Three months after being diagnosed with colon cancer, Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir is joining efforts to bring awareness to the disease.
The sheriff, who is 53 years old, is stressing the importance of people getting a colonoscopy when they turn 50.
“I had no idea that there was anything wrong,” he said. “I always put (getting a colonoscopy) off because there was no history of cancer in my family."
By catching the cancer when he did, Bellendir said, he received treatment and his prognosis is good.
“I’ve been very fortunate that I can be treated locally,” he said, adding his doctors told him he would get the same treatment in Great Bend as he would anywhere else.
Many people didn’t know about the sheriff’s cancer until last Tuesday, when he posted something on the BSCO Facebook page:
“I ... want to remind everyone March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Last December I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I underwent surgery and the tumor was removed. I am currently undergoing chemotherapy. I feel fortunate that my prognosis is good and I have missed only five days of work total.
“The point of this post is that if I would have been screened earlier at age 50 (I’m 53) this would have been a very minor procedure and no chemotherapy. Cancer caught early is much easier to treat than later stages. Colon cancer is the No. 2 killer of cancer related deaths. I was always too busy and didn’t take time to have it done. Trust me, the screening is painless and not a really big deal. If you are near age 50, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting screened. Do it now, don’t put it off until it’s too late.”
After seeing the post, Molly Hadfield from KSN contacted Bellendir and asked him to team up with the Colon Cancer Coaltion to bring awareness to this disease. “We’ve chronicled our own Leon Smitherman with his fight against cancer,” Hadfield reported. “Now another public figure in central Kansas is going through his own battle with colon cancer.”
Bellendir told Hadfield, “I’ve been a law enforcement officer for many years. I’ve been shot at, I’ve been in a lot of precarious situations but nothing is as terrifying as being told that you’ve got cancer.”
“It’s important that people go and get screened,” Bellendir told the Great Bend Tribune. “I cannot stress enough how important it is. I’ve been very fortunate. The earlier they can catch any kind of cancer, the easier it is to treat."
This story was updated on March 23, 2015, to correct the spelling of the name Molly Hadfield.