As told to Taylor Novak
I’d been married for a year and we were in the process of moving when I was diagnosed. At the time, I had started a new diet regimen and was monitoring changes in my bowel movements. I started to notice that there was blood. That was when I decided to go see the doctor, and I was diagnosed. They took a biopsy from my colonoscopy and that’s when the cancer was found.
It was definitely a huge shock, especially because no one in my family had it. I had smoked for a few years and I knew I was at risk with that, but I never imagined that I would get cancer.
I was able to get in right away with an oncologist at Hackensack and they already had a plan in place. They sent me for additional scans to see exactly what the extent was. They confirmed that it was stage IIIA. Then, we planned for me to begin eight rounds of chemo. After that, there was going to be a little bit of a break and then I was going to do 35 or 36 rounds of radiation followed by surgery to have the area removed as long as everything was going OK.
It was really hard, especially finding out right before the holidays. Right away, my thoughts are, ‘This is going to be my last Christmas.’ I’d only been married for a year; we hadn’t had any kids yet. Was I ever going to get to be a father?
But I have an awesome support system, like my parents. My mom came to every appointment with me—every single chemo treatment, every single radiation. She was there for everything. My wife, my brothers—they were all awesome and supportive. Other people were reaching out over social media, even people I didn’t know. I had a really, really good support system through it all.
We lost one of my brothers two years ago [during the pandemic]. In between the cancer and losing my brother, it’s made me cherish every minute I spend with my kid now.
I can’t even really put it into words.
I work all day. Sometimes I don’t even get to say bye to my son in the morning, but I always make sure I spend time with him at night. On the weekends, I’m always with him. In no way, shape or form it is like it used to be where I would go out with my friends and my wife would do her thing. I stay with them.
I’m bettering myself, like changing the way I eat so I’m not eating things that could make my cancer come back. I’m trying to stay active and work out as much as I can.
It’s important for people to know how serious it is. A lot of people think a little bit of blood is not a big deal. My story should be out there for younger people. It’s important, whether people have a history of cancer in their family or not. People need to know and be informed.
Push harder, get things done, get treatments and get yourself taken care of and on the right path so you’re around longer for the people who care about you.