A Message To The Men

This post is primarily for men. But, if you’re a woman, and there’s a man in your life that can benefit from the information here, by all means, please read on and share what you’re learned!

Let me cut to the chase – if you’re 50 or over, and haven’t yet had a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer…get off your butt (pun intended) this instant and make an appointment!

Let’s review some of the facts, according to the “Colorectal Facts and Figures : 2014-2016” paper published by the American Cancer Society:

  • Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer
  • Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States
  • The majority of these cancers and deaths could be prevented by applying existing knowledge about cancer prevention, increasing the use of recommended screening tests, and ensuring that all patients receive timely, standard treatment
  • in 2010 only 59% of people age 50 or older, for whom screening is recommended, reported having received colorectal cancer testing consistent with current guidelines
  • Arizona ranks 44th in percentage of men 50+ who get the recommended screening
  • Getting a colonoscopy is way easier than you think! Literally, the worst part about it is the prep, which requires you to be very near a bathroom for about 12 hours. Other than that…it’s a nice nap!

Now, let’s posit for a moment that you’re younger than 50, and thus aren’t in the group yet for which regular checkups are necessary. If you have any of the following signs or symptoms, you should immediately check with your doctor:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Seriously, guys (and gals)…if you have any of these symptoms, go see a doctor. They can also be related to many other things like infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease, each of which needs to be treated in it’s own right. Don’t pull the man card and disregard the symptoms…think about your family and go in and get it done!

Let’s take a few moments and talk about some risk factors for colorectal cancer, as outlined by the American Cancer Society. If any of these fit you…well, I think you get the idea by now:

  • More than 9 out of 10 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are 50 years or older
  • A diet that is high in red meats (such as beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (hot dogs and some luncheon meats) can increase colorectal cancer risk
  • If you are not physically active, you have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer
  • If you are very overweight, your risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer is increased
  • Long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from colorectal cancer
  • Colorectal cancer has been linked to the heavy use of alcohol
  • If you have a history of adenomatous polyps (adenomas) in the colon or rectum, you are at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer
  • If you have IBD (Inflammatory Bowl Disease), your risk of developing colorectal cancer is increased, and you may need to be screened for colorectal cancer more frequently
  • If your family has a history of colorectal cancer, or several other types of cancers or syndromes, there is an increased risk

So, what happens if you blow all this off and throw the proverbial dart? Well, you might have the following to deal with in your life:

  • Surgery – you may have your entire colon and rectum removed, or maybe just part of it
  • Colostomy – you may have your small intestine attached externally to your abdomen, requiring an ostomy bag. This could be temporary or permanent, depending on your situation.
  • Chemotherapy : you might have to endure a rigorous routine of injecting super poisonous drugs in your body to combat residual cancer cells
  • Radiation : you might have targeted radiation therapy to treat colorectal or associated cancers
  • Other : there are a few other things that are on the fringes, like targeted therapy, that might be called for, and are situation dependent

Dudes, let’s be straight up about this. You have a life, work, possibly a family, and keeping yourself healthy is important to all that. Yeah, the possibility of having to deal with the above stuff stinks, but it is possible to detect things early enough that you can have a positive impact on the outcome. If you’re predisposed to potential colorectal cancer because of something like Ulcerative Colitis, like was in my case, then it’s even more important that you have regular colonoscopies. My cancer grew super quick…from almost nothing to a 6 cm tumor in about 7 months…so getting screened is not something to dally on! Think it can’t happen to you? I have a friend, about 47 years old, who had no reason to think he had colon cancer. After all, he was below the 50 year mark, and was generally healthy. But then he started seeing blood in his bowel movements, and decided to have it checked out. The diagnosis was colon cancer. He was fortunately able to be treated with a colon resection (just removing part of the colon) and some chemo, but the point is that, had he not decided to have it checked out, it could have been much worse.

Get screened…do it now for yourself, your family, and for God. Make the call now and get it done!

Mark

Ostomy Awareness Day Today!

Today, October 4th, is Ostomy Awareness Day! There are over 1,000,000 people in the United States alone that have an ostomy, so it’s far more prevalent than you would think! For some, like me, it’s literally a life-saving operation. For other, it’s the means to deal with another condition like Ulcerative Colitis without having to undergo years of medications that may or may not work. If you’re new to having an ostomy, or just want to learn more about what people with ostomies have to deal with, feel free to check out The United Ostomy Associations of America’s website for more information!

