I was diagnosed with stage II colon cancer (T3N0M0) on August 31, 1999, at the age of 44. I had missed all the warning signs. I had two uncles, one aunt and a cousin who all had colon cancer, and yet I never made the connection. I also had neglected to have a regular full physical for over seven years.
After two months of increasing abdominal pain and numerous visits to the doctor, I was finally referred to a gastroenterologist. After he heard about my family history and administered a fecal occult blood stool test, he decided to perform a colonoscopy on me. I fully expected him to find nothing. He had put me out during the procedure and when I came to he asked the nurse to bring my wife into the room. He told us he had found a polyp that had become cancerous and that, although he had not taken a biopsy yet, he knew from experience what it was. Even though I was groggy from the procedure, the impact of his statement will live with me for the rest of my life. My first rational thought was, oh my God, I am not going to grow old with my wife and I am not going to see my daughter grow up. Everything else that I had ever worried about or had as a goal no longer mattered. This was my life we were talking about.
I had surgery -- a colon resection -- almost immediately, in fact the next day. After surgery, the surgeon said he saw no visible sign of metastases and several days later my lymph nodes were found to be negative. Based on the recommendations of all my doctor, I agreed to undergo six months of chemotherapy with 5FU and leukovorin. I was going to do whatever I could to make sure I would be another cancer survivor but I was worried about the side effects; would I lose my hair? Could I still have sex with my wife? Would I be able to function normally? The treatments were hard but I kept thinking that I was killing all the cancer cells that were left in my body. Well, I survived the treatments and have survived cancer as well.
I found the CCA during my recovery as I searched for any info I could find on my disease and its treatment. I knew next to nothing about colon cancer and was hungry for everything I could learn. The CCA website and then the people I came into contact with convinced me that I wanted to help anyone else who was going through this experience. I am always sure my buddies are aware I am not an expert and medical advice needs to come from their doctor. I can, however, respond to their concerns about the all of the personal impacts and experiences of colon cancer, from chemo side effects to relating to their family and friends. I have even been a Buddy for a caregiver to help him better understand what the person affected is going through. I have continued to be a Buddy for a number of years now. I find it to be uniquely rewarding and it keeps me in touch with the life-changing experience of being diagnosed with cancer. I feel very fortunate to be a survivor and to have the opportunity to help others in any way I can.