Meet the One Million Strong – Robert D from Red Lake, Minnesota


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MEET ROBERTRobert-D-Share-Story

Robert DesJarlait, Survivor Red Lake, MN


In April 2013,   I had an endoscopy showing a gastric ulcer that was repaired. At the suggestion of my doctor, I had a follow-up colonoscopy which revealed a large cecal mass. The adenoma (benign tumor) measured 10 cm; however, within the adenoma, there was a 2.5 cm adenocarcinoma (cancerous tumor). It was rated as a T-2 tumor, Stage I cancer. Approximately one-foot of my colon was removed during resection.

My oncologist said I was very fortunate to have the colonoscopy when I did,  my cancer hadn’t spread into the lining of my colon and into the associated lymph nodes. Although I can’t consider myself cancer free for five years, the survival rate for Stage I is 90 percent.

My experience with cancer, and the resultant cancer journey, has brought me into a world that I never expected to be part of. Part of that world is understanding the nature of the beast. Learning as much as I can about cancer enables me to reach others,  in particular American Indians. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death among American Indians, and colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer.

I am Anishinaabe-Ojibwe. Our language, Anishinaabemowin, is a living language. New words are developed to express contemporary experiences.  Cancer was relatively unknown among American Indians at the turn of the 19th century. Several words were developed to define cancer. One word is manijooshiwaapinewin – the bad eating sickness.

In many American Indian cultures, words have power. N. Scott Momaday, Kiowa writer, states it best: “We perceive existence by means of words and names. To this or that vague, potential thing I will give a name, and it will exist thereafter, and its existence will be clearly perceived. The name enables me to see it. I can call it by its name, and I can see it for what it is.”


To quote Patricia Christman: 'It takes a village to fight the beast."


Being united in the effort to educate about colon cancer.


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