Some Interesting Articles

As you can imagine, I’ve been doing lots of research on cancer, treatments, diet, etc. Here are a couple interesting articles I’ve come across.

  • Adjuvant Chemotherapy : This article explains the type of chemotherapy that I’ll be receiving. The underlying message is that adjuvant chemo is designed to reduce the risk of cancer returning.
  • The Median Isn’t The Message : An interesting article about cancer survival statistics from a scientist who was given 8 weeks to live and survived another 20 years! Gotta love living on the edge of the statistical curve! For what it’s worth, there’s been no talk of survival statistics in my case. As far as I’m concerned, I have a lifetime still left!

I’ll post more interesting information as I come across it. If you have any suggested articles for me to read, you know where to find me!

Another Step Forward!

Today I got my JP Drain removed! It’s basically a tube that was inserted into my abdomen to help collect fluid and blood from the surgery that was done inside. It was kinda a pain to have because the insertion point was right at my waistband, which made for a limited amount of clothes I could wear. The tube also tended to get caught on stuff, and it made showering difficult. But, it’s gone now, and I’m good to go!

In case you’re interested in more details on this : Wikipedia JP Drain

Mark

Update #7

Sent : September 27th, 1:50 AM (Mark)

“Hello!

I hope everybody has some amazing stuff planned for this weekend! If nothing else…a nice nap to catch up from the hectic week.

On Friday I had a PET scan and got some great news – NO CANCER! It appears that my surgeon did a superb job of removing all the detectable cancer from my body, and for that I am super grateful to her and God! This is the best news we could have hoped for! Keep in mind, though, that the PET scan only detects clusters of cancer cells, so there could still be rogue cells hanging out in my body. Thus the need for chemotherapy.

Next week I have an “Octreotide Scan” to check one more thing, but my doctor believes it should also be negative. I’ll be starting chemotherapy on October 20th to take care of any undetectable cancer that might be hanging out in my body. I’ll spend the next three weeks continuing to recover from my colon surgery while taking a break from work. I hope to resume work on the 20th as well (or maybe a couple days after that).

I continue to be amazed and grateful to God in this whole endeavor. Your prayers have uplifted me and without a doubt have helped me heal. Thank you for that.

Have an awesome weekend!”

Update #6

Sent : September 22nd, 8:33 PM (Mark)

“Hello!

I hope everybody is having an amazing week so far! Both Samantha and I are recovering beautifully. Samantha is still in some pain, but that’s to be expected at this point. I’m feeling wonderful, and am raring to get back to work or do something outside! But, I’ll continue to keep things low key to ensure a complete and speedy recovery from the operation.

Michelle and I visited my oncologist today, Dr. Richard Rosenberg. This is the same doctor that Karl Mason was using, and we are delighted that he can by my doctor as well. He spent well over an hour with us providing us with all the details of my particular case, as well as explaining the various treatment options.

In true Fleming fashion, my case is somewhat normal but with a unique twist! Basically, there are two types of cancers that were found during the pathology of what was removed during surgery : an adenocarcinoma, which is kind of a basic, common cancer cell, along with a less common carcinoid cancer. In fact, one of the lymph nodes showed a hybrid of these two. Dr. Rosenberg was a bit taken back, because in his 20 years of doing his work, he’s never seen these two together before! Apparently people usually have one or the other, but very few people have both. Gotta love being unique!

The treatment for my case would be the same whether I had one or the other type. I’m basically looking at 6 months of chemotherapy…12 two week cycles. I’ll be undergoing the Folfox regime, which is combination of three drugs : Folinic Acid, Fluorouracil, and Oxaliplatin. It’ll be the typical two week cycle, where I do chemo one week, then rest the second week. The “on” week will start with about 5 hours at the office getting infused with that healing cocktail, and then I’ll wear a pump for the next two days that will keep me going with 46 hours more of the Fluorouracil. Then I’ll go back to the office to have the pump removed. Easy peasy!

All this will be delivered via a portacath that I’m having installed tomorrow. “Installed”…that sounds like I’m getting a Borg device or something. Cool!

Dr. Rosenberg likes to start the regimen 5-6 weeks after surgery. So, we’ll start mine right after Fall Break, which means I get some time in California before this all goes down!

