Written by: John DeRousie, Custom Marketing Solutions
OSWEGO, NY – Mark McManus is a lucky man. He beat colorectal cancer and is fortunate to be able to talk about his experience. “If sharing my story inspires even one person to be screened for colorectal cancer it will be worth it,” he said.
Mark’s fight with colorectal cancer began innocently enough when he was experiencing a problem with hemorrhoids. Following a visit to a proctologist, it was suggested that he have several procedures to alleviate the problem. While the surgery was successful, the doctor explained to him that he would occasionally have some blood in his stool.
As time went on Mark noticed that blood was appearing more often. Concerned, Mark visited his general practitioner. Following his doctor’s advice Mark adhered to a number of dietary changes. When that proved ineffective in addressing the problem of blood in his stool, his doctor recommended that he have a colonoscopy. The results were not what he wanted to hear. He was diagnosed with Stage 3 B colorectal cancer.
“When the doctor told me I had colorectal cancer I went numb. I was totally shocked. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Other than slightly more frequent bowel movements, which I attributed to the hemorrhoids, I felt fine,” he said.
As part of his health benefits, Mark received annual physicals, and as he was only 45, with no history of colorectal cancer in his family, he never thought about having a colonoscopy.
“It’s one of those procedures that you just don’t talk about. Like most men I only went to the doctor when I was sick,” he said. “I felt that my annual physical was enough.”
Once diagnosed, Mark underwent strenuous cancer treatment that included 8 rounds of chemotherapy, 28 radiations treatments with a 24/7-chemo pump, and 5 additional chemotherapy treatments. “It was a very exhausting and traumatic experience. It was a terrible year and I couldn’t wait for it to be over with.”
The treatments worked. Mark was diagnosed as cancer free. With his initial battle with colorectal cancer a success, he realized that the war against the disease is never over.
“I now have a yearly colonoscopy and I encourage my loved ones and everyone else to be screened as well,” he said. “When it comes to colorectal cancer, I learned the hard way that you have to be proactive. I know many feel it’s taboo to talk about colorectal cancer and are concerned about the perceived discomfort associated with a colonoscopy, but I’ve had 8 colonoscopies and I can tell you from experience that the procedure is not as bad as you may think.”
“It is well worth it to be screened and avoid the serious upheaval of cancer treatment,” he said. “The stress on your personal and professional life and the financial strain definitely has a negative affect on your well being.”
Mark is well aware of how fortunate he is and feels that in many ways he is a poster boy for colorectal cancer awareness and the benefits of being screened.
“When I was diagnosed, the malignant tumor was completely wrapped around my intestine. In a matter of weeks it would have penetrated the intestine and may have spread to other areas of my body that may not have been treatable. I learned that you have to pay close attention to what’s happening with your body,” he said. “If possible, don’t wait until 50 to get screened for colorectal cancer. I was surprised to learn that it was not uncommon for people to be diagnosed with colon cancer in the 40s. After knowing what I know now, I would suggest starting at 40, even if it’s just doing a FIT Kit, which is a private home test the detects blood in the stool.”
Despite being one of he most treatable and beatable forms of cancer, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the US.
According to Carolyn Handville, coordinator of Oswego County Opportunities’ Cancer Services Program, it is estimated that one in 20 people will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime.
Each year in New York State, more than 10,400 people develop cancer of the colon and rectum, and nearly 3,600 New Yorkers die from this disease.
“We want to encourage men not to ignore the importance of being screened for colorectal cancer. It is a fact that colorectal cancer is 90% curable when detected early, which makes screening for colorectal cancer of greater importance since early detection is the best prevention against colorectal cancer,” she said.
Handville added that InSure Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) Kits for colorectal cancer are available to uninsured males and females aged 50+ from OCO’s Cancer Services Program.
The highly accurate, InSure FIT test for colorectal cancer detects hidden blood in the stool that could be associated with colorectal cancer.
Completing this screening kit is the first step in early detection of colorectal cancer.
“The test is totally private and easy to use. There is no need to stop into our office and no doctor visit. If you are uninsured, just give us a call and we will mail the kit, complete with instructions and a self-addressed stamped envelope to return the results. It’s fast, easy, and done in the privacy of your own home,” explained Handville.
For more information on colorectal cancer or the additional cancer screenings available to the uninsured, contact OCO’s Cancer Services Program at 315-592-0830.