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You’re Never Too Old to Build a Pillow Fort

March 5, 2020 kevinhays

You’re Never Too Old to Build a Pillow Fort

March 5, 2020 Kevin Hays

You’re never too old to build a pillow fort.

You’re never too old to hop on a carousel with your kids and laugh as you spin around.

You’re never too old to lick the spoon when making brownies.

You’re never too old to play with Lego (no, not Legos – that’s technically incorrect. Lego is both the singular and the plural).

You’re never too old for a lightsaber battle.

You’re never too old to be Batman.

You’re never too old to just act like a kid and have fun.

And, unfortunately, you’re never too young to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

That’s what happened to me. I was 28 when I was diagnosed, and I was blindsided. I was married, got my first house, had my first child and was ambitiously carving out my niche in my career and field. But what I wasn’t doing was noticing any symptoms.

As the years have gone on, and I continue to battle the disease, I have thrown myself heavily into advocacy. I want others to notice the symptoms that I didn’t. I want others to know about their family history. I want others to get the necessary screenings.

Spreading awareness is my way to fight back against the disease. For me, sitting in a chemo chair doesn’t feel like “fighting.” I needed something a little more active. I needed to educate people about the fact that colorectal cancer is rising in young people at a concerning rate.

Fill out a personal screening assessment right now.

It’s important. For example, did you know that, in a recent Colorectal Cancer Alliance report, it was found that 41% of young adults diagnosed with colorectal cancer had waited at least six months after beginning to experience symptoms to go to a doctor? 67% percent saw at least two physicians before receiving the correct diagnosis. And of all young-onset cases in this study, 71% were diagnosed at a later stage.

We can change those numbers.

What are some of the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

  • Change in bowel movements (diarrhea, constipation, or stool consistency)
  • Blood in your stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Dark stool (black)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal discomfort, such as pain or cramping
  • A lump in your abdomen
  • The sensation that you need to have a bowel movement, even after you have had one

What should you do if the doctor isn’t taking your concerns seriously?

Be your own advocate! They will say hemorrhoids. They will say anemia. They’ll tell you to take iron supplements. And maybe those will be accurate diagnoses. But if you think something is wrong, go with your gut. Keep pushing. Colorectal cancer has extremely high cure rates when caught at an early stage.

When should you start colorectal cancer screenings?

It depends on your risk level. Everyone at average risk should begin screenings at 45 years old, but you may need it even sooner if you’re at high risk. Learn your family history. Do research. And fill out assessments like this one that will help determine which types of cancer you are at high risk for.

A big part of my identity and my purpose has shifted because of this diagnosis. I have found silver linings — I do look at things differently now than I used to. Although, it took a while to get there. I remember after I was done with surgery and the first rounds of chemo, I was still getting angry at little things. I would think to myself, “you know what real problems are, why are you worrying about that?” But we are all people. And it’s easy to fall into that trap. But now, I am focused on advocacy.

I am doing this because colorectal cancer is the third leading cancer, second leading cancer killer among men and women combined, and is one of the most treatable and preventable when caught early. So please, take it from me: Pay attention to your body and be your own advocate.

#Never2Young #NationOfAllies #TomorrowCantWait

Kevin Hays

Kevin is a husband, a father of 3, and is fighting cancer for the 3rd time. He also started The Blue Hope Hard Hat Initiative, a Buffalo-area effort targeting the real estate development and construction industry promoting awareness for colorectal health.

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