Editor’s note: Both Jason and Candace share their thoughts about Jason’s journey with colon cancer. including a video she made about his journey and to encourage others to be vigilant about their health – a true must-watch! Scroll down to see.
My name is Jason Esta. I am a husband to the most beautiful woman (Candace) in the world and father to two sons (Noah and Rhett) who are our best gifts ever. Being a husband and a father are the two most important things in my life. I have two brothers and have a great mom and I love all three very much I work at Moore’s Machine Shop, and enjoy the great opportunity to be part of their team. I have awesome family and friends. I have attended Crossroads Church for 30+ years and love God with all my heart. I am a diehard LSU tiger fan, and love the Saints as well.
Well at the age of 10 years old I lost my dad who was 33 years old to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I was the only other known cancer case in my family to have battled the disease.
My story starts out probably like most you a have read this month. Mine started at work out of the blue. For a couple of months I had little stomach pains that would come and go. Nothing serious, nothing major, just a little pain, maybe 5 seconds, then nothing fine. One day after lunch I felt the sudden urge (if you know what I mean) to stop what I was doing that I needed to get to the bathroom ASAP. Well as I sat there I thought I was having diarrhea (sorry for being gross), but when I looked down I saw nothing but BLOOD (like pints of blood) in the toilet. I sat there in shock; I thought if this happens again I am going to the doctor. Well about an hour and a half later it happened again and I thought if this happens again I am going to the doctor. Well between the hours of 2-6 o’clock it happened another three times. So I waited till I got home to tell my and she told me if it happened again to let her see, well almost immediately it happened and soon we were on our way to the ER. The ER doctor found nothing wrong and told us we needed to have a colonoscopy.
Well my wife started making calls to doctors in town, and to our surprise no one wanted to see us. They all said I was too young and by this time the bloody bathroom visits had ceased. Well my wife didn’t take no kindly and was persistent to getting me a doctor visit. She of course is the daughter of a nurse, and knew something wasn’t right. Well a great doctor’s office saw me and we are so thankful for them seeing us when everyone else was saying NO!! A doctor’s office worked me in and scheduled me a colonoscopy within a week. (By the way the prep stuff you have to drink I call it the devils juice…that stuff is NASTY)
Well after my colonoscopy Dr. Abshire tells me and my wife I had late stage 2 early stage 3 colon cancer!
What I feel fine I kept telling him, and as he looked at us and told us what was fixing to happen, I slowly faded out and started to think about my dad, and him battling the same disease at 33 and now I am 33 and going through the same thing, Fear set in and started to feed me lies and tell me Colon cancer was going to kick my butt! Fear was telling me colon cancer was going to rob me of growing old with my wife and take me away from my kids and not watch them grow up and graduate or get married. That colon cancer was going to rob me of one day being a grandfather. Colon Cancer was telling me that I wasn’t in control. Colon cancer was telling me that all the little aches and pains that I had where places the cancer had spread.
The first thing I did was Google “colon cancer” after my diagnosis, and the first thing I see was that colon cancer was the second leading cause of death amongst cancers. I cried and as I sat there fear stricken I felt that I needed to Google survivor stories of people who had battled the disease. I began to get excited, and I began to have hope as I read story after story of people’s testimonies. It was those stories, and the awesomeness of my wife that I was able to pick my self up and say NO to cancer, and the fear that was trying to grab ahold of my mind and my life. Soon after my colonoscopy, I had 18 inches of my colon taken out to remove the tumor, 6 rounds of chemo, countless scans, blood test, and doctor visits. I had a great team of doctors from the gastro, to my surgeon, and my oncologist. They were all wonderful! I am forever grateful for all the great care we received from all of them.
My wife and kids were everything. My employer was so awesome during the whole process and made sure that we never lacked for anything due to all the in and out I was having to go through during that time. Our friends where our rock! We couldn’t have made it through without them. My wife and I cried the first night we found out about the colon cancer because of all the love and support we where getting from our great group of friends, our wonderful church family, and our families as well. We were so touched and overwhelmed. We had people calling us from all over the U.S. saying this group of people are praying and that group of people are praying for y’all over there. We had a map with places we had heard or known people that where praying for us and a lot of those places we had never been too or didn’t even know anyone who lived there. God was so good at making us feel so loved in that moment, and the moments that followed, and He was the most critical part of our network. You see He never left our side and was always as our friends, and loved ones went back on with everyday lives and we still sat there in the unknown of what was to come or to happen. The 23 Psalms came to life for us.
I would have to say that early on the voices that said I was going to die were difficult to deal with. Cancer is the fear of the unknown, often associated with death. It would literally infiltrate my thoughts, and I would have to cast down my imagination throughout that whole process, and yet there are still those days I wonder if my fight is through with this disease. I came to the conclusion that the first thing cancer does is attack your mind, even though the scans come back clear, or the blood test are great. Fear of the unknown. Telling my mind to shut up even then and today!
