Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada - CCAC

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One man’s journey with colon cancer

I was officially diagnosed with colon cancer on August 18, 1999. My story began in 1997, when I began to experience abdominal problems, including a change in bowel habits. Something was not right so I went to my family doctor who told me I was "under too much stress." I find that odd since I teach stress management classes! He did no tests.

The abdominal problems continued and my family doctor suggested I should have a sigmoidoscopy, which I did on May 3, 1997. He told me it was normal — it was normal because my tumor was on the right side, where the sigmoidoscope can’t reach. A colonoscopy, which views the entire colon, would have found the tumor.
In 1998, the abdominal problems continued. I was misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. On August 11, 1998, I began to have severe rectal bleeding — massive blood loss. I called my family doctor, who told me to go the emergency room. The ER doctor decided I should be admitted. While in the hospital, it was discovered I was also suffering from food poisoning, actually hepatitis A. It was traced back to some bad seafood I had while traveling. Hepatitis A is actually a very mild illness. Once the food poisoning was discovered, they did no more tests as to the cause of the rectal bleeding.

In October 1998, the severe rectal bleeding began again. I called my family doctor who told me I had hemorrhoids. He did no tests. In April 1999, I had my worst episode of rectal bleeding. I passed out from the blood loss. After fainting, I came to on the bathroom floor. I was lying in a pool of my own blood. It looked like a scene from a grizzly horror movie.
I called my family doctor who still felt I had hemorrhoids, but said we could do a second sigmoidoscopy if I wanted to do so. I never had the second sigmoidoscopy done (which would have been normal anyway) because in May 1999, we switched insurance companies. We made the switch because we didn’t like our insurance company, not because of my family doctor — I thought he was giving me accurate information.

In August 1999, I began to have excruciating abdominal pain. I went to my new doctor who did blood tests and discovered I was anemic. I was told I needed a colonoscopy immediately. I still never thought of colon cancer — I thought I had a bleeding ulcer! The colonoscopy revealed a large tumor on the right portion of my colon. I had surgery on August 26, 1999, to remove one-third of my colon. On August 31, 1999, I was informed that two out of seventeen lymph nodes were positive, which put me in Stage III.

I began chemotherapy on September 23, 1999, and will continue chemo through August 2000. I have had several chemo-related side effects, including nausea, fatigue, anemia, low white blood cell counts, loss of appetite and "the runs." I always have to be sure a bathroom is nearby.

I am in the motivational speaking business. As I travel around the country, I share my message of survival, hope, joy and optimism. I also share my medical story. My care was badly botched and I don’t want to see anyone go through what I have been through. Had I been treated properly in 1997, my cancer could have been caught at an earlier stage.
I am working hard to raise awareness of colon cancer. When I had the rectal bleeding, I never thought of colon cancer. That is why we must get the word out about colon cancer, so people can take charge of their healthcare. We have to talk about this disease that no wants to talk about!

I love my new doctors, but I still do my own research — they learn a lot from me! I am taking a new drug in May 2000 based on my Internet research. In addition to competent medical care, we must take an active role in our healthcare. We can no longer be passive recipients because it may kill us.

Even though the cancer ordeal has been very difficult for my family and I, we still manage to find joy in our lives. I remember what Annette Funicello said, "Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful." Life is beautiful — even with cancer!

Edward Leigh is a motivational speaker who travels throughout the world sharing his message of hope, and humor! He even has been able to find humor in his struggle with cancer. Since he had one-third of his colon removed, he refers to himself as a "semicolon." If you would like more information about Edward Leigh, please go to the following website: or E-mail him directly at .


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