Brown County deputy wants you to know a colonoscopy saved his life; it can save yours, too

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Greg Parrott is a veteran law enforcement officer with the Brown County Sheriff's Office. He's active and stays in shape. He's never smoked. He's always been healthy. So though he's over 50, the age when health experts recommend you should get screened for colorectal cancer, he never gave getting a colonoscopy a second thought.

That was before he attended a Texas Association of Counties (TAC) Healthy County Lunch-and-Learn session with his wife, Courtney, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for family and community health in Brown County and recipient of Healthy County's inaugural Paula Butler AgriLife Award. When TAC Wellness Consultant Mark Zollitsch encouraged members older than 50 to schedule a colonoscopy and, as an incentive, mentioned that the TAC Health and Employee Benefits Pool (TAC HEBP) covered the cost, Greg thought, "Why not?"

He discussed it with his doctor during a physical exam and had the colonoscopy in April. Courtney had been asked to wait outside the building during the procedure because of COVID-19 protocols, so Greg knew something was up when he woke up to find his wife sitting in the recovery room. The gastroenterologist had found a suspicious growth; a biopsy confirmed cancer. Surgery in mid-May, just a couple of days before Greg's 55th birthday, removed the tumor.

"I experienced no symptoms and never knew there was something inside me trying to kill me," he said.

Any cancer diagnosis is scary. And colon cancer can be one of the scarier. About 148,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. About 53,000 will die.

But thanks to that colonoscopy, Greg's cancer was caught at an early stage, he said. It's treatable, localized. He was optimistic when interviewed for this story — confident, really — saying he feels sorry for any cancer in his body. He plans to beat it soundly.

He's also grateful for the colonoscopy advice he heard back in January. It's why he felt compelled to share his story with County magazine. He wants to encourage other TAC members to take advantage of the chance to prevent cancer or find it before it's too late. You just never know.

"If I didn't really give a colon screening a second thought," he said, "how many more of us out there are in the same boat? How many county employees, county law enforcement officers? How many don’t know that their county insurance through TAC will pay for it?"