After being diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer, I made it a mission to share my story and help others.
Before being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, I started experiencing some pain in my side, but I didn't really have any other symptoms. The pain is what led me to visit the urgent care center, which was walkable from my neighborhood.
I have never been someone who goes to the doctor often, and I thought I may have had kidney stones. The urgent care doctor sent me for a CT scan a few days later. I remember walking out my front door the morning of my scan, joking with my wife about how I wasn’t just going to get a prescription.
After the CT scan, I was called back to talk with the doctor. The doctor sat me down; it was really weird. It's the first time I've gone into a doctor's office where I did not need to register or check in at the front desk.
The doctor came into the room and said, “You have cancer.”
A huge smile broke out across my face. The doctor asked, “Are you OK? Do you need me to call anyone?”
I said, “No, I feel fine. I am a big believer in things happening for a reason, but all I need to know now is: What are my next steps? What do I need to do?
Thankfully, the doctor knew me. He knew I lived nearby and never took too many medications. He also knew I didn’t have insurance at the time and offered additional support through a referral for a colonoscopy, which was the next step.
The colonoscopy confirmed I had cancer, and later tests showed that it had spread to my liver. I then saw an oncologist who offered good advice from the beginning: Get a second, third and fourth opinion every step of the way.
“If you are not hearing what you want, advocate for yourself and get other opinions,” my oncologist told me.
The next step was telling my wife what was going on. I have a friend with a podcast called “We Have Cancer.” He shares how he and his wife face cancer together, even though he is the one with cancer. The podcast made me realize how much of an impact cancer has on those who we live with — it affects caregivers as much as those who are diagnosed.
My wife has been extremely supportive. Even though I’m still in treatment, I have been trying to be supportive of my wife while still asking myself questions like: “What is the opportunity I have here?” “What should I do with my diagnosis?”
Some of these questions led me to get involved with nonprofit cancer groups.
I’m very open about what I have gone through, the highs and the lows. I am passionate about getting people activated, especially on social media.
Sharing my story has brought me to a men's support group for patients with cancer, caregivers and survivors called “Man Up to Cancer.” This past year I joined Fight Colorectal Cancer as an ambassador.
I've seen sharing my story as a gift for two reasons.
The first reason (and this is kind of selfish) is that ever since I started openly sharing my story, I’ve had people tell me the impact my life has had on theirs. That has been a gift for me to know that and it keeps me going forward.
The second reason why being open with my journey has been a gift is that it’s encouraging people to get screened and prevent cancer or catch it in earlier stages. When I started to share the information about screening and when to get screened, at least 12 people told me my story was the reason they got screened. At least five of those people had non-cancerous polyps removed.
If I can save one life through all of this, then it is all worth it to me. I firmly believe that I am going to be here for a long time, and cancer is not going to be the thing that takes me out.
From Fight Colorectal Cancer: Colon cancer and rectal cancer can be prevented with screening. Screening can also detect colorectal cancer early – when it’s most curable. Learn more at FightCRC.org/screening.
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