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Jonny Puglia

Patients & Survivors Stage IV Colon Cancer New York

Story: "Ironically, I was officially diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer on my 30th birthday in July 2018. That was the date I fully accepted what I had just been told. The colorectal surgeon walked in and without any movement in his face told me I had, 'five years to live, at best.'

"I drove to the doctor's office, by myself, during my lunch break from work (you’ll understand later) in a rush to learn about my CT scan results and to confirm my colon was the only location that had cancer. Unfortunately, it had already metastasized outside my colon, spreading to my right lung and liver pretty extensively. What surprised me the most was the lack of emotion during that very intimate moment. The doctor did not act surprised nor show any empathy. As an empathic person, I usually mirror and feed off the wavelength that an individual is radiating good or bad. There I stood, cold to the bone hearing my fate that had been solidified. And, there I projected myself; decided to go back to work as if nothing happened. I went back to work because I needed that distraction, a way to feel normal and without a spotlight focused on me. Thinking back, I believe I walked into my supervisor’s office after returning to work from the doctors’ and said something to the effect of 'Yeah…stage IV, I’ll be in my office working.'

"Oddly enough, I preferred going in alone, no emotional response was needed or burden felt. Most of my closest friends did not know until well into my chemotherapy regimen. Funny enough, I came out about my cancer to one of my closest friends via Snapchat, mistaking him for a family member. His response, 'Wait…why are you getting chemo?” is imprinted into my mind, not because he uses that at his stand-up shows, but that is when I turned to humor as a way to express myself when talking about cancer."

Advice: "Don't be embarrassed! Yes, rectums and colons are not deemed “sexy” or an easy topic to bring up, but remember who you are seeking help from: doctors. They hear this (and a lot more) every day; erasing the stigma that the public often sets up. Another thing I hear often is 'I don’t want a camera shoved up there.' Take it from a two-time cancer survivor, there are worse things than fasting for a day and getting quietly sedated for a 20-minute procedure. Think of all the anxiety lifting off your shoulders once you find out what that stabbing pain was or if you had bloody stools. Personally, after sharing why it took me so long to see a professional and my diagnosis, I was contacted by a few friends who also had strange stuff going. Through that connection, I was thrilled to encourage them to see their doctor. Fortunately, those friends had no adverse test results.

"If you have health insurance and the means — seek out professional medical providers. If you were in my position, with no available insurance or income to support the out-of-pocket costs, there are huge obstacles to overcome. Advocating, lobbying, and real-life testimonials from failed healthcare initiatives have to be present in our daily conversations."

"Ending the stigma is KEY for motivating others to come forward with a potentially fatal disease. Always accept help when needed; get over any burdensome feelings — this was the hardest thing for me to achieve; the feeling of acceptance."

-Jonny Puglia

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