In 2018, Jason Gallman first noticed something wasn’t right when he began having upper stomach discomfort close to his ribcage.
“I knew something was going on. I thought maybe it was an ulcer,” Jason said. “I finally went to the doctor. He did an upper scope and found several ulcers and put me on medication. He wanted me to get another scope after three months. I had a family history of colon cancer, and the doctor suggested a colonoscopy also.”
Jason found out that day he had colon cancer. He was only 38-years-old.
The recommended age to start screening for colon cancer is 45, but young colon cancer is on the rise in the U.S. In fact, studies show that by 2030, colorectal cancer will be the leading cause of cancer-related death in those 20-49 years old (Jama Network).
It’s critical we learn to recognize the symptoms of colon cancer–and request a colonoscopy from our provider immediately if we are experiencing symptoms, no matter how old we are.
After his diagnosis, one of Jason’s main concerns was how to tell his daughters, Natalie and Jenna, who were eight and six. The girls knew what cancer was because Jason’s aunt had passed away from it that summer, as well as a friend of the family. But cancer had now come into their own household.
After his PET scan, Jason found out his cancer was Stage 3.
Jason and his wife Ashlee initially decided not to tell their daughters, but after a discussion with the doctor that changed the treatment plan, they decided they had to let them know.
“My girls helped me to stay motivated and heal during my treatment. I knew I had to get up and move because they would worry less,” he said. “I also had the best caregiver ever, who encouraged and supported me, Ashlee. She was amazing during my treatment.”
Jason is a member of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project’s Survivor Support Group. He was familiar with the group because a friend, Bruce DeArk, was active in the group.
“Bruce reached out to me during my treatment to get coffee and talk about our cancer stories. That meant a great deal to me. I realized then the importance of talking to someone that has gone through the struggles of cancer.”
Jason’s wife, Ashlee, also knew another member of the support group, Lana Boes. When Lana encouraged Jason to attend a meeting, he was comfortable giving the group a try because of his conversations with Bruce and Lana.
“I don’t like to share my feelings, but once I attended a meeting, I realized it was good to hear other people’s stories and issues they were having. We understand each other and have built genuine relationships. Being around people, joking, communicating, dealing with the same problems we all must deal with has been beneficial. I encourage others to give the support group a try.”
In May of 2019, Jason’s scan showed no evidence of cancer.
He also had a genetic test that showed he had Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition that increases the risk of developing a host of cancers, including colon cancer. Because he has this syndrome, his doctor checks him every four months and runs other tests to watch him closely.
“I try to stay positive and active. I have two young daughters that I have to keep up with and be healthy for,” Jason said.
To learn more about our survivor support group community in Louisville, please contact our group leader Renee Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.