The Berlin Relay for Life is not until May 2013 but as the Relay starts to prepare for the event, one new committee member wants everyone to know why he Relays and how important regular check-ups are.
Rick Pattavina, known by many around town as a youth sports coach, joined the Relay because he can now call himself a cancer survivor. His e-mail to family and friends below details how he found out about his diagnosis, his treatment and his attitude going forward.
Please read the e-mail below and consider joining the Berlin Relay For Life. If you are interested at all, whether as a committee member, a team captain or member, contact event chair Bob Mayer at email@example.com.
I hope this email finds everyone doing well and in the holiday spirit. If you are a recipient on this email it means you are family member a friend, a coworker, someone I care about or someone who happened to be in my email address book. The way I looked at it the more who receive this the better. If this is of any value please feel free to forward this on to whomever you would like.
I am going to share a personal story with many people with the sole purpose of getting a message out. It is my hope that everyone already knows the benefits of early detection of cancer. If not, my story will illustrate this.
For those who don’t know my family has been touched and hurt by cancer all too often and I know firsthand the pain it causes. If my story can get you or anyone you forward this email on to be proactive then I will l have accomplished my goal. We are all so busy with life that we sometimes forget to do everything in our power to preserve it.
My story is one that many of us have seen and heard before. I always thought to myself that cancer happens to other people, not me. I am in good shape, I eat well and generally take care of myself. The fact is cancer doesn’t discriminate by age, sex or race. While I was reluctant to share my situation at first I realized that my story especially as it stands today could possibly inspire people to take action relative to their health. If that happens then the past month was well worth it.
My story began eight years ago when I had my first colonoscopy. As cancer runs on my mother’s side I decided be proactive and have the test done. All came back clear, but given the history the doctor recommended that I come back in five years and I did upon being noticed. During that procedure they found some polyps that were removed. In light of that the doctor told me to come back in three years. In August of 2012 I received notice of my next colonoscopy. I procrastinated a bit but kept the notice on my desk. I finally called my doctor at the end of September and scheduled my next colonoscopy for October 15th.
On that day I had my colonoscopy and remember waking up with the doctor and nurse standing in the room with me. Once I figured out where I was and what was going on Dr. Hussein told me that they found a suspicious mass in my colon. My next question was, do I have cancer and he shook his head and said “yes”. Still groggy from the anesthesia I did my best to process that diagnosis. Like many people I was in shock and my life flashed before me and I was scared. Fortunately my father was with me and he came in and gave me a lot of support. Many of you wouldn’t know this but about a year or so ago my father was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon cancer so we are all to familiar with this scenario. Obviously this was not the news I wanted to hear as I thought they would say all is clear and they won’t see me for another five years. The doctor and the nurse assured me that the location and the size of the tumor suggested very early stage 1 and it appeared it could be cured with surgery. While I know there are no guarantees I did take some comfort in that. A common theme from that point forward was how important it was to catch this early. Every doctor I saw from that point forward made sure to mention how important the early detection was. They informed me how lucky I was.
I was intent about keeping this news to a select few friends and family as I didn’t want to burden anyone with this and I didn’t want anyone to pity me because in the grand scheme of things I felt pretty lucky in my lot in life and in this situation. After all it appeared as if I got it early on and it was very treatable and probably curable. I would get it taken care of be out of work for a couple weeks and all would be good. Many different feelings rushed over me but after processing it I was not worried about me as I knew that I would be fine. My real concern is the impact this would have on my children and my loved ones and the people I care about, many of which are recipients of this email. I clearly remember the feeling I felt when I found out my dad, my mom and my brother in law had cancer. When hearing that news I had a much emptier worried feeling upon hearing their news. While this was my situation it would have an adverse impact on many people and most importantly my kids. I plan on being there for my kids for a long time and hopefully I will be able to accomplish that. For the next few weeks I had test after test to confirm that the cancer was confined to the colon. Fortunately the tests all came back negative and it appeared that it was confined to the colon.