My words of wisdom for others would be to first go get a colonoscopy and get screened if you are reading this and haven’t yet! If you are going through colon cancer, the first thing you should do is not Google facts about Colon Cancer. You should look up testimonies of people that beat the disease. The ball is in your court. Take control, listen to your doctor and help others going through this. I am taking the word cancer and want to do good with it. I know it’s a bad word right. My wife and I use SURVIVE 623 as she mentions below in her story. But I will also be taking the word cancer and respelling it, CANSUR. You see I figure there are two types of attitudes you can have with cancer you CANSURVIVE or you CANSURRENDER, the choice is yours and I want to show people that there is HOPE even after a horrible diagnosis.
Things that helped me cope were, my friends, and my STRONG wife, who took care of everything so that I could just live life as normal as possible during chemo, during doctor. visits, and scans. MUSIC, get some music that will speak life into your situation and give you some true HOPE, It will drown out the fear and voices in your head that say you want make it. YOU CANSURVIVE! FIGHT!
One night my oldest son who gave me a lot of motivation when he said this to me…This is where I turned the corner and had a peace that everything would be all right and told my mind to shut up. We got home from church after our annual 4th of July celebration and as I was tucking my oldest son into bed that night, he looks at me and says dad, if you go home I’m going to miss you. I said what do you mean son, we are home and now its time for bed buddy, he said No daddy if you go home to be with Jesus I’m gong to miss you. I sat there in that moment MAD AT THE WORLD ticked that my then eight year old would even have to think of something like this. That the very word cancer would have had to come out of his mouth. I mean I remember being in his shoes when I was his age and I was losing my own father to cancer, different type of cancer but same beast I looked at him with all the confidence and FAITH that I had in my heart and told him, Son Daddy will be around for a very long time, and that I was going to watch him graduate and get married and be a grandpa to his kids. I then went into my bathroom in the pitch-black dark of night and had a very stern prayer with GOD. I know God was probably not surprised by my anger, and HE knew everything was going to be okay, and yet in that moment assured me that everything was going to be okay. Today I am almost 5 years cancer free, This June 23 will be my 5 year anniversary of being cancer free! So thankful and humbled.
To me, the phrase “Get Your Rear in Gear” means, do something. Its not just a diagnosis anymore for older people. I was 33, please get screened! You have nothing to lose. 22 people have gone to get colonoscopies because of our story and eight had polyps. That’s eight people that at an older age might have been told you have cancer instead of polyps. It’s an easy process. Get Your Rear in Gear means putting your feet into action and doing all you can do to keep from becoming a statistic.
Watch Jason’s video here.
Jason was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. He didn’t have any symptoms. He donated blood every three months, no anemia, very active and played sports at the time. I had a very hard time getting him in to have a colonoscopy because of his age. He had 18 inches of his colon removed and six rounds of chemo. Jason has an amazing spirit and personality, if you didn’t “know” he was going through chemo you could have never pick up on it.
My reaction was numbing at first, and fear following. Fear of watching him die, fear of being alone, and fear of raising our children alone. I thought how can I bear all of this on the inside and still stay strong, encouraging, and empowered on the outside? This is the battle of caregivers. I turned to God for strength. I had to learn how to live literally “one day at a time” coping with today and not worrying about what tomorrow would bring. This is no easy task. I educated myself enough to somewhat know what the doctors were saying but had to turn off the computer when it became too much. I search only for survival stories of hope, nothing that would encourage any more fear than I already had.
Jason is my best friend. No one wants to see their best friend hurt. I started a motto for us! Survive 6/23 this is his date of diagnosis. I made an awareness video first, and then as people started asking me about him I’d share his story and our fight to survive. Jason was healthy (or so we thought) he had started a new job about six months prior, had a full physical and passed, donated blood every three months and never had a problem. He was on a league softball team for work, and had no family history of colon cancer! I wanted people to understand if he could have this anyone could. I talked a few people into having colonoscopies with me in support of him! We went in, and when people started coming to me saying they had polyps I was shocked. So I started a log of people and their polyps so we could know this wasn’t a waste of time. To date I personally have had 22 people screened, eight of them had polyps and of the eight, five of them were under the age of 40! Jason was 33 at his diagnosis.
This is the new face of colon cancer, it doesn’t age discriminate so why do doctors? I’m the face of a caregiver who doesn’t give up very easy. I thank God every day for a doctor who listened to his patient regardless of his age! This wasn’t easy. There were several doctors I tried to get Jason into, but they wouldn’t see him because of his age! This is my new goal! Fighting age discrimination!
Get your rear in gear says to me, we have so much work to do! Early screening! I want laws and recommendations changed! Screening campaigns are working because colon cancer used to be the second highest killer in cancer deaths, but has now fell to third. I believe early detection is the reason.