Here's my Readers Digest version of my story:
In the beginning of June 2011, I was on my way to a blind date. Feeling rather hungry and a little lightheaded, I stopped at the local hotdog joint to grab something to eat. When I was halfway through the hotdog, my stomach became really upset. I thought, “It must just be a case of food poisoning. Right?” But when the dizziness, fevers and sweats persisted throughout the month, my doctor (who monitored me closely that month) sent me to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy.
The colonoscopy was painless. I was put under anesthesia and even after the drug wore off, I suffered no lingering pain. I’d have to say the most painful thing about a colonoscopy is the night before, when you have to drink an unpleasant-tasting liquid to clean you out. My advice: don’t plan on going anywhere when you drink this colonoscopy prep drink. You will need to be close to a toilet. One saving grace that got me through the preparation and the colonoscopy itself is that you get to eat whatever you want after the procedure. So afterwards, I ate a big stack of pancakes at the local diner while I discussed what was ahead for me.
After the colonoscopy, the doctor pulled me and my father into his office to go over my results. It was there I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. The doctor had already set up a date for the surgery I would need to have – only five days later! (Side note – apparently that hot dog probably saved my life. The surgeon said it was the hotdog that triggered something and told me there was a foreign substance in my body.)
After a successful surgery, the plan was for me to start chemo. Unfortunately, I developed a fistula in the beginning of August, so we had to postpone the chemo until that healed. For the month of August, I was laid up on my couch and being feed through a PICC line.And I tell ya, you never realize how many food commercials are on the TV until you can't eat.
But the surprises didn’t end there. After the fistula healed, it was time to start the chemo. The chemo was going to be 20 treatments, all which included Fluorouracil (5-FU). But within weeks, I began experiencing strange, stroke-like symptoms. According to my oncologist, I had developed a one-in-a-million allergic reaction to the 5-FU. I was immediately taken off the chemo and placed in the hospital for observation. After my allergy was identified, I switched drugs and restarted chemo. What a rollercoaster.
I finally finished up my chemo in April 2012. The chemo was very rough but I’m so happy to come out on the other side. I’m feeling so much better and even plan on running the 2013 New York City Marathon. I realize I'm not out of the woods just yet, but I’m very grateful that I can get back my normal, everyday activities.
I have urged my family members and friends to get tested immediately, as you don’t need to be 50 years old (the recommended age) to get your first colonoscopy. After seeing what I have gone through, I’m happy to say that they’ve all been tested. As a matter of fact, some precancerous polyps were found and removed during my younger brother’s procedure. He’s very grateful for this early detection, as he has a wife and two young boys.
P.S. The date went great. We even went out on a second date but unfortunately could not go forward due to my being diagnosed.
Chris McNamara, 49
Red Bank, NJ