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Listen to your body: A young-onset colorectal cancer patient’s journey

Patrick Beauregard | June 5, 2019

Patrick Beauregard is a 31-year-old Marine corporal who, at age 29, was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer that had spread to his lungs. With support from his family and his wife, Amanda, he is sharing his story to advocate for more awareness of colorectal cancer among young adults. Patrick and his oncologist, Dr. Kimmie Ng of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center, participated in the “Too Young for This Sh*t” webcast, hosted by the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Program. (Watch the recording here.)

Patrick BeauregardSomething was not right. The sudden pain in my abdomen forced me to stop walking and take a seat on a public bench. It was the afternoon of September 13, 2017. Two days later, my life would change forever.

Two weeks before this incident, I was the happiest I had ever been. I had just married the love of my life, Amanda, and we were soaking up the last rays of sun on our dream honeymoon in Tahiti. I felt on top of the world. Now that the wedding and honeymoon were behind us, we could focus on our future together.

Those future plans were thrown out the window two days later on September 15, 2017, when I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at the age of 29.

I kept thinking to myself, “This must be some kind of mistake.” I had always been into exercising and fitness, I was serving in the military and I always kept in touch (or so I thought) with my body and my health. After my diagnosis, countless people asked me if I had been experiencing any ongoing symptoms prior to my sudden and severe stomach pain. I was adamant that I hadn’t.

Now, I am not so sure. I admit that I could have been experiencing some of the symptoms of colon cancer, but perhaps I chose to ignore them. Growing up playing sports and then going on to serve in the military, I was taught to suck it up and keep going. I am competitive by nature. I wanted to be the strongest, the fastest, the toughest and the most athletic of anyone I went up against. This mindset forced me to ignore pain and push past it.

One of the issues with colon cancer is that the symptoms are so general and common that they can easily be excused. Upset stomach? I probably ate something for lunch that didn’t agree with me. Losing weight? I had been doing a lot of running in preparation for the wedding. After all, when you’re a healthy 29-year-old, cancer is the last thing on your mind.

Unfortunately, there has been a startling uptick in colon cancer diagnoses in young adults. This cancer doesn’t discriminate based on your age, your gender, your race or religion. It doesn’t care how many times you worked out this past week or this past year. It doesn’t care that you just got married or are busy planning your future.

If you are experiencing ongoing gastrointestinal issues, don’t brush them aside and hope they subside. Listen closely to your body—if something doesn’t seem right, don’t be afraid to be an advocate for your health and go get checked. Nobody is going to do it for you.

To learn more about colorectal cancer among young adults and how you can prevent it—or recognize the signs—visit www.tooyoungforthis.org.

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