Patient Story: Haydn
Hi, my name is Haydn Bechthold and I’m a 22-year-old who is currently fighting stage III colorectal cancer. Prior to my diagnosis I was pursuing a career in professional soccer while I continued my post-graduate studies. In my soccer career so far, I’ve had the chance to play for soccer teams in countries such as Spain, England, the United-States, Estonia, and Canada. I was also fortunate enough to balance my soccer career with post-secondary studies, as I received my BA in International Business Management from York St John University in 2020, and I was in the process of obtaining a MSc in International Business Management from the University of York before I took a break to focus on my treatment.
I first noticed symptoms in 2017. I was 18 years old, and I was living on my own in Florida while I attended school and played for the university soccer team. Concerned by the fact that I noticed blood in my stool, I called home to my family looking for reassurance and they scheduled me an appointment to see my family doctor for when I returned home to Canada in the summer. I went for my appointment and following the exam done by my doctor I was told that the bleeding was caused by hemorrhoids and I was prescribed medication for them. Even though there is a history of colorectal cancer in my family, I was told that a colonoscopy wouldn’t be needed as I was far too young and healthy to even consider that cancer was a possibility. So, I began taking the medication prescribed to me for hemorrhoids and moved on with my life, moving to Europe that same summer to pursue soccer at a higher level. However, my symptoms persisted and my check-ups with my doctor became a semi-annual ordeal. I would return home to Canada during my offseason in the summer and during the winter holidays which would give myself an opportunity to visit my doctor. He would do another rectal exam and then I would be prescribed more medication to treat hemorrhoids. This continued on until late 2020.
I had just moved to Spain in September 2020 and my symptoms began to worsen soon after. I noticed larger amounts of blood in my stool over the summer, so I prepared for my move by stocking up on my hemorrhoid medication, but in the months following my move to Spain I noticed my number of trips to the bathroom began to increase, severe pain in the affected area, a loss of appetite as well as my energy levels dropping. Due to an increase in Covid-19 cases in my region of Spain, my soccer season was postponed, and I returned home to wait for my season to recommence. This gave me the opportunity to visit my doctor once again in December, where exam was performed and was told that I should continue taking my hemorrhoid medication. As my symptoms were worsening and it was starting to affect my quality of life, I asked if there was further treatment which could provide a solution and I was told that if I continued to have issues that my doctor could have another look the next time I returned to Canada. My symptoms continued on into the new year and my soccer season continued to be postponed so I remained in Canada. Tired of listening to my complaining, my mother called a gastroenterologist and pushed for me to get an appointment which led to my first appointment with him in February 2021. Following my first meeting with the gastroenterologist, I was booked in for a flexible sigmoidoscopy days later.
March 1st, 2021 was the day my life changed. After awakening from my flexible sigmoidoscopy, I was brought into a private room and told that they found a tumour in my rectum which was likely cancer. Soon after my pathology report came in and I was diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer and subsequently Lynch syndrome. Obviously, this news was a huge shock to myself and my family, as we never thought that it was possible for a healthy 22-year-old to be diagnosed with what is commonly referred to as an “old man’s disease”, but I was kept busy by the number of tests and meetings with my oncology team that I had soon after my diagnosis. Within a few weeks I began treatment, and from then on, my energy and focus has gone towards beating this cancer.
As I continue my treatment, I have kept busy by furthering my knowledge of colorectal cancer and Lynch syndrome as well as joining a CCC support group which gives me the opportunity to hear the stories of other young people in Canada who have gone through or are going through colorectal cancer. With the help of my girlfriend, I also helped raise money through a virtual 5km run, which goes towards colorectal cancer screening in Canada. Even though I had already started my treatment, I was lucky enough be have been able to do the run.
Since my diagnosis my life has changed in a way I could never have imagined. As much as I would like to step back onto the soccer field and continue from where I left off, I have come to reflect on the most important things in my life. Once I am cancer free, I would like to pursue a path that could help me raise awareness towards and be an advocate of early age onset colorectal cancer, which I hope could help preserve the important things in other people’s lives as well.