Age at Diagnosis: 42
On December 2, 2014, I went for my annual physical. I was feeling to be in perfect health, no issues whatsoever. During the exam my doctor found microscopic traces of blood after doing a rectal exam to check my prostate, which all men over 40 dread. The doctor said the finding was probably nothing but referred me to a GI doctor for further investigation.
I blew off making the follow up appointment for a few weeks until I just happened to stumble across the paper with the GI doc’s info on my generally messy office desk where it could have easily gotten lost and the referral forgotten. I went to see the GI doc in early January, he concurred with my primary care doctor’s opinion that it was probably nothing based on my young age but recommended we schedule a colonoscopy just in case.
A few weeks later (5 days after my 42nd birthday), I got scoped… when I awoke from anesthesia the doctor informed me that he found a 2.5cm tumor in my rectum. Obviously, this news hit me and my wife like a ton of bricks. The day of the diagnosis still seems likes a dream in my memory. I remember feeling like it can’t be real. Although a CT scan I had later that day revealed an enlarged lymph node, it showed no spread to my vital organs. My diagnosis was classified as Stage IIIB rectal cancer.
The anticipation of treatment came with a lot of fear and uncertainty. I worried not only about how it would affect me, but I had concerns for how my family would handle it. My kids were 4 and 7 at the time, and while we felt it was important for them to know the truth, their daddy had cancer; we wanted to be careful not to scare them. I worried about how my business would function without me, as I run a small software company and play a large role in the day-to-day management responsibilities.
Treatment itself was challenging, but I suffered no complications and managed to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy relatively well. I was lucky that I had a great response to chemotherapy and was therefore able to avoid radiation. I never really felt like a cancer patient except for maybe on a handful of days.
Surgery brought some adjustments to the new anatomical structure of my GI tract, but again I was lucky to avoid needing “a bag” and for the most part function returned to normal.
Looking back on my cancer journey I don’t consider myself to have been unlucky for having developed this disease, but rather I consider myself very fortunate for having found it relatively early, for having responded well to treatment and for being on the road to full recovery.
I was lucky to have such supportive and loving family and wife who took amazing care of me through all stages of my treatment. I also feel lucky to have made some amazing friends who are my peers in this journey and have greatly enriched my life.
I think everyone who goes through the journey comes out stronger and with a better perspective on life than when they went into it.