Hello everyone, my name is Doug Dallmann, I’m a Patton Attorney, and I stay in the United States of America. I was 40 years old when I was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. This news was a complete surprise as it went undiagnosed by nurses and health professionals, and they thought it could be something else. I was utterly shocked to know that I had a tumor during my annual test at 40.
I had gone through treatment for a year, and I went through radiation and Chemotherapy for a month and a half before Surgery. After a month and a half, I had a major surgery, and my tumor was removed. I also had to go through some post-surgery chemotherapy, which lasted about a year. I was occupied with myself getting treated for cancer, from January to December 2010, and to be honest, it was not easy.
I was always an active and healthy guy apart from cancer, and this has helped me get back in proper shape in no time. Everyone becomes a fighter when they face such circumstances. Five years down the line, after being diagnosed with cancer, I gave it my all and got back in shape to participate in a physique competition. I followed a strict diet and trained heavily to accomplish my goal, which was to overcome cancer. I also wanted to spread out a message that cancer is not an excuse to stop doing what you were going to do.
I always tell people who have been newly diagnosed with cancer to write down the things they want to do in life and get out to accomplish those milestones. Cancer is not an excuse to sit at home and stop enjoying life. In 2018, I packed my bags and went outdoors to the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2500 miles trail from Mexico to Canada. I got 900 miles through it before my body gave up, but anyways it was a fantastic experience. After that, I got pretty involved in the Colon Club, which is an American based colorectal cancer group that gives out calendars every year with young cancer survivors on it, and I was on it too in the 2013 edition. The Colon Club now makes magazines with the same 12 cancer survivors and encourages them to share their stories to inspire other cancer patients worldwide.
The Chemotherapy I had gone through post my Surgery was a pretty basic 5FU radiation to my pelvic region. There wasn’t much of a side effect until the wearing under treatment, a 30-45 days course of chemotherapy, and radiation. I had some fatigue, some soreness, and a burning sensation in that region because of the painful radiation. So I rested and gave my body some time between the chemo and radian before Surgery. After the surgery, which was a significant thing for me and was quite painful as well, which is why we gave a break and later started full chemo.
I was on a three-week cycle, and I had a lot of fatigue, making it difficult for me to go through. I had to go in for fusion and then take pills for two weeks, and then I had a week off that I used to recover before the next round started. I felt a bit nervous before the next round started and had always counted days for my treatment to end. The only known side effects of those chemo sessions were loss of Fatigue and energy. However, I was not as good to get back in shape and had to wait for the Chemotherapy to end to get physically active again.
My role as a caregiver
A few years ago, I met Sarah, who also had colorectal cancer, and at the time, she was on stage 4. She passed away last month, but I have been her primary caregiver since January, so I eventually got to know more from not only a cancer patient’s point of view but also from a primary caregiver’s point of view as well. I feel incredibly honored to take care of someone in their final month. It was a difficult job, and being a cancer patient myself, I could relate to her in a way, definitely not her mental thinking, though.
Sarah used to teach mothers with cancer on how to take care of their children even if they had cancer. She used to say that you can be a parent from wherever you are, you can be a parent on a coach and watch movies with your kids. You can be a parent from the infusion room, and you do what you can and live the best life.
Taking care of her and her two sons were challenging, especially with a pandemic going around the world right now. It was a tough predicament to be a primary caregiver amid the COVID-19 epidemic. Being a primary caregiver is not a joke, and you need to be in command of a lot of things. Sarah was going through the same Chemotherapy that I went through, which made me sympathize a lot more. I could understand what she was going through.
Sarah used to teach mothers with cancer on how to take care of their children even if they had cancer. She used to say that you can be a parent from wherever you are, you can be a parent on a coach and watch movies with your kids. You can be a parent from the infusion room, you do what you can and live the best life that you can.
