding that while his last exam was clear and that his doctor said that he was “good for another five years,” he doesn’t want to take any chances. “Based on my family history, I’m going to talk to the doctor and get it put back on the three-year schedule,” he said. 

For Josh, colonoscopy screening is a “no-brainer” given the alternative. And he feels that working at Olympus brings his story full circle—he admits to asking his gastroenterologist which scope models the facility uses as he is curious whether or not the facility is using the newest Olympus® technology. 

In terms of his legacy to his children, he continues “normalizing” regular colonoscopies to prevent colorectal cancer. He said he makes it a point for his nine-year-old daughter and his six-year-old son to know why he gets screened, along with their grandfather and uncle, Josh’s older brother. “We’re doing it to stay healthy, and that’s why we go,” he explains to them. “I want to be here as long as possible.” 

If anyone has normalized colonoscopy for Josh’s family it’s 96-year-old great aunt. “She has been getting screened since her 50s,” he said. “I think it points to the fact that with our family history, if you do get screened early, you’re able to catch [colon cancer] early and not have it be the reason you’re no longer here.” 

She has been getting screened since her 50s,” he said. “I think it points to the fact that with our family history, if you do get screened early, you’re able to catch [colon cancer] early and not have it be the reason you’re no longer here.”

*Colon cancer screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society and the USPSTF support colon cancer screening for adults from 45 to 75 years of age who are at average risk for developing colon cancer. Adults with a family history may benefit from earlier and more frequent screening, which should be discussed with a healthcare provider. 

Josh Reinert is an employee of Olympus America, Inc. The statements contained herein are his experiences, thoughts, and opinions. Please talk to your doctor regarding this important topic.

Colorectal Cancer AwarenessEmployee Experience

Suggested Blog Posts