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Patient Story: Stephen

Patient Story: Stephen

My name is Stephen. Thank you for allowing me to tell you my story.

Up until January 10th of last year, I was feeling just fine. I was a 29-year-old self-employed General Contractor married to my beautiful wife Angela with our two beautiful daughters; Skylar who was turning 6 and Sloan who was turning 2 at the time. We were excited for what the New Year was going to bring.

During the holiday period, when I was just so stressed with my workload and scheduling, I remember how my good friend Eric looked at me on New Year’s Day and gave me the gears about going to my doctor, because I was still having daily and constant abdominal pains, losing too much weight and I was always tired. Both Eric and my stepmother, who is a paramedic, had given me the “go to your doctor, ask for a colonoscopy” speech over the past year. Of course, what did I do? I carried on with life as usual, because when you are 29, nothing can stop you. My symptoms continued and the rest of the year was difficult for me, but I just kept living with pain, because everyone else came first.

On January 10th I returned home in the evening, and I was beat from hard day. I remember telling Ange that, that was it, I was going to go to the emergency the next day because the pain was killing me, and I had to get this sorted out. Later, I felt a sudden burst of pain hit me like nothing I had ever felt before. I thought I was having a heart attack. Ange was getting ready to go to work and I ran outside to tell her. She knew something was wrong, and me, being me, I said don’t call the ambulance, it will subside, but it did not.

I ended up in the emergency room 24 hours earlier than I planned. After waiting a couple of hours to see a doctor, they immediately took me for a CT scan. Afterwards, they told me “there is a mass in your colon and you are going to have to stay for a few days so that we can run some tests and get you a colonoscopy”.

On the 13th, I had a nice jug of Peglyte which was an experience that I will never forget. The 14th was the big day. My first colonoscopy, was about 30 years premature, or so I thought, based on what every other “old timer” had told me.

What happens now? Am I going to die? Holy crap, I don’t have insurance, what the hell am I going to do? Who is going to look after Angela and the girls? You may have been in my shoes or know someone who has been. There are so many questions, but there are also answers. I met my surgeon that day and he gave me the run down.

After the surgery, I was told that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and I had stage 3 advanced colon cancer. Having done some research about my disease, my good friends Debbie and Michael told me about Bunnie Schwartz from Colorectal Cancer Canada. Bunnie was there for me from the moment I picked up the phone and called her. She still contacts me every week to make sure that I’m OK and we go for lunch when we can.

I was not up for chemotherapy, but I knew I had to go through it. My biggest influencers were the ones who didn’t say anything at all to me, my daughters. My wife supported me whether I chose the natural or medical route, but I knew if I didn’t try chemo it would be hard for me to let them live with the fact that I didn’t try to do everything that I possibly could to stay alive for them.

Yes, I have days where I don’t think I am going to make it another day, but my wife and my girls keep me fighting so I can move forward. I would not be here without Angela. She’s stuck with me through some of the darkest times in my life. She has seen the darkest corners of who I am, and she has lived up to the vows to me that she undertook even before we were married. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. Well, I hope the last part will be a long time from now, but so far, she’s nailed it.

I am still receiving treatments during Covid-19, and my doctors and I remain optimistic that I will have a good outcome. Colon cancer is not an “old persons” cancer. I am proof that it can happen to you no matter your age. You are never too young to be struck by this horrific disease. Please encourage someone you know, old or especially young, that if they have any concerns, they should not ignore them and they should consult their doctor.

If caught early we know that colorectal cancer can be beat. Let’s beat it together by educating others on the risks and symptoms. We are all in this together, whether we like it or not.

Thank you Bunnie and CCC, you were and continue to be there for me during these darkest of times. Please be as generous as you can so that Bunnie and the entire patient support team at CCC can continue to help support more patients who need a helping hand to cope with the physical and emotional toll that colorectal cancer can have on their lives and that of their family members as well.

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