It’s scary to hear the “c” word, especially when you’re only 36. A million questions ran through Gabriel Leblanc’s mind, but only one seemed to matter.
“How was I going to get through this?” Gabriel said.
In 2019, Gabriel began experiencing debilitating health problems. He had difficulty breathing, and simple exercises like walking up the stairs left him winded. He continued bringing his health concerns to his doctors, but they dismissed it as being related to his asthma.
Fast forward two years later and Gabriel was in the hospital receiving blood transfusions, scheduled for an emergency colonoscopy, and with anemia and hemoglobin so low the doctors thought he should be dead.
“My wife always mentions this because it was the day of her birthday when I ended up in the hospital. I don’t think either of us expected that outcome,” Gabriel said.
The results were life-changing for Gabriel. Over 100 polyps were found in his colon, and he was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer.
“I opted for a total colectomy surgery and was fortunate enough to avoid an ostomy,” Gabriel said. “I thought the worst was over, but I had no idea what was to come.”
The After Effects of Surgery & Finding the Alliance
After surgery, Gabriel was using the bathroom 40 or more times per day. He was second-guessing his surgery choice and contemplating getting an ostomy instead.
“That’s when the Alliance came into the picture,” Gabriel said. “I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff about to fall over when Stephanie, a patient navigator, helped to calm me down. She pointed me toward life-altering resources that gave me hope that things wouldn’t always be this way.”
Things happened so quickly for Gabriel that he wasn’t sure how to access help before he stumbled upon the Alliance.
“I’d researched and looked into other colon cancer groups, but none of them seemed as supportive or as helpful as the Alliance,” Gabriel said. “For the first time since my diagnosis, I felt like someone was really listening.”
Gabriel got tips about medications that would help with some of his symptoms, how to slow down digestion, and how to stay hydrated. Additionally, his patient navigator turned him on to the Alliance’s Facebook group, Blue Hope Nation.
“The Facebook group moderators are really great,” Gabriel said. “You get fantastic advice, especially when you don’t understand what is happening to your body or the kind of surgery you need. Every time I asked a question, I was met by a supportive community who would answer me back. It really helped me get through some of the most difficult side effects, such as neuropathy, from chemo.”
Learning To Be Vulnerable