On the weekend of February 19, I will be competing in my first CrossFit competition as well as running the Austin Half Marathon. I will be doing this to raise money to fund research led by Dr. Anna Capasso at the Livestrong Cancer Institutes at Dell Medical School and UT Health Austin. Granted, all that exercise in one weekend may seem like a wild idea, but it certainly beats a boring couple of days on the sofa!
July 4, 2019 will forever be a momentous date in my life. It was a day that would change my life forever: the day I found out I had cancer.
Rewinding a bit — I had spent around 4 weeks prior to my diagnosis suffering from severe constipation and stomach pains. After two visits to the doctor (and a few healthy rounds of laxatives) I still found myself constipated and uncomfortable. Following an intense 36-hour period of no sleep and 8 days of no bowel movement, I shipped myself off to urgent care. It was here that my adventure began: facing cancer in a world restricted by COVID-19.
A CT scan confirmed my suspicions. A mass was found in my sigmoid colon, and just like that I found myself in a hospital bed. There were many emotions and thoughts running through my mind, but I knew that a cool head would get me through. I dug deep and awaited my prognosis.
The next day, after a host of scans and being subjected to multiple probes, I was given a stage 3 colon cancer diagnosis. What fun, I thought to myself, not exactly what a 28-year-old man was expecting to hear. For the record, it had first started growing from the age of 12. Crazy to think it had been inside me all this time.
Action stations were called and I underwent surgery to remove this dastardly tumor. My procedure was a success — they removed a tumor the size of a golf ball, 15 cancerous lymph nodes and a few inches of colon. I am left with some very trendy battle scars as a reminder. The next 5 days were spent recovering in hospital before I was released on Friday, July 10. What a wild 6 days life had thrown at me!
I spent the next two months letting my body heal. A lot of small walks, reflection and giving my friends and family regular updates. Once this was over, it was time to embark on the next stage of treatment: the dreaded chemotherapy. I underwent 12 rounds in 6 months, and it could not have finished sooner. It was awful — living in a cycle of feeling rotten and then just when you feel back to your usual self, WHAM, back on the drugs you go. Thankfully I knew where the finish line was so I kept my head down and cracked on. I counted the days until March 2020 — chemo, round 12 — the light at the end of the tunnel. What a day that was, to be done with the most taxing part of the process to date.
And now, here we are. Life in remission is relatively normal except for the routine colonoscopy, scans and blood tests. A small price to pay in my eyes. With the bulk of the cancer treatment now over it feels like time to really get on with life once more and make up for the time I have missed.
So, why the fundraiser or challenge you ask? Well, prior to going through all this nonsense I used to enjoy throwing myself at physical challenges to raise money for a charity or cause. This time is no different, and it coincides roughly with a year since finishing chemo. On February 19, I will be captaining a team of 6 in my first CrossFit competition. The following day I will be running the Austin Half Marathon. I am beyond excited to be taking part in both events, it has provided me with some well-needed focus and goals for the start of 2022.
All donations will support Dr. Capasso and her team’s colorectal cancer research. They have been utterly sensational and professional throughout my cancer journey. If it wasn’t for the excellent care, support and treatment provided by my team at UT Health Austin, this whole saga would have been far more of a struggle. It is a testament to them that this journey has been a success. Gifts of any size are highly appreciated.
Colorectal cancer is on the rise in young people, and it is something we should all be aware of and take seriously. I would encourage all of my peers to undergo screenings and tests to prevent this from happening to you. Trust me, it’s no fun.