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!

If you’ve also been impacted by colorectal cancer, sign up to join us! And then, share your story.

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!

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5 comments on “Q&A with a stage I survivor working in CRC prevention”

  1. 1
    Evan Conant on February 6, 2017

    Thanks for sharing Tony! I realize how tough it is to share and relive the experience but hopefully our stories will inspire others and maybe even save a life. I realize both how lucky and stupid I am at the same time to have a Stage 1 diagnosis. Best wishes for health and happiness, nothing else really matters. Hang in there and keep sharing your story…

  2. 2
    Tony Ward on February 5, 2017

    Appreciated reading your story Evan. I too delayed colonoscopy and did not have one until age 52. Discovered a Stage 1 Tumor the size of a golf ball in my rectum. In June 2016 had a TAMIS procedure to remove that was not successful. 3 weeks after surgery had 3 bouts of profuse rectal bleeding losing 1/2 my blood supply. Finally after the 3rd entry into ICU, the Surgeons Council at Emory in Atlanta decided that complete removal of 51/2 inches of the affected rectal area where the tumor was originally attached would be needed. This full open surgery was done in July 2016 and successful. I was out of work 88 days last year. Thankfully just this past Monday A Sigmoidoscopy revealed NO Evidence of Recurrence!! So thankful for that and so humbled. Counting my blessings as I am sure you are. Best, Tony Ward, Clarkesville, Georgia

  3. 3
    Evan Conant on July 14, 2016

    Thanks for sharing Stacy! Best wishes for a positive clinical outcome on 8/2. Hang in there and keep fighting…

  4. 4
    Brett Gervais on July 9, 2016

    Still being treated for colo-rectal cancer. Diagnosed February 2014.

  5. 5
    Stacy on July 8, 2016

    I can so relate to this! HAve had ulcerative colitis for 25 years, but no symptoms and in remission for more than 10 years so kind of got lazy with my check ups (colonoscopies every 2-3 years).
    Finally had a colonoscopy and found out that I have stage 1 carcinoma in the rectum. Similar to Evan, it was terrifying, waiting to know what stage I was at, thinking of my wife and 2 year-old son, etc.
    Going in for surgery on August 2, 2016 (3 weeks from now!) to remove colon and rectum, where it may be possible to have a temporary ileostomy before reverting to a J Pouch, but this all depends on what the surgeon decides during the surgery.
    I have convinced several friends to get scoped because of my story, and I will continue to pass the message. Catching this early is the best scenario, so don’t wait until you have symptoms, and don’t think that you need to reach 50 to start testing, as I was diagnosed before 50.

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