On November 15th I had my surgery at Hartford Hospital and despite waiting for eight hours and my blood pressure going through the roof I didn’t feel scared or nervous. I just wanted this whole thing over so I could get back to my children and my life. The surgery went well and I spent the next few days in Hartford Hospital under great care. The surgeon was optimistic that it was confined to the colon but he couldn’t be certain until the pathology reports came back. I went in on a Thursday and went home on the following Monday. The surgery was something called a laparoscopy and it was not invasive at all. In fact the morning after I was walking around the recovery room. I don’t know if that was the drugs I was on or if I was a quick healer. My guess it was the drugs. Either way as my sisters and my friend Keith will attest to I was having fun. The whole process from detection to the surgery was relatively simple. It was more of a hassle than anything else. Much of that had to do with the early detection.
The surgeon removed numerous lymph nodes to determine if there was any sign of cancer anywhere else. I was reasonably optimistic that they wouldn’t find anything given all of the reports however I wasn’t certain.
On November 29th I had my appointment with my oncologist and my surgeon hoping to get the pathology results. The first appointment was with my oncologists who didn’t have the results yet and then I went to my surgeon’s office and she was of the impression that I already had the results until I informed her that I didn’t. She then told me the good news. They didn’t find any cancer in the lymph nodes so I didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. That was great news and I was thrilled and relieved. On my way home I called a very good friend of mine who said I should be the poster boy for early detection. I don’t know about that but if my story can help anyone else then it will be well worth telling
As I mentioned earlier my dad, one of the toughest, hardest working people I know was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011. His story is different than mine but fortunately the results seem to be the same. My dad was always so proud of the shape he is in and always bragged about never going to the doctor. For those who know my dad he is one of the more active 77 year olds you will ever meet. In addition to being proud he could also be stubborn and only when he started to see blood for an extended amount of time did he decide to go in for a colonoscopy. His cancer was considerably more advanced than mine was yet he made an excellent recovery and he continues to be doing very well. He is very fortunate as his stubbornness nearly cost him his life. The longer he waited the more damage there would have been. My father and many cancer patients had to endure far more than me and the main reason for that is my cancer was found very early. As most people know battling cancer is nothing short of brutal. I have seen several people very close to me battle this and it took a significant toll on them and the people close to them. It beats the strongest of people. I am pleased to report that my father continues to get screened and recently he had another favorable colonoscopy. He is no longer the stubborn I don’t need a doctor guy.
While it appears both of our stories have happy endings it is important to illustrate the importance of early diagnosis as the cure rate is far better if cancer is caught early. Mine was a routine screening and my oncologist said if I would have waited two more years the result may have been much different. I don’t know what the future holds for me but I do know what probably would have happened if I didn’t get screened of if I delayed it.
If you haven’t figured out the reason for this email by now then let me spell it out for you. If you are being proactive relative to your health great, if not then I implore you to step it up. This is not only about your health and well being it is about all those who rely on you and those who care about you. If not for yourself the do it for them. Review your family history and if it is positive for cancer investigate it further. Even if you don’t appear to have a history in your family get the usual and customary screening done. The sooner the better. Stop putting it off. My story is about colon cancer but there are tests for many different types of cancer.
I am sorry if I bored you with my story but I feel it was very important for me to share this story as many types of cancer can be beaten if caught early enough. I remember telling my children that I had cancer and I was worried as their experience with cancer up to now has been scary. Hopefully, now they will understand that having cancer isn’t necessarily a death sentence. While it is only a few weeks post surgery and I have no way to predict the future I do know if I didn’t have the screening done the prognosis could have been much worse. I will be meeting with my doctors and implementing a very comprehensive screening regimen.
If you have been diligent in your screening then I applaud you. If you haven’t it is my hope that my story will demonstrate to you that early detection can lead to favorable outcome. Until there is a cure to this nasty disease this is our best option.
Feel free to share this with anyone and everyone and if anyone would ever like to talk with me about my experience feel free to call me or drop me a note. I promise I will get back to you
I want to wish everyone a very Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year. I have a whole new outlook on things and I am very much looking forward to 2013.