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Interview With 15 yr. Cancer Survivor and Passionate Advocate Candace Henley


Candace first appeared on the podcast back in 2015. You can listen to that interview here.

Much has changed in Candace’s life since then. During our conversation we discussed:

  • How her life has changed 15 years since her original diagnosis.
  • The alarming number of questions she is asked during her advocacy work that reflect many people’s lack of knowledge about their own bodies.
  • The advocacy work she is doing, along with Dr. Andrew Albert, in the Chicago area.
  • The growth of her non-profit, The Blue Hat Foundation.
  • The reason why many people of color are distrustful of the medical community.

Links mentioned in this episode

The Blue Hat Foundation – https://www.thebluehatfoundation.org/

Call On Congress – https://fightcolorectalcancer.org/events/save-the-date-call-on-congress-2019/

Candace on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/penelopepit_stop/

Candace on Twitter – https://twitter.com/colon_survivor

The Blue Hat Foundation on Twitter – https://twitter.com/BlueHats4colons

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A Routine Colonoscopy Saved His Life, With John Cavanaugh


Dr. John Cavanaugh

A Routine Colonoscopy Saved His Life, With John Cavanaugh

in May of 2014 John Cavanaugh was diagnosed with colon cancer after a routine colonoscopy.

John’s story was profiled in this Colon Cancer Coalition’s Faces of Blue article.

On my 50th birthday, I promised my wife I would make an appointment for a full physical. On May 5, 2014, my primary physician, Dr. Troy Fate, MD scheduled a routine colonoscopy. I had two polyps removed and one turned out to be cancerous with positive margins. After a consultation with Dr. Scott Brill, a Colon and Rectal Surgeon at Ohio Health in Columbus, we elected for surgery on June 6th (Lilly’s birthday). Dr. Brill found no evidence of cancer in the section removed, but one lymph node out of 13 tested positive for cancer cells. One of the risks of my operation was the possibility of a leak. Unfortunately, that occurred and I fell ill with sepsis which required a second emergency surgery. Luckily Dr. Brill is an Army Veteran with trauma experience so he was able to save my life. I needed two additional procedures to install drains for fluid build up near my lungs. My wife never left my side for a month and slept next to me on a recliner (Much like the scene where Robin Williams describes the meaning of love to Matt Damon on the park bench in Good Will Hunting).

After a several rounds of antibiotics, I recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital with a temporary ileostomy. After three weeks of intensive physical and occupational therapy at home, I was able to participate in our daughter’s wedding ceremony. Then I endured several months of chemotherapy that made me look like the main character from “Unbroken”. In December, right before my birthday and the Christmas holidays, Dr. Brill reversed the diversion and I spent much of 2015 recuperating. On May 5, 2015, Dr. Brill performed a colonoscopy which resulted in a normal finding. Later in December, I had a CT scan and received a clean bill of health. I continued to be followed closely by my oncologist with regular blood screening, but am now back to work full-time.

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Links Mention In This Episode:

The Colon Cancer Coalition:  https://coloncancercoalition.org

Cancer + Careers: https://www.cancerandcareers.org/en

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How One Person Can Influence Favorable Cancer Legislation, With Michael Holtz


How One Person Can Influence Favorable Cancer Legislation, With Michael Holtz

Michael Holtz is a 6 1/2 year survivor of Stage IIIB rectal cancer and is the author of the book It’s Not Harder Than Cancer. Michael first appeared on this podcast in 2015. You can listen to that interview here.

Michael and I discussed the cancer advocacy work he’s been doing with the American Cancer Society and as the Tennessee state representative for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network – ACS CAN.

In April 2018 the Provision CARES Foundation recognized Michael Holtz as the Patient Advocate of the Year.

 

Links Mentioned In The Show

Michael Holtz’ website – http://www.michaelholtzonline.com/

Michael on Facebook – https://facebook.com/michaelandrewholtz/

Michael on Twitter – https://twitter.com/michaelholtz

It’s Not Harder Than Cancer – Available on Amazon

 

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Fred and Heather Schiller Are Coping With Cancer Through Love


What an honor it is to share episode #100 with you. Never did I realize when I launched the podcast 3 1/2 years ago that I would someday be talking about such a milestone.

I could not think of a better way to celebrate this important episode than by sharing Heather and Fred’s story.

I met them at Fight CRC’s annual Call-on Congress earlier this year. Heather serves as an ambassador for Fight CRC. Their story touched me in so many ways. During this interview we discussed Heather’s wonderful progress in her clinical trial. When I saw Heather during our Skype interview – which was conducted in May, 2018 – I almost didn’t recognize her; she looked that good!

