Six months or so ago--soon after publishing my new book, The Upside of Cancer--I submitted a story about my experiences as a colon cancer survivor to 'Stories of Hope' at the American Cancer Society's website.
I had more or less forgotten about this. But then, a few weeks ago, I received a surprise email from Stacy Simon, a senior editor at the Society. It was a pretty cool surprise, I must say. Ms Simon said she would like to interview me and write a story about my cancer journey for their Stories of Hope program. (All the stories are written by the Society).
Her article is entitled 'Colon Cancer Survivor Says Routine Screening Saved His Life,' and it was posted at the ACS website on January 29. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so the timing seems appropriate.
I'm including a link to the story at the end of this article. But basically, all you have to do is go to www.cancer.org, click on Learn about Cancer (next to the Home tab) and scroll down to Stories of Hope.
Ms Simon has done a great job and I'm honored beyond measure to be included in this ACS program, which I understand is very popular, especially among those recently diagnosed with cancer.
Here's Stacy's story:
Christopher Foster has practiced healthy habits his whole life. "I'm active. I love life. I love my wife. I love nature. I try to stay fit. I go for a walk every day and lift weights three times a week," said Foster. He also has always followed his doctor's advice for regular colon cancer screening--a decision that Foster now credits for saving his life.
The American Cancer Society recommends everyone be tested for colon cancer beginning at age 50--and even younger for people with a family history of colon or rectal cancer or colon problems that raise their risk. There are several different screening tests and Foster's doctor recommended colonoscopy for him. Colonoscopy uses a flexible lighted tube with a small camera on the end to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum.
In previous colonoscopies, the doctor found and removed pre-cancerous growths called polyps from Foster's colon. Because of this, Foster was advised to come back for repeat testing every 3 or 5 years instead of the usual 10 years--and he did.
In November 2013, a week or so after one of these colonoscopies, Foster's doctor called him to say that a biopsy showed he had colon cancer and he would need to see a surgeon. One month later, he had surgery to remove part of his colon. Luckily, it had been caught early, in stage II, before it could spread to other parts of the body. For that reason, and also because of Foster's age--he was 81--his oncologist did not recommend chemotherapy. Instead, he is being treated with active surveillance, including regular CT scans and colonoscopies.
Foster says recovery from surgery was tough. Lean to begin with, he lost 17 pounds during his week's stay in the hospital. His biggest challenge was learning to walk normally again, but through determination and help from a physiotherapist, he succeeded. Today Foster says he feels better than ever.
"As I move forward in my 80s I find that almost anything makes me happy now: watching a bird, saying hello to a server in my favorite coffee shop, listening to sounds of a nearby creek, washing the dishes," said Foster.
Ironically, he says his experience with cancer has brought more joy into his life. He writes about it in a book that he published in order to help inspire others facing a cancer diagnosis. He credits cancer with helping him face his fears, including fear of the cancer coming back and fear of death.
"Anxiety still comes up, but I do find that the fear can actually help me uncover more of the fundamental joy of being, the joy of life itself, that for me was covered over for a lot of my life," said Foster. "I think in trying to suppress my fear, I suppressed my joy. Conversely, now that I'm facing the fear--the joy has been increasing. I'm a pretty happy guy now."
Editor's note: The article is very nicely laid out at the ACS website, and contains a number of highly useful links. To see the article at the Society's website please copy and paste the following link:
As always, would much appreciate any thoughts you may have on the above. If you'd like to find out more about my book, The Upside of Cancer, available in print and Kindle at Amazon, please copy and paste the following link: