My name is Mark Fleming, and I have colon cancer.
For the past 12+ years I’ve been struggling with Ulcerative Colitis, and getting colon cancer was an eventuality that I never wanted to happen, but which was always in the back of my mind as a possibility. I had a colonoscopy in January 2014 that presented some results which worried my doctor, but because I was so inflamed, he couldn’t come to any definitive conclusions. I had a followup colonoscopy in August 2014, and it was confirmed – malignant cancer cells were found in my colon. The only real, viable treatment was a complete abdominal coloectomy with ileostomy. In layman terms – take out my entire colon and leave me with a stoma and an ileostomy bag.
This particular operation was recommended to me about 10 years with one of the first doctors I found when I started dealing with my condition. I totally blew that off as a possible treatment because we hadn’t tried anything else yet, and there was no way I was going to wear a colostomy bag if I could avoid it! So, we started off an a regimen of drugs over the next many years that never really brought me any relief, and which may have done more damage than good. But, in my mind, we had to give them a shot before surgery was a viable option.
In 2005 (I believe), as I was sitting in bed one weekend dealing with a particularly bad flare up, I decided that enough was enough, and that I needed God’s help to deal with everything. I accepted Jesus as my savior, turned my life over to God, and LITERALLY immediately felt better. I truly mean that – there was a definitive change in how I felt for the better, and it happened right away. I wasn’t healed or anything like that, but something for sure was different.
Flash forward to December 2013 and a particularly nasty sinus infection. I got some antibiotics to deal with it, and that kicked off a super bad flare up which confined me to bed for my entire holiday vacation. I lost about 30 pounds in less than a month, and my GI doctor made me get a colonoscopy in January. What he saw was not encouraging – more inflammation than he had ever seen before, and a suggestion of dysplasia, which is essentially precancerous growth. He wanted a followup colonoscopy in 6 months.
Six months later I got the colonoscopy, and received the news that I had colon cancer. He was concerned enough about the growth that he recommended I get surgery as soon as possible. The amazing thing for me was that I was OK with that option. Not that I really wanted it or anything, but I was now in a place to be able to deal with the notion of living my life with an ostomy bag, and, of course, the presence of cancer gave me sufficient motivation to get things rolling. I was simply tired of fighting my condition with drugs and diet changes, and was ready to move onto a more permanent solution. So, I hooked up with an absolutely amazing surgeon, Dr. Stefanie Schluender
Immediately following my transfer from post-op to my room I was up and walking, greeting all my amazing friends who had been at the hospital during my surgery. Three days later, I was discharged and attending a JV football game at Ironwood Ridge. That was a day earlier than my goal for leaving!
Fast forward to today, and I’m three weeks into my recovery. I have more energy than I know what to do with, and am itching to get back to normal activities. I’ve hooked up with a seriously amazing oncologist, Dr. Richard Rosenberg, who has spent an incredible amount of time talking with Michelle and I about my cancer specifics, treatment, and life going forward. I feel very blessed to have this man as my doctor. We’ve decided on a chemotherapy treatment of Folfox in order to get any undetectable cancer that remains in my body. My most recent PET scan shows NO CANCER in my body, to which I am indebted to Dr. Schluender for her amazing surgery skills.
Chemo starts on October 20th. I have my Power Port (portacath) installed (again, Dr. Schluender!), and am just finishing up healing from my first surgery before we can get started. Dr. Rosenberg is highly confident that this treatment will kill anything that hasn’t been detected. I believe him, and will be praying for that.
It’s been a crazy September for the Fleming family. There is NO way I could have gotten through this without God, and without the thoughts and prayers of so many friends, family, and loved ones. The support people showed me is absolutely amazing, and I am forever grateful for it. This life event has shown me so much about faith, family, friends, and attitude. I’ll never forget the lessons I have learned this month.
Lots more to say, but I’ll save it for blog posts. This is my story…I hope you find something useful from it!