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Gaston’s Story

April 2023

My story goes back to the start of 2000 when I made a radical life change. I decided to leave my urban life where I was running a small graphic design and advertising company. A 180-degree turn led me to go live in the forest in Haute Mauricie, Quebec and start a new life living among nature. The fact that I was in exceptional health at the time made things easier. Living in the great outdoors and working in a range of new jobs that included hunting, fishing, and construction allowed me to have many extraordinary experiences.

However, I had no idea what awaited me as I enjoyed the peace and quiet that life in the woods brought me. In 2019, on the advice of my wife, I agreed to talk to my family doctor to let him know that I sometimes noticed a little blood in my stool. He immediately sent me for a colonoscopy. Following this examination, in October, I was told that they had found a cancerous mass in my rectum but that I was lucky as it was localized and had not metastasized (spread to other parts of the body). We began the process of contacting oncologists specializing in chemotherapy and radiotherapy and a management plan was elaborated, which included numerous examinations and tests including CT scans, blood tests, and cardiograms.

My first treatment was surgery to remove the cancerous mass and create a temporary stoma to allow my large intestine to heal. Six months later, I had to undergo a second surgery to remove the stoma and reconnect my intestines. Unfortunately, I experienced intense pain in my rectum and had to undergo further surgeries. I underwent a trial of 80 hours in a hyperbaric chamber to address the pain which, unfortunately, did not yield good results. Only a permanent stoma was able to get rid of the pain for good. A further surgery was necessary to fix a hernia that had developed around the stoma site.

Despite all these surgeries and interventions, my motivation to continue developing my training programs in the hunting, fishing and wildlife sectors was unwavering even at 81 years old. Today, I am cancer-free and continue to teach wilderness survival courses. A strong spirit coupled with the perfect dose of humour has gotten me through some tough times. My advice to others affected by colorectal cancer is to never give up and take your illness one day at a time. I had the opportunity to be treated and followed by an extraordinary team of specialized doctors to whom I am most grateful.

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