March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, a time to spread the word about detection.
Last week’s Park Theater concert with Faithfully, a Journey tribute band, turned into a rally for education when lead singer John Allen announced he was recently diagnosed with stage three colon cancer and had undergone surgery just 10 days prior to the concert.
“I didn’t know if I would mention it or not,” said Allen of his diagnosis. “This is Colon Cancer Awareness Month so let’s raise some awareness and maybe save a life.”
Allen said he has no family history of colon cancer, doesn’t smoke, eats relatively healthy and is 47 years old.
Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer, occurs in the colon or rectum. When discovered early, it is highly treatable. Most colon cancers develop first as polyps, which are abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum that may later become cancerous if not removed. There are very few, if any, symptoms.
Unbeknownst to Allen, he began having one of the few symptoms of colon cancer in April 2016 with blood in the stool which he attributed to the consumption of too many BC Powders. Persistent abdominal discomfort would follow.
“August, September, October, I started having pain that I thought was either gallstones or my appendix on the right side of my abdomen,” said Allen. “I went in to get a CT scan and it read I had thickening of the colon which is a sign of either cancer, Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis.”
Two other symptoms that some people have experienced are a change in bowel habits and fatigue, with accompanying weight for no known reason, nausea or vomiting.
Allen’s wife urged him to schedule a colonoscopy. He readily admits he should have listened, but in-stead waited until February 2017.
“I was reluctant and kept putting it off,” said Allen. “On Valentine’s Day, it worried me so much that I booked a colonoscopy. I was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer.”
There are four stages of colon cancer. At stage four, the cancer has spread from the colon to other or-gans in the body.
Even if it spreads into nearby lymph nodes, surgical treatment followed by chemotherapy is highly ef-fective. In the most difficult cases – when the cancer has spread to the liver, lungs or other sites – treatment can help make surgery an option for many, as well as prolonging and adding to one’s quality of life. Research is constantly being done to learn more and provide hope for people no matter what stage they are.
Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people 50 years or older. However, incidence in those younger than 50 is on the rise. In fact, 11 percent of co-lon cancer diagnoses and 18 percent of rectal cancer diagnoses occur in those under 50.
Colon cancer takes the lives of more than 50,000 people every year. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S., and the second leading cause of cancer death.
Post-op by 10 days didn’t stop the music. Allen’s presence didn’t show any signs of hindrance as he worked the stage, spun his microphone stand in the air and during intermission, came off the stage and smiled for pictures with fans.
“I didn’t want to disappoint our fans in McMinnville,” said Allen. “I’m under a restriction to not lift any-thing over 15 pounds or I’ll rip my surgical stitches out. I wasn’t able to take my pain medication during the day because it makes me drowsy. Regardless, I wasn’t about to cancel the concert. It wasn’t going to happen.”
Allen has an appointment with an oncologist to determine treatment options with radiation and/or chemotherapy.