Dave Gillham is fighting for his life, yet unselfishly trying to spare others the same terrifying battle.
Just before Christmas last year, the 35-year-old father of two from Miramichi, N.B. was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer.
The diagnosis was a shock for his young family, given the belief that colorectal cancer typically does not affect young adults
“You will find yourself crying for no particular reason, for no other reason than you are scared and worried about what is going to happen in the future I suppose,” said Dave, who has a three-year-old daughter and a three-month-old son with his wife, Lori.
“It is incredibly scary when you start to think about the future … It is very overwhelming,” said Lori.
Lori says her husband is staying positive and bravely sharing his story to try to help others.
“I would just rather focus on the positive,” said Dave.
While undergoing chemotherapy, he is blogging from his hospital bed about every aspect of his treatment, hoping to inspire other young men who may be experiencing symptoms to get rectal exams.
“I think that it is not too common that guys my age are willing enough to speak out,” said Dave who said he was inspired to help others because people from Miramichi have been so supportive of his family and even held a benefit concert in his honour.
“Ultimately if I can help save the life of another gentleman being brave enough to say, ‘Hey get a check done,’ and if they can catch it earlier, maybe they can have a better diagnosis than myself,” he said.
According to Barry Stein, the president of Colorectal Cancer Canada, the disease, once believed to impact primarily people over 50, is now a reality for young Canadians.
New research shows roughly 1,500 young adults in Canada every year are developing the disease. Some, he says, are even in their 20s and are being diagnosed in the advanced stages because their doctors did not recognize the symptoms
“Don’t ignore your symptoms. If there is a problem, speak to your doctor about it. Don’t let them brush you off because there may in fact be an issue that has to be checked,” he said.
Stein said symptoms include rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and changes in bowel movements. Lifestyle, such as diet, may account for the increase in rates among younger adults.
Colorectal Cancer Canada is asking all provinces to consider following the United States’ lead in lowering the recommended screening age from 50 to 45.
Dave was never screened but hopes his blog will encourage others who may be experiencing symptoms to get checked.
“Go get checked out. Don’t hesitate and don’t be proud about what’s downstairs. Go and get it done,” he said.