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Evan Conant

Patients & Survivors Stage I Rectal Cancer Colorado
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Story: "When I was first diagnosed, I was absolutely terrified. My first thoughts were in regards to my chronically ill spouse and my teenage daughter, who was in the prime of her high school years.  Who would care for them during my treatment and what if I died? 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. 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 get my things in order, go find a medical oncologist, and 'good luck.'  

"I jumped into the process with everything and everyone I knew to find the best comprehensive cancer center to get me through this. Ironically, I very much enjoy working as a professional salesperson in the healthcare industry. I have been doing so for over 25 years selling cutting-edge surgical devices and disease-modifying therapeutics. Recently, my career has taken me into oncology. During recent professional training, I learned about the importance of routine screening for colorectal cancer. That led me to schedule an annual physical and discuss age-appropriate testing with my primary care physician. I was not concerned about the outcome of my physical or colonoscopy because I am extremely athletic. I am a runner, mountain and road cyclist, mountaineer, and skier. Also, at the time believe I had no symptoms or family history. However, since my diagnosis, I found out that my older brother was screened at age 50 and found to have large tubulovillous adenomas polyps; which put me at greater risk for colorectal cancer. This highlights the importance for families to share personal health records with each other. It is often difficult to do if challenging relationships or distance exists. I should have been screened much earlier, so I feel even more fortunate with my current clinical status.

"When I turned 50 in 2014, colorectal cancer screening was not a top priority for me. 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 family's healthcare insurance. I needed to channel all insurance resources to care for my spouse. She is disabled in a wheelchair at home with multiple sclerosis, so I skipped my annual physicals. Therefore, the real obstacle for me in 2014-15 was the fact that I was self-employed with a minimum level of expensive healthcare insurance, so I was avoiding the cost. That's an embarrassing, but realistic, situation for older, working professionals with other healthcare challenges at home. When I was hired by my current employer and received a healthcare benefits package, I scheduled myself and family for much-needed health services. This led me to the screening process.

"Cancer has completely changed my perspective on my life and career. For the first time, I have gone from being a professional salesperson to a patient in the very disease 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 get screened and aggressively treat colorectal cancer. Medical oncologists are overwhelmed because they treat so many types of cancer. So I feel that my job as a professional, and a patient, is critical to increasing the share of voice for colorectal cancer."

Advice: "We are all very busy with our personal and professional lives. However, screening is quick and easy, and if completed in a timely manner, can mean the difference between life and death.  Think of it this way, if you are clear, you only need a colonoscopy at age 50, 60, and 70.  That is only three times in your entire life.  No big deal. I am simply lucky that I have been diagnosed with the slowest growing form of colorectal cancer, a carcinoid tumor in my rectum. I am embarrassed by the fact that I delayed my screening test by two years past the recommended guidelines with no family history. This could have been a life-threatening decision if I had been diagnosed with a more aggressive type of cancer. Even more embarrassing is the fact that my brother was diagnosed with precursor polyps when he was 50. Therefore, given that I am three years younger, my colonoscopy should have happened at age 47, five years ago!  I am ridiculously lucky. I need to share my story to encourage others to push themselves to ask the tough questions, and tell the hard stories with family members about good and bad health."

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