Symptoms and diagnosis
I was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. I also have Crohn’s disease. So after performing a colonoscopy or a SIG flex, the doctor found a tumor in September 2020. When I first found out I had cancer, I used a few swear words. I have two young boys, a 13-year-old and a six-year-old, and a lovely wife. So, I thought of all the worst-case scenarios like what do I do to take care of them if I’m not successful on the journey. I had to do a lot of processing.
I did not try experimental types of cancer treatments but tried a different routine. The cancer cells were blasted with heavy doses of radiation and chemotherapy at the beginning. The idea was to not give cancer a chance to breathe. So I got oral and infusion chemotherapy along with the radiation.
The goal was to do surgery at the end of the completion of the treatment cycles. Unfortunately, because of prior situations with Crohn’s disease, the surgery was not going to be a viable option. I’m aware that it will come back and probably come back pretty bad. But the treatment plan that we utilised by the two doctors here in Indiana, Indianapolis, did a phenomenal job in our treatment plan. I didn’t try any alternative treatment but went a very traditional route with our treatment. We utilised oncologists in Indianapolis.
Support system throughout the journey
I’m very blessed to have a very understanding and lovely wife who has helped prop me up each step of this journey. She’s also a fellow educator. So I think we’ve kind of understood this process together. My extended family, my father, friends, and work colleagues were there for me. I was overwhelmed with the support of people who have come to our aid. People whom I meet on the internet, my school and grad friends. I am very blessed because I know some individuals don’t have all the support.
Experience with medical staff
I’m kind of a stubborn individual. So in the beginning, I didn’t have a great relationship with our doctors. Slowly, we saw eye to eye and were on the same page. The doctors evolved into really tremendous care. Our doctors, and our nurses, were and still continue to be fantastic.
Things that keep me motivated
There are lots of days when this journey is too much to handle. I think keeping faith helps. Whatever may be the faith if you should try to have faith if it becomes too overwhelming. I say cancer is relentless. It does not stop and keeps attacking. So, I utilised my support network to handle my situation and stay motivated.
Life changes and lessons learned
There have been several life changes. My old clothes don’t fit so you can say that cancer impacts your body. I have changed my diet to maintain my energy level. l have neuropathy which is kind of a bonus condition of the treatment.
The largest change is I don’t take things for granted anymore. I never thought I didn’t have time to get this task done. In fact, I thought that there was plenty of time to do this activity. Now, whether it’s an activity with our children or an activity with our family, I am more in tune with it. For instance, I have adopted two little puppies without any delay. Whatever the situation is or whatever the task is at hand, I am more willing to do it now because I understand that time is a pretty precious gift.
I think cancer has positively changed me. It changed my perspective. It’s allowed me to be more intentional about actions. So what are you going to do with your time? That’s what I tell people. My journey in one sentence would be understanding the obstacle, appreciating the adversity, and being thankful for the opportunity to attack cancer each day.
Side effects and overcoming the fear of treatment
The emotional impact of side effects or the treatment or learning that you have cancer varies from person to person. But with each treatment, whether it’s the chemotherapy or the radiation, there are unintended consequences. When the neuropathy hits and your fingers and feet tingle. I am overcome by thinking that those things remind you to be thankful for the pain because some don’t even have that opportunity. You get a little gunshot-like pain and start wondering if the cancer had spread. Then I reminded myself to trust my doctors. And also trust the data of my tests and scans.
Views on alternative treatments for cancers
I think you find what works for you. The plan utilised for one may not work for another. Medical professionals all around the globe are attacking this disease in their fashion. So whatever the style of treatment is for the alternative medicine, if it works for you, then utilise it to the best of your ability. There are different treatment plans to deal with the different kinds of cancers. Find the one that works for you. And don’t be afraid to say no. You have to be an advocate for yourself.
Message to other survivors and caregivers
My advice is that you’re going to be overwhelmed, especially at the beginning. And what I’d say is if that feeling of overwhelmingness continues, that’s okay. I think every reaction you have is okay for you. What I would tell you is you will be 100% successful in handling those worst days.
All of us have days that we don’t think we’re going to be able to get through. But we wake up and there’s another day. Some days the cancer is going to knock you down. Some days the treatment plan is going to knock you down, and some days you’re just going to rest. But that’s part of the victory plan. So on the days when you don’t think you are doing anything, your body is recovering and fighting cancer.