My name is Tommy. I am 32 years old and live in Orlando, Florida. I was diagnosed with stage lV Colon Cancer in May of 2018 at the age of 30, which was the age my late grandfather was when he was first diagnosed with colon cancer.
My journey begins in early 2018 when I began to notice that I was rapidly losing weight. I was not working out on a daily basis and was not dieting. I was also having night sweats pretty much nightly. I went to see my primary care physician and explained my symptoms. They had me do a blood panel, which yielded negative results. They advised that my cholesterol was a little high and that I should exercise and diet and follow up in three months.
I was a fairly healthy person at the time and the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with health wise was the flu. So my mindset was, it’s probably nothing serious and my physicians know what’s best. So three months go by and nothing changes. I lost more weight, and the night sweats continued. On a weekend in April when my wife, my one year old daughter and I were moving into our new house, I suddenly got pneumonia. After I was treated by urgent care for the pneumonia, I went back to my primary care physician and explained that I was still dropping weight and that I just recently had pneumonia. This time they scheduled me another blood panel and a CT scan.
While working as a police officer in May of 2018, received the phone call from my physician stating that they located a large mass in my abdomen. I made an appointment with an oncologist. After meeting with my oncologist and getting a biopsy of the mass it was determined to be Stage lV colon cancer. The mass was located on the outside on the upper portion of my colon and was pushing into my spleen.
I started chemotherapy in June 2018 in an attempt to shrink the mass for surgery. I would go to the infusion center to get my treatment and then they would send me home with a chemo pump that I kept on for a couple days to finish the treatment. My first cycle of chemo was hell. I couldn’t sleep, I felt nauseous constantly, I would spend a lot of time in the bathroom vomiting. However as the cycles went on, my body adjusted and they became more tolerable. My chemo treatment went on for about three months. During this period I was hospitalized multiple times due to viral and blood infections. One of my infections being so bad that a year later my infectious disease doctor told me that he thought I wasn’t going to survive it.
After I was done with my treatment in late September, they were able to see a slight reduction in size of the mass. At this point my surgery was scheduled for late November. In late October I was hospitalized once again due to an infection. Once I was feeling better I was discharged and sent home, but I was only home a couple days when I spiked a fever of 104. So for what seemed like the hundredth time, we called family to come watch our daughter and my wife rushed me down to the hospital to be admitted for another infection.
After X-rays, CT scans and blood tests, doctors discovered that the mass had grown since my treatment ended and created a large abscess on my spleen. Because of this development, my surgery was pushed up. After several days of treatment for my infection I went in for my surgery.
Surgery was a success. They removed the mass, my spleen, a section of my colon, part of my diaphragm and part of my pancreas. They were able to reattach my colon. I was in the hospital for recovery basically until I could have a bowel movement which was late November after Thanksgiving.
Following my surgery I did three months of oral chemotherapy for preventative measures. Six months after my surgery I had my first CT scan which came back with no evidence of disease.
My cancer journey has taught me how valuable and tough my body is, and that before cancer I was taking it for granted. I didn’t exercise on regular basis. I ate and drank whatever I wanted. Now I workout five to six times a week. I eat clean and organic foods. We have eliminated probably 80% of chemical products in our home.
I went back to work as a police officer in April of 2019. I was working out at a commercial gym but have since turned part of my garage into a gym and have begun a more intense workout program.
I am going back to school to finish my degree and soaking up every moment possible with my family. I have never felt better and I have never cherished life more than I do now!
One piece of advice I could give anyone right now fighting cancer is BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE. Get a second opinion when things don’t add up. Speak up when you feel like your questions aren’t being answered or your needs aren’t being met. You are the fighter, everyone else is just in your corner. And when life hits you hard, HIT LIFE HARDER!
*Thank you so much Tommy for sharing your journey and what a journey it has been! You battled through so many setbacks with unbelievable strength, but you never gave up and you beat cancer. Here’s to making many memories with your beautiful family.
If you go across to Tommy’s Instagram, (@hittinglifeharder) you can see firsthand his health and fitness journey. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing colon cancer;
‘Over 50 studies have been conducted on the connection between exercise and the risk of colon cancer. Research shows that adults who increase their physical activity in intensity, duration or frequency can reduce their risk of developing colon cancer by 30 to 40 percent, compared to adults who are sedentary.’
So get moving, even if it’s a walk around the garden, or up and down the steps, it all helps! I found during chemotherapy, that just getting out of bed for five to ten minutes, not only helped to energise me (well perk me up a bit! haha), it helped me mentally, avoiding falling into that dark place (if you are on any kind of chemo, you know what I am talking about!) – head to my previous post ‘Exercise during chemo?’ if you’d like to find out more. No pressure though, just do your best!
One more thing…… like Tommy shared with us, it is so important to keep pushing your doctors to listen to you. YOU know your body and YOU know when you just don’t feel right. If you have any symptoms, please persist and get answers. If you are having treatments, know that you are not alone and that you CAN get through this. Tommy and others like us are always here to listen and support.