IN THEIR WORDS

Kris MacDonald

Colon Cancer

I was in the best shape of my life when I got the news that I had cancer. I worked out 6 days a week, was eating great and taking way too many supplements to achieve the perfect body. My priorities were a bit mixed up.

I had visited the doctor just three weeks before my diagnosis. I went for a knee injury that disrupted my fitness routines, but I never mentioned the stomach cramps that had plagued me for over three years. Almost every meal resulted in some level of pain, and all of them were followed by gas. That’s right, I farted a lot!

The colon tumor had been growing for what was estimated to be about 5 years. All those times I felt the cramps just below my rib cage was not because I had been working on my abs, it was because food was having a hard time getting past the tumor. That weight loss wasn’t just because I was working out at a new intensity, and the obnoxious fumes my body expelled weren’t because of my diet.

It’s not that I totally ignored these things. I was thrilled with the weight loss, but it really didn’t coincide with my eating more. The farts weren’t because I was eating chili everyday either. Those poops that came out like thin curly fries weren’t because of what I ate either, but who really thinks that could mean something. The cramps, excessive gas, weight loss and the shape of my poops were all actually telling me something. Those are all signs of colon cancer, but I was under 40 and in great shape. I always thought of colon cancer as being the fat 60-year-old disease that someone who didn’t eat well got.

I ignored those signs long enough for the diagnosis to be at stage IV. The cramps became unbearable one night and I finally made my way to the emergency room. The tumor was now beyond just slowing down my digestive tract, it was completely blocking it.

Before I went to the emergency room I checked the WebMD app on my phone, it gave two options after all of the questions. Appendicitis or colon cancer. Because I was young, I just assumed it was appendicitis. At the emergency room I was given a CT scan and told that it was cancer. A large tumor obstructing my colon along with tumors in my liver and one on each lung.

How was this possible when just a month before I had done a 100 plus mile bike ride for charity? Why didn’t my doctor catch this when I was in there just three weeks ago? Oh… probably because I didn’t mention the symptoms I had been experiencing.

The diagnosis changed how I handled doctor appointments: I no longer take a backseat, I take an active role. After the initial shock wore off, I came out swinging. I educated myself on my condition, asked for specific treatments, and told my doctors every detail. I became a partner in my healthcare that extended beyond time in the gym.

Looking back, and learning more as a result of my situation, I discovered a few things. I had several opportunities to catch this disease before it spread other organs. Catching colon cancer at stage I or II has extremely high success rates. Stage III even has some amazing chances. But stage IV has only a 13 percent chance of surviving five years! Speaking up about the symptoms you’re experiencing, even the embarrassing ones like farting too much, is crucial for early detection. Missed opportunities nearly cost me my life!

"Missed opportunities nearly cost me my life!"

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