The three of us also discussed the impact has on a marriage and how they’ve relied on their love for each other, and their faith, to cope with Heather’s disease.

Links Mentioned in This Episode of WE Have Cancer

Heather’s One Million Strong story: https://fightcolorectalcancer.org/blog/meet-one-million-strong-heather-schiller-georgia/

FightCRC: https://fightcolorectalcancer.org/

Follow Heather on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tisHeather

Follow Heather on Instagram: https://instagram.com/tisHeather

Follow Fred on Instagram: https://instagram.com/fs_7phoenix

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Pride, Love and Cancer, With Paula and Lara Chambers


Pride, Love and Cancer, With Paula and Lara Chambers - WE Have Cancer

Pride, Love and Cancer, With Paula and Lara Chambers – WE Have Cancer

Paula and Lara Chambers are high school sweethearts and have been together for over 30 years. In October of 2014 they traveled from their home in Houston, Texas to New York City so that they could be married.

Paula had been dealing with “stomach issues” for some time. Unfortunately she became very ill immediately after the wedding and soon after was diagnosed with Colon Cancer.

In our conversation we talked about their relationship and the challenges that gay couples may face when dealing with a life-changing event like a cancer diagnosis.

Paula and Lara said they could not have gotten through their diagnosis with out the support of ColonTown and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

To learn more about Colontown, visit https://colontown.org/

To learn more about the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, https://www.ccalliance.org/

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Losing Fear In The Face of Cancer, With Jessica Buscho

Jessica Buscho

Losing Fear In The Face of Cancer, With Jessica Buscho

Jessica is currently undergoing treatment for Stage IV colon cancer. Despite the fact that her symptoms were dismissed by doctors for years, she approaches life with positivity and gratitude. During our conversation we discussed how her cancer diagnosis has been the impetus behind her living a life less driven by fear and more focused on presence.

One of the guides that has helped Jessica navigate her disease is the book Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Kelly Turner, Ph.D.

 

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Teaching Hope and Happiness in the Face of Cancer

Gina Benedetti

Teaching Hope and Happiness in the Face of Cancer, With Gina Benedetti

This story of Gina’s journey appeared in the 2017 issue of On The Rise and was written by our late friend, Dr. Tom Marsilje.

Gina Benedetti may be about the happiest and most hopeful person diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) that you have ever met – and her hope and happiness are infectious! This comes partially from her background as a first grade teacher, where a positive attitude rules the day. With cancer, this attitude has not changed, just the audience she can project upon.

Gina was 30 years old when she changed careers to become a teacher. “I became much more positive, optimistic, and happy when I decided to do that! That shifted everything in my life.”

Only a few years later, her cancer diagnosis gave her a new opportunity to further improve her life. “I’m a better mother and a better teacher, a better friend … a better person for going through this. My heart got bigger. I just want to help people even in the smallest things in life.”

Sneaky Symptoms
She was pregnant and loving it when, unbeknownst to her, her cancer story started. Symptoms like stomach cramps, weight loss, and urges to go to the bathroom began showing up shortly after giving birth. These symptoms escalated, but she continued to think they were just complications from her recent pregnancy.

Due to a proactive medical team, she was diagnosed with CRC within only a few months, a lucky break she credits with potentially saving her life. She woke up from her colon resection surgery thinking, “Oh I don’t have stomach cramps! I feel great!”

It was tough on Gina not being able to hold her newborn son for the six weeks of surgery recovery. She now focuses on the positive, however: Because of her cancer, she has been able to be home with her young son for the past nine months, something that would not have been possible with her normal full-time teaching job.

Staying Positive
Although she was diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer (Stage 3C) in her mid-30s, Gina approached her diagnosis and treatment with a positivity that should be a beacon to others. That is something that hits you when you meet Gina. She seems to always be smiling – and it is hard not to smile yourself when you are near her!

Gina was excited to apply to be a Featured Survivor in the Colondar 2.0. In her mind it was a natural extension of her teaching background. “I always thought that the way I would leave my footprint or make the world better would be by teaching. And now I think that has totally changed and that this is how I’m going to change the world,” she says. “I am going to make a big difference doing this. I feel like this is what I was meant to do!”

