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Faces of Blue: Dennis Arrivillaga

By March 15, 2021Faces of Blue

Colon Cancer has changed the trajectory of my life.

I lost my older brother Marvin in July 2016 after an arduous and quick two-year battle with stage IV colon cancer. He had just turned 39 and had big dreams and aspirations for himself and his two little ones who were 7 and 3 at the time. His passing has left a huge hole in my family’s life, but I am determined that my brother’s legacy will not be forgotten.

I personally witnessed my brother’s strength, conviction, and willingness to fight his prognosis against all adversity – all with a huge smile on his face. While in treatment, my brother and I became involved with the colorectal cancer (CRC) community, trying to advocate for early screening and early detection by sharing his story through various media outlets & organizations. We surrounded ourselves with new friends who understood my brother’s struggles. Although my brother is physically gone, I’m blessed to call this same CRC community my family and my support friends.

As a caregiver, I can honestly say that colon cancer shifted the trajectory of my life. I moved from Southern California to Minnesota before after Marvin’s diagnosis to be near him and his nuclear family. I wanted my parents and family to have the opportunity to visit and be connected with my niece and nephew. We grew up with the motto Strong Families Stick Together,” and colorectal cancer definitely put us all to the test. It’s said that a single candle can both defy & define the darkness. That was my family’s experience with colorectal cancer as well.

It’s hard to see families separated by colon cancer. I am still actively involved with the CRC community and continue to share my brother’s legacy by advocating for early screening and detention. I want fewer families to be separated by this horrible disease. 

I do it for my brother, I do it for my family, and I do it for my niece and nephew, who are growing up without their courageous dad.

I found my true calling in life by being purposeful and aligning my life, duties, and responsibilities to help carry on the advocacy my brother Marvin started in the CRC community. Being able to help my niece, nephew, and my family, as well as others within the CRC community (patients & caregivers alike), navigate through the many ups-and-downs and unimaginable grief associated with colon cancer has been rewarding for my heart and soul. 

But it also helps keep my brother’s memory alive. I keep the same huge smile on my face and positive attitude that he had, even while I continue coping with his loss. I believe that better days are ahead.

#SmileLikeMarvin #StrongFamiliesStickTogether #OneSingleCandleCanDefyDarkness

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • LizaMae says:

    I’m in some of the same Facebook groups with you. My mother died from colon cancer in 2020. So much of what you said here rings true with me–connections, responsibility, legacy, navigating caregiving and grief. Thank you for staying in the arena and sharing your heart!

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