I had been an eight-year survivor of soft tissue sarcoma in my left arm. I went through several surgeries, painful skin grafts, and a hard year of chemotherapy and radiation only to feel a sudden rush of panic in 1998 when I first discovered some rectal bleeding. My oncologist immediately sent me for a sigmoidoscopy, which to my great relief showed several benign polyps that were then removed. I also received rectal and oral medication for the bleeding along with the assurance that there was nothing terrible going on.
During the following two years, the bleeding continued. After several colonoscopies, I was diagnosed with hemorrhoids and continued going about my business while wearing sanitary pads on a daily basis, always feeling confident in the health professional's knowledge and diagnosis. After the embarrassment of staining someone's furniture while being away for a weekend, my wife immediately called my doctor upon returning home and insisted that this was not acceptable. The relief I had enjoyed for the past two years was about to end, and a devastating reality would take its place.
I was diagnosed in 2000 with stage II colorectal cancer. Two years of symptoms led me to have no other choice but to undergo an irreversible colostomy. This permanent procedure might have been prevented had a correct diagnosis been made and treatment been started when my initial symptoms of this disease began. After completing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, I am grateful to say that I have remained cancer free and have been living a new lifestyle.
Since being involved in and facilitating several cancer support groups since 2001, I have seen too much pain, suffering, and loss from what could have been easily prevented if people were aware of early detection through preventative measures.
At age 69, I feel extremely blessed that I can still enjoy hiking weekly in the mountains, editing a local magazine, and serving on the advisory board of the Wellness Community of San Jose. Being a Voices volunteer for the past seven years has provided me with the opportunity to provide support for those affected with this disease and their caregivers as well. My most passionate mission, however, is to inform the public that most deaths from colon cancer can be prevented if everyone is screened.