Side effects you ask? The usual, and nothing I can’t handle : hair loss (“usually not”), nausea (“uncommon” he says – I’m sure people would beg to differ), fatigue (“mild to moderate”), a few types of neuropathy (“cold sensitivity, muscle aches, numbness and tingling in the extremities.”) I can think of many worse things than these.

I think that about sums it up! With your continued prayers and thoughts I’m gonna kick this thing big time! I honestly can’t wait to get started so I can be done, stronger, and ready to live life for God!

Thank you all for your emails, calls, visits, gifts, and general thoughts and prayers, both for Samantha and me, along with the entire family. They mean more to us than you can imagine.

With much love,

Mark and Michelle

Quote for the day:

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:14″

Update #5

Sent : September 15th, 10:25 AM (Mark)

“Good Morning!

I just got a call from my doctor with the biopsy results and, while they are not good, they are not unexpected.

As she suspected, I have Stage 3 Colon Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes. During the surgery she was able to remove all the present tumors, and biopsy all of the additional polyps she found shows them to not be cancerous. Of the two lymph nodes she removed, one was cancerous, and the other appears to just be inflammatory. So, the good news is that there is no “new” cancer other than what we already know about, and which has already been removed from my body.

I’ll be meeting with an oncologist this week to discuss the details of my treatment going forward, which as far as I know will be chemo therapy.

This certainly wasn’t the outcome we had hoped and prayed for, but it’s not unexpected at all. I’m confidently moving forward on the belief that the chemo will make me cancer free for the future. I’d ask that you continue prayers for that, and for my recovery as a whole. There is NO DOUBT in my mind that I’ve been doing as well as I have so far because of your prayers, and for that I am immensely grateful!

I hope everybody is having a wonderful day, and that you have a great week!”

Update #4

Sent : September 19th, 12:14 AM (Mark)

“Hello!

I’m hoping this finds everybody engaged in a fun and restful weekend!

Just a quick update on things. First, I’ll start with Samantha. She had her tonsils removed on Friday, and is doing amazingly well! Her doctor confirmed that it was good to have them gone because there was some infection residing behind each one. We’re super blessed to have had a great doctor in this case, and are continuing to pray for a speedy and amazing recovery. I missed hearing her sing tonight during her showing, and can’t wait until she does so again!

I also met with my surgeon on Friday to follow up on things. My abdomen, the incisions, and the stoma all all looking good. So good, in fact, that I’m now cleared to drive! It might be a bit before I take the Jeep out, but at least I can drive out to get a burger or something.

We discussed the pathology report for everything she took out during the surgery. Turns out that about 6 of the 25 lymph nodes they biopsied showed signs of cancer. My surgeon is a bit concerned about how aggressive the cancer appears to be. I do have an appointment with an oncologist (Dr. Rosenberg) on Monday, and am scheduled to get my portacath (the port for the chemo drugs) installed on Tuesday afternoon. I should know after my visit with the oncologist exactly what my chemo schedule will look like.

As far as I’m concerned, we’re still 100% on track for recovery. My surgeon believes that she got out all the physical cancer in the body, and I trust that she did. I trust the chemo will destroy any lingering cells. And I trust that God will be there every step of the way as we walk this new walk.

Today I got my Verse of the Day from YouVersion, and it was this:

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT

That sums it up for me. I am confident that, with your prayers and thoughts, He will get me through this. I’ll continue to lean on Him for the duration of this and forever after. All is good!

Thanks,

Mark and Michelle”

Update #3

Sent : September 11th, 2:03 PM (Mark)

“Hello All!
Just a quick update to let you know that we are HOME! I managed to beat my goal by quite a bit, so I’m happy about that. I’m feeling exceptionally well, which is a double-edged sword, because I’m chomping at the bit to do something, but I basically just need to chill. It’ll be tough, but hopefully I can catch up on some projects I’ve wanted to do.
Michelle and I cannot thank you enough for all the prayers, thoughts, visits, well-wishes and downright physical help that you’ve provided us the past few days. I’m very humbled at all the attention. I honestly believe that without all the prayer that happened over the past few days, I’d still be in the hospital trying to recover. This is truly a gift from God!
We’ll continue to provide updates at we get lab results back and find out the next steps. Whatever we end up facing in the future, I have no doubt that we’ll rock it like we did this. We LOVE all you so much…you are the best family…both close and extended…that we could ever ask for!
Mark and Michelle”