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I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, and am extremely grateful for the people I met along the way.
This month it will be five years since being diagnosed with stage 3b colorectal cancer. In this journey, I quickly learned that I could not get through this without a little help from my friends. Well, to be honest, it took a lot because generally men don’t like to be vulnerable, and I was definitely one of those men. It took a while for me to open up, share my journey with others and connect emotionally with my cancer.
My cancer journey started after months of having blood in my stool and the many times I had been dealing with abdominal cramping. I would finally follow my doctor's advice and get a much-needed colonoscopy. I was already fearful of the outcome because I had Googled enough to understand what those symptoms might lead to. It was a reality that I was fearful of and the reason I kept putting off my colonoscopy for so long. I was only 50 years old at the time and scared it had already metastasized. I just keep thinking to myself that my life is over.
After the colonoscopy I would find out I had an 8-cm tumor in the sigmoid region of my colon. I would next endure a seven-hour surgery to remove the tumor and part of my colon. The surgeon would remove 39 lymph nodes along the section of the colon that was removed, which was about a foot. Three of those lymph nodes tested positive for cancer. This would put my colon cancer diagnosis at stage 3B which also meant it had not spread to other organs.
Being that cancer was found in my lymph node system that meant it was now also in my bloodstream. The next step to cure my cancer would be to do six months of chemotherapy to find and kill any cancer cells in my body. This would hopefully be to prevent a recurrence or metastasis of my cancer. I would find out at the end of those six months that there was no evidence of the disease in my body.
Little did I know what I thought was the end of my life five years ago was very much the beginning of it. As a survivor today, I spend much of my time today helping newly diagnosed colon cancer patients find the support they may need with my work as an on boarding specialist with Colontown.org
I also support my friend Trevor Maxwell in his mission that no man should have to fight cancer alone with his manuptocancer.com platform that he created four years ago. I will always be grateful to him for helping me find my voice and to become a growing leader in the cancer space. Today I serve as the lead administrator of our Facebook group “The Howling Place” and I am the community manager for Man Up To Cancer.
I am grateful to these other cancer organizations that have supported my survivorship from cancer over the last five years . They are colontown.org, Fight Colorectal Cancer, Colon Cancer Coalition, Ulman Cancer to 5K and Man Up to Cancer. They have all taught me to have hope in the fight against cancer and how to support others in the battle with this disease. To say thank you to the people involved with these organizations would never be enough. Many of them have become the dearest of friends.
In the beginning of my cancer journey If it wasn’t for a couple of dear friends that I found at a local cancer support group, I would not have found all the support I needed in my fight against cancer. Sadly, both these friends passed away from this disease, but I will continue to share my voice and encourage others in their memory. The greatest tool I have found in this journey is that it's OK to accept help from a few friends.
In a few months, I will have my last set of follow up exams for my cancer. I will hopefully walk out of my oncologist's office for the last time. I will continue to support others in the fight until we find a cure for this disease. I know I am lucky to be able to walk away from this disease with this open heart and a warrior spirit that I have received from some wonderful people in my life. I am a much stronger man today because of those friendships.
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