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Survivor Story: Craig Phinney

Craig Phinney Alkeny, IA

Craig Phinney
Alkeny, IA

After two different colonoscopy’s (Oct 08 & Jan 09), and the results sent to consultants with Mayo Clinic. My colon doctor called on a Friday evening (February 06, 2009) at 5:45pm on the phone and said, “Craig, you have onset of cancer and the best way to proceed is remove the whole colon and you won’t be chasing bad guys any more.”  I said WHAT??  He further explained that this disease would restrict me to a desk and I would not be doing a job that, #1 I am damn good at and #2, that I love as a profession – it’s NOT A JOB. For those of you who know me; this is my LIFE!.  I have been fortunate enough to be a Police Officer since August 1978.  You don’t tell a cop he can’t do what he loves, because it’s a career ender….Our whole conversation lasted approximately four minutes. Understand this is a Doctor I have seen for approximately seven years for treating an Ulcertic Colitus (Ulcers of the Colon) problem matter and who knew my background.

Following a week of depression and some very positive conversations with my supervisors at work, I met with Dr. Michael Page, MD Colon & Rectal Surgeon in Des Moines. Prior to this meeting the only thing the two of us had in common was, we both lived in Ankeny and both love to smoke and BBQ meat.

Following a very positive discussion with Dr Page, a decision was made. I DECIDED GAME ON DOC!

From there March 24, 2009 was surgery, with a complete colon removal, I was in the hospital for two weeks with complications and then in the recovery at home for 6 weeks with an ostomy bag. The second surgery was in May for reconnect. I was released from the hospital one week following my second surgery. I was home for 24 hours, when I had complications from severe dehydration and was re-admitted to the hospital for another week.

During my stay in the hospital, I had time to think, past all the drugs or maybe because of the drugs.Anyway, this came to a question I challenged myself during the quiet times. What would I do with an extra hour today, that special 25th hour? How could I use it to benefit myself or someone else?

I realize cancer does funny things with time. #1 it surprises you when you don’t expect it and #2 you’re caught between time moving ever so slowly, giving you too much time to think and time moving so fast you can’t live the life you want to live.

Tonight, I challenge you to commit to arrest time and stop this unfairness this disease has on us, our friends and our family.

I challenge you with one simple question: If you could have one more hour today how would your spend it?

If you are battling cancer presently, walking along side a friend or family member fighting the disease or you just want to ease the pain that cancer causes someone else. THINK! WHAT CAN I DO WITH ANOTHER HOUR TODAY

Following my first surgery, I was on an ostomy pouch for six weeks, which was a miserable ordeal.

During this transition, I met a wonderful friend with similar health concerns who is and also will be my pouch partner. She spoke openly with me about my concerns about the disease and what was ahead of me. Her commitment was for me to understand this disease and that yes, it is a lifestyle change, it’s not ending the enjoyment of living.She encouraged me to attend cancer support and ostomy support groups, which I have and one thing I learned, this disease DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE. Six weeks ago I had my second surgery to attach the J-Pouch.

My second commitment, I saw what this disease was doing to me and what it was doing to my wife. I was determined to prove my colon doctor wrong. My wife and I have taken this disease head on and have reached several goals along the way. It has not been an easy journey, but all of this could not have been made possible without your support, kindness, hospital visits, prayers, phone calls, and encouragement of friends/co-workers, our extended family and our renewed faith in God.

One day while in the hospital, I had 26 visitors – to the point my mother-in-law started keeping a guest book.

You have had a few minutes to think what your commitment to this disease will be. It can simply be talking to your state legislators, volunteering for a Cancer Association event, donating money to one of the local area events promoting cancer prevention, or reminding and encouraging a friend or a family member about their annual checkups and prescreening exams, but do something, COMMIT.

I have mentioned a few things I have committed to. Here are a few more suggestions:

* Keep those date nights going, whether with your wife or your family. Remember to keep telling them how much you love them and remind them you realize what this disease has done to them.

* Keep those special social events going as well, you and a friend taking in a baseball game some afternoon. Keep those lunch plans with friends. If they offer you assistance with a project around the house or at work. Allow them to help you.. Remember it’s their commitment!

* Last keep your faith in God. Whether you speak to him in a concrete church or while floating in your kayak on a river. Talk to him. I am an example, GOD LISTENS.


It has been almost nine months since I heard the most frightening three word statement in my life, “We found Cancer.” Followed by the most encouraging eight word statement I’ve ever heard, “We got it all and no further treatments.”

Since March, 2009, I bounced back sooner than expected after two surgeries and two separate weeks in the hospital and from the Dr Page’s original plans -earlier than he expected. To say the least, I’ve impressed my Doctor a little. Maybe something one of the Drs previously said made me a little mad and I am determined to prove him wrong.

My wife Shirley and I have taken this disease head on and have reached several goals along the way. It has not been an easy journey, but all of this could not have been made possible without the support, kindness, visits, prayers, phone calls, food delivered and encouragement that has been provided by our family, friends, co-workers and a renewed faith in God.

