Evan Conant is a stage I survivor from Colorado who works as a sales rep with Taiho Oncology. As a healthy 50-something with an extremely active lifestyle (skiing, mountain/road biking, trail running, mountaineering), colorectal cancer was the last thing on his mind. He scheduled his screening after a discussion with his physician during his annual physical, thanks to his company’s education about CRC risks and prevention.
Evan shares his story to encourage everyone – even those working in the healthcare industry – to NOT DELAY screening. His powerful story shows the critical role insurance coverage and employee benefits can play in preventing colorectal cancer.
Evan’s survival story is being shared as part of our commitment toward the national goal of 80% by 2018.
Q. Did you know the screening guidelines and risks?
A: I very much enjoy working as a professional salesperson in the pharmaceutical industry and have been doing so for over 25 years selling lifesaving and disease-modifying therapeutics. I have only been with Taiho Oncology since July 2015.
During my training with Taiho, I learned about the importance of routine screening for CRC and that is what led me to schedule an annual physical and discuss screening with my primary care physician.
I was not concerned because I was asymptomatic and not aware of any family history at the time. However, since my diagnosis I found out that my older brother was screened and found to have precursor benign polyps which put me at greater risk.
This highlights the importance for families to share personal health records with each other, which is often difficult to do if challenging relationships or distance exist.
I should have been screened much earlier, so I feel even more fortunate with my current clinical status.
Q. What stood in the way of getting screened?
A: When I turned 50 in 2014, CRC screening was not a top priority for me because I was not aware of any family history of the disease nor did I have much knowledge of the risk or current clinical statistics.
Also, I was self-employed at the time and paying for my own healthcare insurance. I wanted to keep costs down and skipped my annual physical. Therefore, the real obstacle for me in 2014-15 was the fact that I was self-employed with a minimum level of healthcare insurance so I was avoiding the cost, an embarrassing but realistic situation for older, working professionals.
Also, my spouse is disabled with a devastating chronic disease, Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, so I funneled all available resources towards her care as opposed to mine.
Q. What made you finally get the test done?
A: The reality of the matter is that when I was hired by Taiho and received an employer healthcare benefit package, I executed the program and scheduled myself and family for annual physicals which led me to the screening process.
Q. What was it like being diagnosed?
A: Simply, terrifying!
My first thoughts were in regards to my chronically ill spouse and teenage daughter: who would care for them during my illness and possible demise? The stress on me and my family was overwhelming because there was a period of having a diagnosis but not knowing the stage and disease prognosis. It was a cold, hard process where my gastroenterologist immediately gave me the diagnosis after my colonoscopy and his findings. I then had to wait several days for the pathology report to hear that I had a carcinoid tumor in my rectum.
At that point, I was told to pick a medical oncologist for next steps. I jumped into the process with everything and everyone I knew to find the best comprehensive cancer center for me.
Q. What has it been like facing cancer while working for a group dedicated to fighting it?
A: It has completely changed my perspective on my career. For the first time, I have gone from being a professional salesperson to a patient in the very disease state I have been trained on and work at every day.
My sense of urgency and passion has accelerated due to my personal experience as a patient. I share my story every day in the field in hopes to connect with customers and increase their sense of urgency to screen and treat CRC. Medical oncologists treat many types of cancer so I feel that my job as a professional and a patient is critical to increasing share of voice for CRC.
Q. What do you want those turning 50 to understand based on your story?
A: We are all very busy with our personal and professional lives. However, CRC screening is quick and easy and, if completed in a timely manner, can mean the difference between life and death.
I am simply lucky that I have been diagnosed with the slowest growing form of CRC, a carcinoid tumor in my rectum. I am embarrassed by the fact that I delayed my CRC screening test by 2 years past the recommended guidelines with no family history.
This could have been a life-threatening decision if I had been diagnosed with more aggressive type of cancer. Even worse, my brother had precursor polyps so I should have had my screening completed 7 years ago at age 45.
I am ashamed to admit this, so feel that I need to share my story to encourage others to “ask and tell family members about your health,” in good times and bad.
Q. Why have you joined Fight Colorectal Cancer?
A: I have joined the fight with Fight Colorectal Cancer because they are doing a vital job of increasing share of voice for CRC. There are so many forms of cancer and organizations struggling for share of voice with patients, healthcare professionals and legislatures. That is why it is important as an industry professional and patient that I join the fight.
You Can Join the Fight!
Also, meet Evan and others who will be climbing Longs Peak in Estes Park, Colorado on Aug. 21, 2106. Go here to get the details & sign up for the hike!