Whitley colon cancer survivor’s advice: ‘If you’ve got any signs, get it checked out’

Whitley colon cancer survivor’s advice: ‘If you’ve got any signs, get it checked out’

By Dalton Godbey

Take a drive down Master Street in Corbin, Kentucky, and you’ll pass Sav-Rite Pharmacy. Step inside and you’re sure to meet Mark Rice, the store’s general manager. Rice, friendly man that he is, will greet you with a smile and a “hello.” You’d never know about his battle.

When overwhelming abdominal pain struck him on a summer day in June of 2000, he did not hesitate to call his doctor.

“The doctor called me back and said she scheduled me a colonoscopy for late September,” Rice recalled. “I wasn’t waiting that long.”

As Rice’s pain grew worse, he managed to have a colonoscopy scheduled much earlier, and although the pain had receded in the meantime, he wanted to be sure.

“The pain had pretty much gone away after that first incident,” Rice said. “But I wasn’t going to take a chance, so I went ahead and got screened.”

His instinct was correct. The colonoscopy revealed a tumor the size of an apple in Rice’s colon. At age 38, Mark Rice was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.

Rice’s story is a common one. Since his diagnosis, there have been nearly 300 colon cancer cases in Whitley County alone. But colon cancer is one of the most treatable if detected early.

That’s why the Southern Kentucky Area Health Education Center and the Colon Cancer Prevention Center are sharing colon cancer survivor stories — to bring awareness to the importance of early detection.

Fortunately, Rice’s cancer had not spread, and his surgeon was successful at removing the tumor. After a year of chemotherapy, Rice was cancer-free and remains so today.

Throughout his chemotherapy treatments, he never missed a day of work.

When asked what advice he would have to colon cancer patients, he simply said, “You can get through it, and you can survive it.”

Rice has become an advocate for colon cancer prevention. He encourages friends and family to be screened regularly and urges them to be aware of any changes in their bodies.

“One thing I can say is, if you’ve got any kinds of signs, get it checked out,” Rice advised.

Colon cancer strikes more than 130,000 people in the U.S. and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among cancers that affect both men and women. Kentucky as of 2013 ranks No. 1 for colon cancer incidence and No. 4 for colon cancer mortality in the U.S. According to the Kentucky Cancer Registry, Whitley County has had 291 colorectal cancer cases since 2000.

Although the recommended screening age is 50, colon cancer is becoming increasingly common in younger people.

If you have any family history or experience any kinds of symptoms such as irregular bowel habits, bloody stool, or stomach pains, contact a doctor immediately. For more information on colon cancer and types of colon cancer screenings, you can contact the Whitley County Health Department at (606) 528-5613. You can also call the Colon Cancer Prevention Project Hotline at 1-(800)-841-6399.