You may have noticed many people wearing royal blue outfits on Friday ,March 6. It was officially "Wear Blue Day" to support and bring awareness for colon cancer. In fact, March has been set aside as Colon Cancer Awareness Month, which is why I am writing you today.
In 2014, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 36. To say my family and I were shocked is an understatement. I was practicing dentistry at the time and stayed very active playing golf, basketball, running, and strength training. However, while everything appeared "normal" on the outside, a tumor was growing out of control on the inside.
I made an appointment with a local gastroenterologist, Dr. Rad Yates, and explained to him what was going on, and he immediately scheduled me for a colonoscopy. I received the phone call in June 2014 confirming our worst fears that I had cancer, and I was devastated. My mind immediately went to some very dark places. I enjoyed being a dentist, but I loved being a dad more, and the thought of not being here for my wife, Kelli, daughter, Katelyn, and sons, Grant and Griffin, was extremely heartbreaking.
In the song, "Closer to Love," Matt Kearney sings "I guess we're all one phone call from our knees.” I went through three rounds of treatment, which took almost one full year to complete. These treatments included radiation and chemotherapy treatments (both oral and IV). The surgical phase was extremely difficult because I had multiple hospital stays due to continued post-surgical complications, while at the same time having to learn how to deal with my brand new permanent ostomy. I struggled not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.
I feel like I am a walking miracle and am so very thankful to be here today. I was extremely blessed with an amazing team of physicians from Tennessee Oncology (oncologist and radiation oncologist), CHI Memorial (Surgical Oncologist and Wound Care), and the Galen Gastroenterology team.
I also would not be here without support of so many friends, family, our faith family, and fellow dentists. I will never be able to thank them enough for how they provided for me and my family.
I hope you will learn from my mistakes. Looking back, I experienced bright red blood in my stools off and on years before my diagnosis, but I dismissed this as hemorrhoids or fissures due to my age. I was wrong! Please don't ignore your symptoms, which are as follows, according to cancer coalition:
Change in bowel habits, including diarrhea for more than three days or constipation more than two weeks
Change in the color or shape of the stool
Rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, or in the toilet after having a bowel movement
Stomach discomfort or cramping, including a continual feeling of discomfort or urge to have a bowel movement
Fatigue or weakness, unexplained weight loss, anemia
One of the scary statistics that is becoming more prevalent is that one in five people will be diagnosed before the age of 54. I leave you with this heart wrenching final statistic: nine out of 10 patients will survive five plus years when colon cancer is caught in early (localized) stages. But only one in 10 will reach the five year mark when the disease is diagnosed in late stages."
Colonoscopies are not bad and they save lives, so I urge to get screened today if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
God Bless and Keep Smiling,