Last years during the Relay for Life event was a milestone event in my life. I was asked one week prior to the event to be the guest speaker during the Survivors Fight Back segment. The segment features persons with remarkable results and stories of their struggles with cancer.

During the event and following my presentation, after everything my wife and I had been through, it finally hit.

Craig, you had cancer. CRAIG YOU HAD CANCER. WHOA!!!!!!! Cancer does not discriminate.

Well, Wednesday, July 01, 2009, marked another major event this year in my life. At 5:00 in the morning, three and one half weeks earlier than expected, sooner than Dr Page normally allows, I suited up for the first time in four months, 44 lbs lighter with more energy and joyful tears in my eyes, I kissed my wife and thanked her for everything those past four months, she told me to be safe and I went back to a profession I LOVE.

Did I mention what Dr Page’s commitment to me was before surgery?

I’m back on the streets, protecting the public, making children smile, and Oh yeah, did I mention, BACK CHASING BAD GUYS..

Thanks Dr. Page

I AM A SURVIVOR, in more ways than one…

Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Anna says:

    Great.. So proud of your confidence.. God bless. I am a Cancer survivor too . I was admitted to CSCS( Australia in 2013 and was able to recover and lead a normal happy life.

  • Jessica M says:

    That was a great write up Craig, had me smiling lots… Most importantly very encouraging, Thank you and God bless you x

  • Michael B says:

    I just want to say thank you for taking the time out and all the information that you gave is been very helpful to me I was just recently diagnosed with stage one: cancer and after just a normal screening at 53 years old in the last week I’ve lost 20 pounds I’m in the process of just got done with the angiogram to find out that I had some slowing in my heart and that there was a chance that maybe I wouldn’t make it to surgery and sure enough just got released from the hospital and now I’m heading tomorrow afternoon to get a total colectomy without the bag connecting my small intestine to my anus and I am very scared and hope I made the right decision the under my normal court colonoscopy screening they were able to find 10 polyps two of them that were half of a centimeter and very very small but unfortunately on the margin and that’s my doctor surgeon suggested for a total instead of a partial I am praying and thinking positive and moving forward with the total I wish you all the luck in the world I can’t wait to get over this so I can move on with my life I am definitely moving in the right direction and will be cancer collation alliance buddy and cancer survivor and hopefully I can help people just like you have to me thank you and God bless

    • Dominga says:

      Hi Michael!!! How are you doing these days after that surgery..few days ago i had the same procedure like yours and i am still in the hospital recovering…in my case they totally removed my right colon so they have to connect the big intestines to the small intestine using a metal… i am still wondering how far is my survival after all these…will i still live?

  • Susan Rodger says:

    I am a prosecuting attorney, and I gave the same advice to all I know, STAY POSITIVE!!! I had my chemo scheduled around my court dates and times. My co-workers could not believe how well I was doing. I continued to work out (mild) by walking or ballroom dancing. I wen to two college football games with friends. Cancer may have changed my life with the time off and doctor visits, but I didn’t let it change me. Working with many police officers, bless you!!

  • Maria says:

    Thank you for Your story My Mother was diagnosed today and only me and Dad know and I’m in pain to know this will not be an easy fight but your story is so inspiring. I Pray to God to keep me positive as well as My Mother and Family. Thank you so much for this honestly. God Bless you and Your Family.

    • Des says:

      God bless you! All I can say is just stay and be braved for mother is as well on this roller coaster ride

  • Ruth says:

    What a wonderful story of hope and faith.It came back n spread but they caught it in time thank God. the worst part for me is watching my loved ones suffer because of me. I put on a brave face and stories like yours helps thank you God bless us all

  • Carrie says:

    Thank you for your nice post. One of my relatives was suffering from bowel cancer and recently she has diagnosed by colorectal surgeons Sydney

    • Sherrie Holt says:

      My husband is just learned of his cancer. This story gives me hope and strength that with GOD and determination all things are possible. I’m so happy for you and your wife….

  • Michelle says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I just learned of my cancer and I’m 47. I have had pre cancerous polyps removed since age 32. I just enrolled in college to train for a new career a few weeks ago thinking that my issues were ulcerative colitis and 3 days ago found out it’s cancer. I fully intend to go to college and be around to watch my toddler grandchildren grow up. Your words helped inspire me even more. Good luck and God Bless you.

  • Maurice Brown says:

    Great attitude. March 2016 I had stage 11+ Cecum Cancer of the colon ( all 28 lymph nodes negative) and ended up with five surgeries because of complications in ten months. Doing well now except the 29 x 27 inch mesh I have now is a bugger. Glad your doing well. I had no symptoms except they said you need a blood transfusion and a colonoscopy. The rest is history. Followup colonoscopy in a year came back negative.

  • Patrick Bigman says:

    Thank you for this inspriing story Criag.

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