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Faces of Blue: Paul Weigel

By June 20, 2024Faces of Blue

Editor’s Note:  Paul introduced himself years ago as a CRC survivor and recovering athlete. At 43 years old, Paul advocated for his health and was the first person in his family to be diagnosed with colon cancer. As he reflects on the past 10 years, here’s what he has to say about his experience, love, and fatherhood.

The overall treatment was long – oral chemo and radiation, then surgery, and then six months of Folfox and 5fu chemo.  But I powered through it all, doing my best to pretend I wasn’t a cancer patient by being as active as possible.  Shoot, I even did a half-Ironman with my chemotherapy backpack on!

Paul Weigel completing the Ironman in Whistler, Canada.

I finished the Ironman triathlon in Whistler, Canada, a year after surgery and six months after completing chemotherapy, and have completed four others since then! There’s always hope.

Being a triathlete literally saved my life. A few years before I was diagnosed, I had finished Ironman Arizona and started training for Ironman Canada in Whistler.  As I got more serious about training, I knew something was really wrong with my gut and that I needed to be serious about finding out what was going on.

Like many, I had symptoms for years including blood in my stool, IBS, and then weight loss.  I had spoken with my primary care physician several times, only to have them disregarded as hemorrhoids, lactose intolerance, and anything but cancer – especially since I was only 43 years old with no family history.

As an athlete, I knew something was wrong with my body and should have been a stronger advocate in fighting for my health.  I finally got in to see a GI specialist, who recommended a colonoscopy, and then we found a tumor the size of a lemon just below my belly button.

I thought my time was going to be cut short based on how advanced my cancer was.  I was petrified of the thought that my daughter, Natalie, wouldn’t know who I was after I passed away and wanted to her to know I wasn’t a quitter. It was incredibly important for me to hear them say, “Paul Weigel, you are an Ironman!” and have a finisher photo with her.  After all, the Ironman mantra is “Anything is possible!”

Paul Weigler and his daughter, Natalie

Love is the most important thing to keep you going through treatment and later. I had a challenging life before Natalie was born and didn’t feel I had a lot to live for.  But from the moment she was born, all I could do was imagine dreams I could not wait to see.  She’s been more than I ever could have imagined, and I learn more and more from her every day.  I’ve taken in every moment I could with her, the dad walking her to the school door rather than dropping her off from the car, volunteering as much as I could, the dad you see at volleyball and soccer games, regardless of the weather of quality of the game.  Being a dad is all that’s mattered.

Natalie has grown into an amazing young woman.  I’m sure that she’s learned key lessons about competition and resiliency from my cancer journey.  She also has a keen sense of what really matters every day.

I wrote a book about my experiences – Iron Dad – A Cancer Survivor’s Story of Discovering Strength, Life, and Love Through Fatherhood that talks about my experiences through treatment and afterward.  Check it out!

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