Weekly tips and advice from your neighborhood
Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge providers.


Local Men No Longer Avoid
Going to the Doctor
Two years ago, neither Jack Barrier nor Stephen Self had any intention of having colonoscopies. Now, both
men say they are great advocates for others to have the procedure and they point to Gerald Mank, MD, as why.
They thought they were having some heart trouble and suffering normal aches and pains of growing older.
But Dr. Mank proved otherwise by insisting on colonoscopies.
Barrier, from Morganton, said he had been having trouble with
heart burn. He went to Dr. Mank for an upper scope. But when
Dr. Mank found out Barrier was 20 years past due for a colonoscopy,
he offered a “deal.” “He said he’d give me two for one,” Barrier said
with a laugh. “I’d get both upper and lower in one day.”
Fortunately, Barrier’s upper endoscopy found no abnormalities in his
esophagus, it was just spasms. But his lower colonoscopy revealed
some problems.
“He found some polyps in my colon and removed those but there
was one he couldn’t get to,” Barrier said. “When I woke up, Dr.
Mank explained it to me and he seemed concerned that it was more
than just a polyp.”
Barrier was getting ready to go on vacation when Dr. Mank
recommended getting a surgeon to take a closer look. “I asked if
there was a sense of urgency and he looked me straight in the eye
and said, if you were my dad I’d hound you into getting this done
as quickly as you can,” Barrier said. “That convinced me right there
that he saw something he didn’t like.”
Barrier traveled to Levine Cancer Institute for his surgery. “I met
the best doctor on face of the earth as far as colorectal cancer
goes– Dr. Joshua Hill,” Barrier said. “He successfully removed
a section of my rectum and I’ve been cancer free for a year and
two months now.”
Stephen Self with his sons.

Mank, MD

He also praised his cancer treatment team at Levine Cancer
Institute Blue Ridge in Valdese. “Dr. (Greg) Jones and Dr. (Doug)
Thompson did a wonderful job.”
Barrier has had follow up appointments with Dr. Mank who found
another polyp in January. Thankfully, this one was not cancerous.
“The guy is a gentle giant,” Barrier said of Dr. Mank. “He’s just
super. I’ve got some real trust and good rapport with him. He is
good folk.”
For Self, of Casar, a misdiagnosis led him to seek medical help in
Morganton. “It started two years ago with what I thought was heart
trouble,” he said. “Then they thought I had appendicitis.”
When a doctor suggested a colonoscopy to narrow down a diagnosis,
Self asked around. “I work for the state and a lot of state employees
go to Morganton, so I did, too,” he said.
He wondered if he had made a mistake when he found out both
doctors he would see were new to the area. Dr. Mank had just started
at Blue Ridge Digestive Health last April. When it turned out Self
needed surgery, he made an appointment with Eric Sevensma, MD,
who had just started last June at Blue Ridge Surgery. “I worried for
nothing. They both did an excellent job,” Self said. “I’ve referred
patients to both doctors – at least six others to Dr. Mank.”
Self says he is the typical man who didn’t go to the doctor. “It had
been seven years since I’d been to the doctor,” he said. “I’d glue
myself together if I cut myself or whatever. I didn’t think I needed
a doctor.”
After a colonoscopy with Dr. Mank, Self found out it was not his
heart or his appendix. “It was cancer,” he said. “Dr. Sevensma
removed a tumor the size of a grapefruit from my colon.”
Self also has finished with chemo and radiation at Levine Cancer
Institute Blue Ridge and recently found out he is 100 percent cancer
free. “I’m very thankful for Dr. Mank,” he said. “If I knew then what
I know now, I’d know things weren’t right. I’d be able to see that my
stool didn’t look right. I thought it was all part of getting older.”
Both men urge others – men and women – not to put off having
a colonoscopy. “I’m a big advocate for that now,” Barrier said.
“Everyone I see approaching 50 years old, I’m all over them to get a
colonoscopy. I think it possibly saved my life.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION or to schedule an appointment with
Dr. Mank, please call Blue Ridge Digestive Health at 828-580-6745.

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