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Survivor Story: Paul Weigel

weigel2I’m 43 years old, happily married and with a wonderful little daughter. I’m a recovering athlete on the weekends who happens to have a desk job.

No one in my family had any history of colon cancer. My Dad, Granddad, and Grandmother had various cancers that were related to them being smokers, but I never have.

Over time I saw that my G.I. system wasn’t working so well. I started with lactose intolerance and started to get lots of cramping and inconsistency in my bowel movements. Then I started seeing blood in my stool and increased constipation.

My general practitioner missed the cancer and it didn’t show in blood work. It was during a colonoscopy that we found a tumor the size of a lemon at the junction between my rectum and my colon. I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer and was almost 100% blocked. One surgeon recommended immediate surgery.

I was able to delay surgery based on starting chemotherapy and radiation almost immediately. After 28 rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, I then recovered for six weeks and then had my tumor removed.

Once my tumor was removed, I felt a huge amount better and was able to start moving on with my life, even while going through chemotherapy. I took part in a sprint triathlon six weeks after surgery. I plan to run a half marathon less than six months after surgery, and an Ironman at my year anniversary.

weigel1My family has been a huge supporter of me and I’m incredibly lucky to have the wonder and hope of my three and a half year old daughter to carry me through.

I’ve done my best to not have the cancer have huge effects on me, my family, etc., but it does every day. I’ve had some type of medical treatment at least weekly since being diagnosed. My family has learned to work around my fatigue as I’ve gone through treatment. Many friends have been great, but I’ve also learned that many friends really haven’t known how to respond to one of their friends having cancer. To a certain degree, I’ve had to build a whole new support network.

Originally I had to be on a low fiber diet, but post-surgery I’ve been able to pretty much able to eat what I want. Right now I’m still going through chemotherapy, so the weeks that include folfox and the 5fu drip certainly are fatiguing, but I’m doing my best to exercise as much as possible.

It took a lot of work to feel that I had a unified agreement in terms of my treatment. I went to three different doctors who had three different treatment recommendations, even though their assessment of my tumor was the same. I was also 99% blocked and needed to come up with an immediate solution.

My advice to others would be never, ever give up. It’s unbelievably scary at the start, but eventually you know you’ll get through.

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