She looks forward to spreading additional CRC advocacy to the west coast. She wants people to know it’s not an old man’s disease. Anyone with symptoms should listen to their body. Young people should be screened. And they should push their doctors if they have symptoms. “I was lucky with my doctors,” she says. “Many others were not. I was a sneeze away from Stage IV.”

Gina’s thoughts on her immediate future continue to be as positive as one can imagine. “This has been a blessing in disguise. I am confident that I won’t have a recurrence and that this was a hiccup in a very charmed life,” she says. “I am an extremely strong and positive person that is determined to make this experience a learning experience for others.”

With her constant smile, Gina and her positive approach to advanced cancer will do just that – multiplying and spreading the blessings of her diagnosis many times over. She is excited to embark on the ultimate teaching experience … now to a much larger group than her beloved first-grade classroom.

Side Bar: Turning the Tide
Chemotherapy for Stage 3 CRC is tough. Some patients are not able to complete all 12 rounds of FOLFOX, but everyone tries their best because this chemotherapy is potentially curative. The first two infusions were very rough on Gina. But then, with the help of a cancer support group, she started to think of chemo as a positive – something meant to kill cancer and save her life.

With that mental switch, she started to give herself treats on chemo days. Her husband helped by keeping an air of levity around infusions. Gina also hired a personal trainer to use exercise during chemo as therapy. Her trainer would tell her, “There are no excuses. This is your path. You can’t feel sorry for yourself!”

Gina credits these actions as turning the tide on her chemo side effects, making them much more tolerable.

What is the one thing she most wants to teach to fellow CRC survivors? “Find a light in in everything. Getting cancer sucks, it really does. Find little things that make your day brighter … Have a positive attitude and have hope.”

Links mentioned in this episode:

Gina on Twitter – https://twitter.com/benedettigina

Gina on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/ginab44/

 

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Talking Colon Cancer Screening and Awareness With Dr. Andrew Albert


In this bonus episode Dr. Andrew Albert returns to the show for an informal conversation about colon cancer screening and awareness. He and I talked about embarrassment, stigmas, poop and more. How do we get young people, and their doctors, to recognize their symptoms and understand that there’s no such thing as “too young” for colon cancer? How do we get people in their 40’s to ask their doctor when should they schedule their routine colonoscopy?

If you’d like to share your ideas on how to increase screening rates in those over the age of 50 – 45 in the African American community – and how to raise awareness of symptoms in the college-age community please email Lee at Lee@thecoloncancerpodcast.com

 

 

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Getting Men To Discuss Their Colon Cancer Symptoms, With Paul Shadle

Paul Shadle

Getting Men To Discuss Their Colon Cancer Symptoms, With Paul Shadle

Paul Shadle was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in 2016 after noticing symptoms on a family vacation. He had dismissed prior feelings of fatigue and chalked it up to getting older. On vacation, he had bloating and cramping in his abdomen, later noticing blood in his stool.

When Paul was diagnosed, the disease had spread to spots on his liver and lungs. Since then, he’s undergone regular sessions of chemotherapy. The spots on his liver have gone away, and the spots on his lungs have shrunk considerably. He’ll continue with the chemo treatments until doctors expect to remove the main tumor.

Paul stumbled upon Fight Colorectal Cancer’s ambassador program shortly after his diagnosis. Last summer, he applied and was selected to participate in the national campaign in New York City.

The campaign encourages individuals to get checked and learn more about the disease.

 

Paul and I discussed the fact that many men are reticent to share information about their health, particularly potential symptoms of colorectal cancer.

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Colon Cancer’s Tattooed Pinup Girl, Tara Principali

Tara Principali

Colon Cancer’s Tattooed Pinup, Tara Principali

Tara (pronounced Tar-uh) Principali was diagnosed with Stage 2 rectal cancer five years ago at the age of 30. Though she once lived an unhealthy lifestyle, weighing as much as 270 lbs., she dedicated herself to fitness and healthy eating prior to her diagnosis and lost 130 lbs. In addition to the rectal cancer diagnosis Tara also learned she had Lynch Syndrome.

After a partial colectomy and temporary ileostomy, Tara was considered in remission. She didn’t undergo any chemotherapy or radiation, since her cancer was caught early. Six months after her ileostomy and j-pouch surgery, Tara’s symptoms returned. She went back to her doctor who ran a series of tests and diagnosed her with Crohn’s Disease.

Tara now has a “new normal.” She eats a healthy diet and is a competitive bodybuilder.

Related Links

Tara’s story from On The Rise, produced by the Colon Club

Tara on Instagram

Lynch Syndrome

Ileostomy

J-Pouch

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