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Mike Rosenbach

Patients & Survivors Stage III Colon Cancer New Jersey
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Story: "I was 46 years old and in the best shape of my life. I was donating blood platelets at the local blood bank. The nurse checked my iron and said it was low. I'm very active, I eat well, work out, don't drink, or smoke. I just blew it off and the next two times I went, the same thing happened. Being very busy at work, I ignored it for a year.

"In late spring 2013, I was working in the Nursery Garden Center and was working 65-70 hours a week. Suddenly I couldn't go to the bathroom - I decided it was time to see a doctor. He told me I was slightly anemic and he wasn't alarmed, but he scheduled an endoscopy and colonoscopy for early August.

"On July 27th, 2013, I couldn't go to the bathroom and had stabbing pain in my anus.  The pain was so intense I went to the ER. After a CT scan, it was determined I had diverticulitis. I thought, 'Cool, something I can manage with my diet,' but my surgeon said a colonoscopy was necessary to find out for sure. My colonoscopy was scheduled for September 27th, 2013. I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer on that day and had it confirmed by my oncologist on October 1st.

"I began 28 days of radiation, Xeloda® chemo pills, and an IV chemo once a week of FOLFOX and Oxaliplatin. I finished up treatment at the end of December, and in January had a nice trip to visit my daughter and ex-wife in Santa Barbara, California. My surgery was on February 5th, 2014, and it was considered a success. I initially staged IIIb, but after surgery, I was re-staged at IIIa. My lab results were 0/27 for cancerous lymph nodes, plus I had clear margins and all was well.

"I began adjuvant chemotherapy at the end of February which lasted 6 months. During my adjuvant chemotherapy, I had an ileostomy that was no big deal. I worked, but due to the physical demands of landscaping, it was very difficult. I took leave at the end of July 2014 for my last round of chemotherapy and to get my reversal done. Mid-September I went in to get the reversal done. The surgery went well and after a few days in the hospital, I went home.

"Then the wound became infected. I spent the next month at the hospital's wound center getting it cleared up. As soon as it was better I developed a large blood clot in my neck. I had to inject myself twice a day for six months to clear up the clot. In January 2015, I went back to work because I had to; I was in no shape to work, but disability ran out and those bills kept coming. I had a tough time but managed to work up until July 1, 2015. I took the summer off on disability to regroup. I was doing side jobs with the design business. I was doing well so I figured I'd rest up for the fall when the nursery got busy again.

"I never got fully better - I still had issues going to the bathroom. I would either go 20-30 times a day or not at all, but I was cancer-free. My last colonoscopy was clear, blood work was fine but every time I went to the doctor I was in pain and had horrible neuropathy. I had been hospitalized a few times with stomach pain and vomiting issues, but my CT scans and blood work were always good.

"On December 10th, 2015, two months shy of two years cancer-free, my colonoscopy was clear of tumors and polyps but the resection area looked inflamed. My GI sent biopsies to the lab, and sure enough, the cancer was back - here we go again.

"I just had an MRI and I'm awaiting a PET scan. Once I get the results, I will begin chemotherapy and surgery. This time I will have a permanent bag, which as long as I'm alive, I'm cool with. I just can't believe it's back. I really thought I won. I plan to stay the course and stay strong."

Advice: "Stay the course and stay strong. But mostly, fight the fight!"

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