The sh*t show: Tim Kavanagh’s battle with colorectal cancer

By Tim Kavanagh

Candy and Tim

In May 2016, and my wife and I had just returned from a vacation and I was prepping for my first colonoscopy, having just turned 50 while we were away. (As of 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that adults of average risk should begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 45.) After the procedure, I was flanked by a surgeon and nurse who told me they had found what they believed to be cancer in my rectum. Still in a groggy state from anesthesia, I asked them to repeat it two more times. Could I really have cancer? From that day forward, my life was forever changed, as I was diagnosed with stage II rectal cancer. With vacation glow gone, I then had the difficult task of telling my wife, Candy.

Fast forward to today, and I am still in the battle, but I remain strong in spirit and faith. Since my initial diagnosis in 2016, I have been re-diagnosed four times with the same disease; have endured countless rounds of chemo, radiation and resection surgeries, including two temporary ileostomies; and I now have a full-time colostomy bag. To date, I’ve had over 30 surgeries (and counting)—from an emergency appendectomy to a life-threatening bowel perforation—but I am still here and continuing the fight every day.

To help myself and others as I navigated my cancer journey, I decided to write and perform a one-man comedy show, aptly named The Shit Show: How One Man Battled Cancer While Life Was Circling The Drain. This show is for anyone that has or knows someone battling cancer. I call it my “self-defecating approach” to dealing with rectal cancer. I perform my show in clubs as well as cancer-related conferences, with a portion of the proceeds donated to a charity organization in the city I’m performing in. This humorous approach has not only helped me get through the tough days but has also been a meaningful way for me to connect with others while reminding them of the importance of prevention.

I first learned about the Prevent Cancer Foundation through a friend and decided to reach out to see how I could use my experience and passion for the entertainment industry to encourage others to take charge of their health. Over the last three years, my relationship with the Foundation has allowed me to share my story and spread their messaging about how research, education, advocacy and outreach coexist to support individuals and communities far and wide across the cancer care continuum. They have been a beacon of light for me on my journey numerous times, and I am ever so grateful.