In 2004, Jason's father passed away after a six-year battle with colon cancer. After taking care of his dad during his last six months, Jason swore he would get checked so he never had to experience what his dad had. The team at Johns Hopkins told Jason it was a genetic mutation and to get screened before his mid-30s -- advice he knew he had to take as soon as possible.
I tried to schedule a colonoscopy starting at age 29 but health insurance at the time would not cover it, as I wasn’t yet 50. After I moved to a new job and my health coverage changed, I immediately scheduled the screening. After the colonoscopy, I was told I had a spot and the gastroenterologist was sending it through to see if it was cancer.
That was on a Friday, making for the longest weekend in the world. I couldn’t escape the fear. On Monday, I went in and was told I had cancer. We scheduled the surgery for two days after my 32nd birthday -- what a birthday present!
Dealing with a Diagnosis
I was shocked. I had no symptoms! What would have happened if I had waited? The first thing I remember when I learned it was cancer was my denial. For a week I was unfazed; I thought it was a bad dream. But it wasn’t. Never in my life have I shed so many tears of depression, sadness and fear. There is still so much emotion behind me when I go through all of this -- tears of joy and happiness but also of worry. What if I have to go through this again?
Having no money coming in, the situation was very hard financially; I saw my family join together to help me, which was very sweet. Right after my first treatment, I was cleared to go back to work from my doctor. Unfortunately, my company didn’t want to give me the days I would need off for treatment and I was terminated – along with my health insurance. Through the state, I was able to find a program to help pay for the chemotherapy. I’m honestly not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t found out about this program or hadn’t qualified.
The Importance of Support
My mother was there to support me through every treatment; after losing her husband to this cancer, she was completely stressed watching me now go through this. My wife is my biggest support; I truly don’t know what I would have done without her during that time – I needed her shoulder to cry on every night.
Now that I’m on the other side, I’ve learned how to truly enjoy life. I relish everyday with my wife and two girls and work part-time back in my old career. I find working therapeutic for my mind; I’m also going to college, so I keep myself busy.
On Screening & Awareness
I always try to share my story with people and encourage others to get checked, especially those with family history, because the test will save your life. I had stage III colon cancer with no symptoms, and if I hadn’t gotten checked due to my family history, I might not be here today.
I think in the United States, we need to be more aware of how people under 50 are becoming colon cancer patients. People, even doctors and insurance companies, feel colon cancer in the younger groups is a myth, which is really frustrating for young patients and survivors like me.
To those recently diagnosed: Stay strong. You cannot fight this battle on your own – you need the ones close to you to encourage you. Don’t let this disease get the best of you – be as strong as a bull and never give up.
Jason Spohn, 33
One year cancer-free
Learn more about our recently-launched, international Never Too Young campaign at www.nevertooyoung.org, and read more stories like Jason's.