As I sit here during my 4th chemotherapy treatment I would have never expected to be diagnosed with colon cancer at age 45. I also realize that having colon cancer is not a death sentence, but at this point has been more of a blessing than a curse. Let me explain. By the way, my name is Chris and this is my journey with cancer. In July of this year, my younger sister contacted my brothers and I to schedule a colonoscopy to be done, because her friend’s husband was diagnosed with colon cancer and he was only 45 years old. I told me sister that I didn’t have to get a colonoscopy until age 50, but she quickly explained that the age had recently changed to 45. Instead of scheduling an appointment for a colonoscopy right away, I put it off, because I was healthy, worked out 4 times a week and didn’t have any colon cancer related symptoms, or so I thought.
On September 7th, my wife Diana and I were having a conversation and she randomly asked if I had scheduled an appointment to have my colonoscopy done. I responded with a dry, no. She asked me to schedule the colonoscopy, just so we could have peace of mind. That same day I had to schedule an appointment for my dad to visit with is gastrointestinal doctor, so I had no reason not to schedule my colonoscopy also. While waiting on hold, the voice recording said, “Colon cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in U.S. men and women age 30 to 39, so get your colonoscopy scheduled today.” After scheduling the appointment for my dad with the receptionist, I asked her for the soonest availability for a colonoscopy. She responded, “I can schedule you this Thursday, September 9th.
At 6:30 in the morning on the 9th, I arrived and was ready to get the colonoscopy over with. The idea of a camera being inserted into my rectum wasn’t a pleasant thought. Also the day before I spent drinking Prep and flushing my intestines. Needless to say, my pipes were squeaky clean. I met with Dr. Jones and he explained the entire procedure. Moments later the anesthesiologist, said, “Ok Mr. Bozeman I’m going to administer the propofol.” I purposely tried to stay awake by counting the seconds from the clock on the wall…14, 15, 16, 17, night night. I was later awakened by the nurse and I asked if everything was ok. She said, “Dr. Jones will be with you shortly to explain everything.” Definitely not the response I was hoping for. Dr. Jones came into the recovery room and explained that he found a couple of polyps, took a biopsy and encouraged me to get a CT scan and blood work done. He also scheduled a follow up appointment for September 16th. I completed the CT scan and blood work shortly after leaving Dr. Jones office and there was nothing left to do, but wait.
On September 16th, Diana, our 3 month old son CJ and I met with Dr. Jones. Diana and I were both nervous to hear the results of my tests while our son CJ was sleeping peacefully in his stroller. Dr. Jones pulled up the results on the computer and calmly stated, “Christopher you have colon cancer.” A lump formed in my throat and my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. I was in disbelief. How could I have colon cancer? I then asked Dr. Jones what was the next step. Dr. Jones explained the results showed activity in my sigmoid colon, liver, lower lobe of both lungs and right tonsil. Diana stopped Dr. Jones mid sentence and said, “Wait, he has cancer?” Dr. Jones responded, “Yes” and the tears began to flow down Diana’s face.
At that point I was more concerned about how the diagnosis affected Diana and I began to console her and tell her that everything was going to be ok. Dr. Jones scheduled me for a PET scan the next day, an appointment with Dr. Kahlenberg, the surgical oncologist for September 20th and Dr. Wilks, the oncologist for September 21st. On September 20th, Diana and I met with Dr. Kahlenberg. Dr. Kahlenberg reviewed all of the test results, including the recent PET scan and confirmed that the activity in the liver was not cancer related, nor illness related. He suggested that I have a lung biopsy performed of the right lung and to start chemotherapy right away. I asked him about the option of surgery, but since the cancer had potentially spread to other organs, surgery was not an option at the time. Before leaving, Dr. Kahlenberg scheduled me for a lung biopsy and mediport placement for the chemotherapy treatment. On September 21st, Diana and I met with Dr. Wilks. Dr. Wilks immediately introduced herself as a woman of faith in God. “God is the One who heals and I am the vessel He uses to administer the chemotherapy treatment,” said Dr. Wilks. Her strong faith in God and positivity put both Diana and I at ease. Dr. Wilks also agreed with starting chemotherapy right away and provided my chemotherapy regimen. My first chemotherapy treatment was scheduled for October 6th and I would continue treatment every other Wednesday until March 22nd.
On September 27th, I had the lung biopsy and mediport placement completed by Dr. Vasan. Both procedures went well and I didn’t have any complications. The next day I went to the store to buy supplies for my chemotherapy treatment. I figured since I would be in treatment for at least 4 to 5 hours, I might as well be comfortable. I purchased a carry on suitcase, water bottle and some snacks. During my drive home, I received a call from my friend Yami Virgin. She heard about my cancer diagnosis, called to offer her support, and to tell me about the Thrivewell Cancer Foundation. She also contacted Erin Ercoline to assist me during my chemotherapy treatment. Erin contacted me the very next day and explained all the services that Thrivewell offered. Erin assisted me with applying with Thrivewell and once I was approved, I became part of the Thrivewell family.
On October 6th, I went to chemotherapy treatment with my new suitcase, packed with my fraternity blanket, memory foam pillow, iPad, laptop, extension cord and lunchbox. I was a little nervous, because I didn’t know what to expect. I had to do more blood work and had my vitals taken before being shown to my chemotherapy chair. I opened my suitcase, placed my blanket and pillow on the chair, setup my iPad and laptop and put my lunch in the community refrigerator. For the next 4 hours I received treatment and had no immediate side effects. Over the next couple of days I experienced a mild case of acid reflux and sensitivity to cold. I thought, if this was the worst of my side effects, I’m thankful to God and had nothing to worry about. On October 8th, I received the results from the lung biopsy of my right lung and the pathology report came back negative for cancer. Dr. Wilks suggested that I have a lung biopsy completed on my left lung as well.
So, I had another lung biopsy completed, but this time of my left lung. On October 20th, that pathology report came back negative for cancer. I also had a tonsillectomy done to have a biopsy done on my right tonsil. That pathology report also came back negative for cancer. The only confirmation of cancer in my body is in my colon. I’m scheduled to have another CT and PET scan completed on December 17th and I meet with Dr. Kahlenberg on January 3rd to discuss surgery options to remove what’s left of the cancer from my colon.
Today, I’m thankful that my face is one of the first faces that CJ sees when he wakes up every morning. I’m thankful that God has used cancer in my life to not only have purpose, but also to reach and change the lives of other people. I’m also thankful to Erin and Joseé at the Thrivewell Cancer Foundation for the emotional and financial support that they continue to offer. Thank you God for this journey, the blessings you have bestowed upon me and others around me and using this testimony all for Your glory.