It’s amazing how quickly your life can change in the blink of an eye. We’ve all experienced it, whether it be the sudden loss of a loved one or an unexpected serious medical diagnosis. We remember those moments clearly, as if they were time standing still in our minds. We remember the time of day, the shade of the sky and the sound of the breaths we breathed during those moments.
For me, that moment happened on the afternoon of Friday November 6th, 2020. I woke up that day feeling just like any other day, started my morning routine, got into my home office to knock out some work, had breakfast with the kids…although, not a 100% normal day for, it started rather routine. All the while, I was prepping for my first colonoscopy at the ripe young age of 37. Why was that, you might be asking? Well…
Three weeks prior, I drove myself to the ER at my local hospital because I had been experiencing a dull stomach pain for 5 days that wasn’t going away. My digestive system was off for some reason. The health care professionals in the ER ran numerous blood tests on me and couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong as everything was returning normal. After a few hours I was released with instructions to follow-up with a Gastroenterologist for a diagnostic colonoscopy because the medical team thought I might have diverticulitis, which requires a colonoscopy for a proper diagnosis, I was told.
Three weeks later was November 6th, and I was due to be rolled into my colonoscopy at 2pm that afternoon. My mindset was steady going in, thinking that it may simply just be diverticulitis, which is very common and easy to treat. I entered the pre-operative area and started the preparation process for the procedure, a few minutes later, I was rolled into the procedure room where I was joking around with the staff and just being myself prior to being put to sleep.
I snapped out of the anesthesia as I was being rolled into the recovery area. My nurse was speaking with me and things seemed somewhat normal, until the Gastroenterologist walked by and asked my nurse if my wife was there yet…something wasn’t right with his tone and demeanor. What seemed like a minute later, the doctor returned to my bedside and told me something I’ll never forget, “Scott, it’s not good, but it’s treatable,” then he disappeared again. My upbeat mood started to deteriorate and my wife walked-in. She was smiling and asked how it went, when I told her what the doctor had said, her smile faded from her face in an instant. The doctor returned and sat down with my wife & I, he stated, “I couldn’t find what was upsetting your stomach, I think maybe it was a viral infection that has since gone away. What I did find, was a large hard mass in your rectum that I’m 99% sure is a cancerous mass.” And there it was…my life just changed in less than a sentence, I didn’t hear anything else after that.
The following weeks were plagued with fear, anxiety and uncertainty. The first major win came from my CT Scan results, done 4 days after the colonoscopy, which indicated no spread of cancer to other organs; however, it appeared that surrounding lymphnodes were inflamed. My first treatment consultation took place at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston on November 23, 2020. In my previous life, I was in medical sales and accustomed to walking into places like this without a second thought. Let me tell you how different it is walking into a place like this as a prospective patient, a very humbling experience to say the least. I had 2 consultations that day. My cancer was staged during my first meeting…Stage III, wow. That hit me like a ton of bricks, another moment when I just didn’t hear anything after I was told that news. I remember thinking to myself that a few weeks ago I was walking around thinking I was relatively healthy, in good shape, a young guy with a whole life to live, and now I was just told that I had Stage III Rectal Cancer. I remember feeling sick to my stomach after that meeting, I had to sit down in the waiting room to stop the spinning. I sat there thinking to myself, ‘This is it, I’m done.’
My treatment plan was broken down into 3 phases: 1) Radiation, 2) Chemotherapy Infusions, and 3) Major Surgery. I started the first of 28 rounds of radiation on Monday December 21, 2020. My radiation therapy included the consumption of chemotherapy pills at home for the duration of this 1st phase. There wasn’t much to the radiation process for me. As the phase progressed I felt more and more tired, but was able to function just fine. The phase ended at the end of January 2021, and I had the month of February off from treatment before I started the Chemo phase. My first infusion was on March 2, 2021. The anxiety leading up to it was almost unbearable. In addition to the infusions, I continued taking chemo pills at home, it was a 1-2 punch. In total, I had 6 infusions that lasted over the course of 4 months. Then on July 26, 2021, I had a major 6.5 hour re-section surgery at Lahey Hospital where they removed 3/4’s of my rectum and about 6 inches of my large intestine. I also had a temporary ileostomy so that everything could heal well. It took about 3 months to fully recover from that surgery, just in time to have a 2nd surgery on November 18, 2021 to reverse the ileostomy & was put back to normal…finally…after 12 months of upheaval.
On July 30, 2021, following my major surgery, I was deemed cancer-free based on the pathology report from the procedure. For those who like to get into the stats, the specimen revealed the following classification: T1, N0, M0. The treatment I had undergone prior to surgery had done a number on the cancerous mass, beating it back quite a bit. July 30th was a phenomenal day. The heavy lifting was done & now the recovery was underway.
In 2022, I’m choosing to donate 5% of my earned commissions to the local cancer centers who saved my life, because I feel that it’s the most effective way that I can give back. There’s no way that I can repay the medical staff that helped save my life. I often think about the number of people who were involved in providing me with care through my journey, here’s a list I comprised: Oncologists, Surgeons, Anesthesiologists, Radiologists, Gastroenterologists, ER Physicians, Pathologists & their respective assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Nursing Assistants, Charge Nurses, Administrative Assistants, Schedulers, Food Service People, Janitors, Lab Techs, and I’m sure many more that I’m forgetting. These people are just people, they’re just people…people that all took an oath to care for me and provide me with the best care that they possibly could. Why? Why did they do that? Sure their skills were learned in schooling and over the courses of their careers, but ultimately what matters most is the care that they provided to me. Care. It’s hard for me to get my hands around it sometimes…but there’s one thing that continuously haunts my mind…without them, there’s no me. Let me say that again, Without them…there’s no me. Thank you to all of the people who helped save my life, I hope you understand how much it means to me.