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Knowledge Can Save Your Life

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

December 9th, 2020, I received a phone call from my husband, Vivek, and heard the words “Ruchi, they are saying I have cancer.” Wait, what? 

I even asked him if he was joking, as I had only dropped him off at the hospital like three hours before with abdominal pain.

But he wasn’t laughing, and what followed was a lot of reading, understanding, and comprehending of what was to come next based on his diagnosis of Stage 3C colon cancer, which had spread to the lymph nodes.

He had colon resection surgery the very next day, followed by six months of chemo and scans/tests. 

Even though cancer is behind us, raising awareness is not. March is Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Awareness Month and an opportune time to learn a little more about a disease that usually has no symptoms. It is no longer a disease of people over 50, and Vivek is proof as he was 48 at diagnosis, and one of the healthiest and fittest people, even following a mostly vegetarian diet. 

CRC is the third most common cancer diagnosed worldwide, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. It is projected to be number one by 2027 for ages 20-49. You may have also heard of celebrities like Chadwick Boseman, who died at 43, or Baltimore Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini, who was diagnosed at age 28.

Colon cancer affects 1 in 20 people and impacts women and men equally. 

According to Anjee Davis, Fight Colorectal Cancer president, “By 2030, the incidence of early-age onset CRC—diagnoses under age 50—is predicted to increase by more than 140%, meaning more than 27,000 people under the age of 50 will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. We must act now.”

Experts are still trying to figure out the reason why more adults in their 20s and 30s are being diagnosed.

Having said all that, colon cancer is also one of the most detectable, preventable, and curable cancers—provided that people are diligent about screenings.

According to the University of California San Francisco, “about 90% of colorectal cancer and deaths are thought to be preventable. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults 45 and up (reduced from 50 in 2021) get regular colon cancer screenings. Some common symptoms can be changes in bowel movements, increased diarrhea, rectal bleeding, dark stools, unexpected weight loss, cramping, and excess fatigue. 

Believe us—we know it's awkward to talk about your colon, and we hear people tell us all the time that “colonoscopies are no fun … they scare me … I don’t like the prep … yes one day I will … I have no symptoms … I have no family history.” 

But as Vivek says, colonoscopies are way easier than chemo. 

While Vivek was lucky to experience symptoms (for only a week), colon cancer is typically invisible and leads to potentially fatal delayed detections. Prevention is always better than cure, and we know of over 150 people who scheduled their colonoscopies or appointments with their doctors after hearing our story. 

If you have any questions, concerns, symptoms, have a family history, or are 45 or older, schedule some time with your doctor for yourself or your loved one, and take action. Our voices have power and can save lives, and by sharing our story we are hoping to do just that. 

We know this is a journey, and continue to take it one day at a time and welcome all your love and blessings. Thank you for reading, and please do join us for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance walk in November and help raise awareness.

  • Ruchi and Vivek