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'I wasn't afraid', Maryland man tackles colorectal cancer head-on

Posted at 8:14 AM, Mar 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-02 12:32:31-05

A Maryland man was shocked after he went to the doctor for feeling tired and listless, and shortly discovered he had cancer. 

James Green is a social worker at Child Protective Services for the State of Maryland. When he was not feeling well he went to his family doctor, who suggested a colonoscopy.

“I knew it was important for me to get it done. I have known co-workers that have gotten it done with no issues, so I thought I can’t put it off, I need to get it done and see what happens,” explained Green.

Unfortunately, the after the colonoscopy he found out he had colorectal cancer. 

“I wasn’t afraid, it was just a little odd to me that I was told that I actually had cancer. For a brief moment, it was like an out of body experience. The moment he said cancer it felt like I was outside of my body looking at him talking to me about what was going on, where it was located, and what my options were. Right after that, the only thing I could think of is let's get this done, let's get this over with."

Shortly after his diagnosis, Green had surgery to remove the tumor at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. He said he stayed calm throughout the entire process, and what actually scared him more than his diagnosis was the reactions he got from others when he said he had cancer. While people were afraid he was going to die, he was keeping a level head. 

Green also credits some of his calmness to the hardworking staff at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital.  

"The fact that they were very calm and professional, those were the two main things for me. It allowed me to be calm when I was told what was going on."

But Dr. Lawrence Mills, Green's doctor and Chief of Gastroenterology at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, said that's just part of the job,

"If someone is newly diagnosed with colon cancer, I would reassure the patient that the cancer may be totally curable. If not curable, the five-year survival with chemotherapy and radiotherapy could be excellent. Colon cancer is not a rare tumor, and many people go on to live healthy and productive lives even with the diagnosis of colon cancer."

While there are some symptoms that can hint at a colorectal cancer diagnosis, stories like Green's are not uncommon, 

"Early signs of colon cancer might include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, pencil thin stools, and unexplained weight loss. On the other hand, early colon cancer may not give any symptoms at all," explained Dr. Mills. 

He also added that if you want to prevent colon cancer, you need to get a colonoscopy, 

"The best preventative measure to prevent colon cancer is to undergo surveillance colonoscopy with removal of any polyps discovered during the colonoscopy. By removing polyps, you remove the risk that the polyp could turn malignant."

Though there was not much more that Green could do, he says he wishes he got his colonoscopy sooner, 

"The only thing I would do differently is get it done earlier, I think I kind of put it off for a while because of the fear of the unknown. But once I committed myself to it, like when I commit myself to anything I am full steam ahead. No fear and just go and do it, take care of it."

Now, Green is cancer free and gets regular checkups to ensure that his cancer has not come back.