My name is Philip; I’m a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend and a 51 year old stage 4 colon cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in November, 2008 with stage 3 Colon Cancer. My cancer treatment is being coordinated by the team of skilled professionals with over a hundred years of experience at the John Stoddard Cancer Center.
My initial journey started with a routine Colonoscopy. I say routine, because I was not educated to know that I had signs of colon cancer, before I went in for the procedure. The news was shocking and I found myself sitting in my surgeon’s office that afternoon to discuss surgery that would happen 4 days later. After my surgery, I laid in my hospital bed wondering what laid ahead for me & my family. Am I going to live or Die? You feel as if you are on the borderline of depression while trying to cling to hope. There were nights in the hospital, when it was quite, all visitors had gone for the day, my wife sleeping in the cot next to my bed, I would break down and cry.
I decided that I wasn’t going to drown in doom and gloom and slip into depression, I was going to take a proactively approach with a mindset that would be positive to my healing. I wanted to be a husband and grow old with my wife. I wanted to be a dad, see my daughters wed & have some grandkids. There were many other things in life that I want to do and will do. I convinced myself that my life has meaning and purpose. In this situation, sometimes it’s easy for you lose sight of the things that are dear to us and dwell on things that can eventually bring us down and lead to our demise. I kept saying that I was going to control what I could control and not worry about what I can’t control. For example, I couldn’t control the surgery or the treatment, that’s the responsibility of the professionals, but my mind & body is my job. Having a great support system in place had a positive impact and helped me stay focus to the task at hand.
During the initial rounds from my Dr’s, they explained the team approach that they would use for my treatment and outlined my roadmap for radiation and chemotherapy. I felt completely confident in this approach and thought that this would give me the best chance of beating my cancer. I still feel the same way today.
I knew my wife and I could get through this together. We just needed to keep our minds and body focused and I didn’t really need or want any help from outside sources other than family and friends. What are these outside sources going to tell me or do for me? They can’t make the cancer go away. I kept saying to myself that my life had meaning and purpose, there is a lot that I still have to do and we would get through this without their help.
Day 1 of finding out that I had stage 3 Colon Cancer, an angel entered my life! My cancer care coordinator stopped in my hospital room, to tell me what her role would be in my recovery. I really felt like I did not need her help, we could do this on our own. She came to visit daily while I was hospitalized, in which I finally realized that she was not going away!! She was bound determined to help me. The concern and compassion that she had for me and my family was growing on us every day. It took awhile for me to personally admit that I did need her help and realized very quickly that her skills, talents and her love was going to play a pivotal role in my quest to fight this disease. Through her efforts with the Colon Cancer Support Group, I now have a second family, a “Cancer Family” if you will. A family made up of survivors and their loved ones. Each person in the Support group is an inspiration of hope to me.
This past November, I had my 2 year check-up. The CT scan showed 2 spots on my lungs. We decided to wait and do another CT scan in 3 months only to find out that 2 spots were now 3 and the largest had doubled in size. I had a lung biopsy on March 10th only to have my oncologist reluctantly deliver the news we did not want to hear - I now had Stage 4 colon cancer. The average person life expectancy with stage 4 colon cancer is 18 months to 2 years with the treatment of Chemotherapy. This news was hard to comprehend, because I am feeling fantastic, and possible in the best shape of my life. I am determined that I will beat all odds with the help of our support system!
Our support system consists of family and friends. We are blessed to have a close family to depend on. We also have a special circle of friends in our life, but we do not consider them friends, because they are family!
My wife and I will celebrate our 27th anniversary this year. She is my care provider through this journey. Being a care provider perhaps is equally as tough as having the disease itself. I have seen strength in her that I didn’t even know she possessed. She inspires me daily, and kicks my …. as needed. Our support system is just as important to her as it is me. I know there were days the past weeks, since finding out that the colon cancer had spread to my lungs that she just wants to scream. Our support family has been there to supply tissues, dry eyes, and give a strong shoulder for her to lean on!
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. I want to remind people of some statistics of this disease: Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States; approximately 142,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and approximately 53,000 people in the United States died from colorectal cancer.
Everyone needs to learn the signs of colon cancer – listen to your bodies if you are not sure – call your Dr. If you see the signs…you are too late. This disease is seeking out younger & younger adults as each year. So the need for screening is vital for a long and healthy life. The first sign is “NO SIGN”! Please schedule a colonoscopy today, it just might save your life.