Taking care of her and her two sons was a challenging task especially with a pandemic going around the world right now. It was a tough predicament to be a primary caregiver amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Being a primary caregiver is not a joke and you need to be in command of a lot of things. Sarah was going through the same Chemotherapy that I went through, and that made me sympathize a lot more. I could understand what she was going through.
Life before cancer
Before cancer, I had a lot of Anxiety because of work, and things weren’t going as I planned. But when I was diagnosed with cancer, I believe that it was a relief, as life became more simple and focused and the only thing I was worried about was surviving and making it through the day. After one year of treatment, you slowly try to re-inject yourself back into life, and my biggest fear is being dropped to the same rat race of life again, and I was kind of worried about my career too. Eventually, your life goes back to normal and you get caught up with where you had left. One thing I learned during my cancer was to give myself more time and take more advantage of opportunities to enjoy with my friends and family. It’s all about living your life at the moment, and you get to know what you want to do in life, and tomorrow is promised for nobody.
Life as a cancer patient
When I was going through cancer, I didn’t have a caregiver. I had my dogs, though, who were like emotional support for me then. Some people offered me support, and I took it whenever required. I drove myself to chemo and radiation. After Surgery I had my friends and family support me, but when their visits were over, I kind of took care of myself. I liked my alone time, and I wanted to sleep. I had a few people coming over to my place, getting me something to eat, and just sitting there to chat with me.
I did visit the support group at the hospital a few times before the Surgery and thought that it wasn’t for me, and after surgery, I went again and realized that I do need this. My physical recovery was quicker compared to my mental and emotional healing. It took me years to be comfortable with that, and going to that support group had helped. The weekend I flew for the calendar photoshoot was incredibly healing for me. Sharing experiences with 11 other people was a wonderful feeling.
Involvement in the Colon Cancer community
I have been involved in the Colon Cancer community for several years now, and I have seen many younger people who died due to cancer. I feel sad for them as they did not get to do what they planned for, and that is why I grab any opportunity that comes my way. I always seek to enjoy my time and give myself some quality time to do stuff I always wanted to do.
In 2017, my work wasn’t going as I planned, and I decided to quit to head out for the Pacific Crest Trail. Quitting my job has allowed me to spend some quality time with my family and friends, which is more important. Going through cancer had made me realize that the smaller things in life matter a lot. I have a much better job now, and I am where I want to be, and things are pretty good. Cancer gave me the courage to live and the wisdom that life is short.
I have seen many people who have a fear for whatever reason and have a negative attitude. I get it that when you get diagnosed, your life can turn upside down, and a lot of fear can come out of ascertaining. Getting your doubts cleared by medical professionals can be helpful. It’s tough for other people to stay around a cancer patient because they need to give them the motivation and support they would require to get healthier again. There are some types of people who like to grab attention and use their cancer to do that. Having a negative attitude won’t help you in your journey, while a positive mindset is important can do wonders to your body and how you look at things in the world.
The statistics say that 15 out of 100 people who have stage 4 cancer can live with it for about five years, so there is a chance that you are among those 15. There are some exceptional cases like Sarah. She survived with stage 4 cancer for over nine years. You just need to find the positivity out there and have a will power to live. You should be making the best of the time you are left with, create memories, and cherish the small things in life.
My first scan after surgery, I had no evidence of the disease, which was a relief. You don’t realize how stressed out you are until after you get the report. It’s tough to let go of the security blanket, and you are scared that cancer might come back. I would tell people that don’t let cancer stop you from living your life. Allow yourself to do the things you planned for and do not hold back. If you are newly diagnosed, it will be a long journey, and it is a chronic thing, but you should do what you can and make the best of the situation.
Try to live your best life even under those circumstances. Don’t let your cancer overwhelm you. You can’t just roll in a ball and sit in a corner. I am thankful to everyone who has helped me along the way. I’m grateful to the health care team, the cancer center, the surgeons and the nutritionists, the oncologists, and the whole community that I met over the years.