Message from Coach Darin: Fighting Colon Cancer (or Better, Preventing It)

by mary on January 11, 2014

Beloved skating coach Darin Hosier has been fighting colon cancer with perseverance and a day-by-day plan like the dedicated athlete that he is. Photographer Amir Zahed created this inspiring video about him, including interviews and video of the beautiful benefit show Skate for Coach last summer.

Coach Darin deliberately bulked up before his aggressive HIPEC surgery to give himself strength for recovery. He writes on Facebook that his medical team was amazed at the muscle mass and weight gain he was able to achieve, to which he said, “I’m a figure skater – I achieve goals.” Wow.

Personally I have two friends who are fighting colon cancer in their forties. Colon cancer is currently screened for starting at age 50. If you are 50 or over, definitely sign up to get that colonoscopy. The full cost of screening is covered under the new ACA rules. I’ve gotten my screening done. With friends fighting this disease I would have been a fool not to. The prep wasn’t fun, but if you’re 50 or older, you’re a big boy or girl, suck it up and get it done. You’ll feel better knowing you’ve done something to safeguard your health.

Colon cancer develops from polyps, so screening to find and remove polyps is very effective prevention. Dr. Tim Byers, in this video, says that finding and removing polyps is the number one thing he recommends for prevention.

His second recommendation is to become more aware of our nutritional and exercise habits. Many studies have linked colon cancer to being overweight, especially around the belly. Diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and low in red and processed meat, decrease risk. We’ve talked about red meat and cancer risk before here. According to the American Cancer Society, “Moderate activity on a regular basis lowers the risk” of colon cancer, “but vigorous activity may have an even greater benefit.”

Now this is not exactly surprising lifestyle advice. And coach Darin is obviously a fit individual and below the screening age. My other friend fighting colon cancer was a vegetarian for several years. So what else can be done?

Know any family history of cancer in general and colon cancer in specific. Based on that you may be screened for genetic cancer syndromes or advised to get a colonoscopy at an earlier age. Know the symptoms of colon cancer, though unfortunately colon cancer can be silent until it’s advanced, and the symptoms can be pretty general. Symptoms are rectal bleeding, abdominal pain or bloating, and a change in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, narrower stools). This site Never Too Young discusses risks and screening for colon cancer in the  under-50′s.

If you are under-50 and have symptoms, be assertive with your doctor. According to Never Too Young, “Physician-related delays (e.g., missed symptoms, initial misdiagnosis) have been estimated to occur in 15-50% of young-onset colon cancer cases.”  This also goes for partners and families– be assertive and get your loved one into a doctor when they need it.

But if there are no symptoms? No history? Coach Darin notes in his video that 15,000 people under the age of 50 in the US come down with colon cancer each year. And the disease is often insidious, not showing symptoms until later on. Yet insurance doesn’t cover colonoscopy until 50. Could an easier, less-expensive screening test, like fecal occult blood sampling, be helpful for the under-50′s? I’m brainstorming here, but I think it’s important to consider solutions.

My next task now that my husband has had his 50th birthday is getting that colonoscopy scheduled. The good intentions are there, but it’s an easy one to let slip month after month or even year after year. We all want to put off unpleasant things. I love my husband, I want him around, and I’m going to provide the nudge to help him get it done. Readers, I hope you will do the same for yourselves.

Darin received the Betty Barins award from the Professional Skaters Association, “presented to a coach who has overcome adversity-physical or emotional-who has continued in dedication and perseverance to serve their profession with dignity and fortitude.” He richly deserves that, and a healthy, cancer-free 2014.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Mireya January 16, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Mary,
This was a good and informative post. I agree completely that you can’t put tests off and that you must be firm with the doctor. It’s your life, or your spouse’s life and you are your own best advocate. Stool tests are inexpensive and they should be implemented for those below 50.

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mary mary January 16, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Thanks Mireya.

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Laurie March 3, 2014 at 5:15 am

I am seeing my gastro doc about my esophagus issues in a few weeks and am going to schedule a colonoscopy too. I need to nudge my husband too. He doesn’t need colon cancer on top of prostate cancer. He has a friend who found out he had cancer from a routine screening. Had to have a foot of his colon removed but is doing fine 2 years later.

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mary mary March 3, 2014 at 6:15 am

Laurie I’m glad you will get this done and provide the nudge for your husband, too. Mine got his colonoscopy done just last month.

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Laurie March 3, 2014 at 5:32 am

Mary how is the coach doing now? Did he have the surgery?

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mary mary March 3, 2014 at 6:33 am

He had the surgery and did well, is back at the rink coaching. He is just finishing up some chemo and biological therapies but feels that the worst is over and is looking forward to a cancer-free future.

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