Couple shares colon cancer story to help others

March 9, 2010 8:26:02 AM PST
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, if people are screened. And a local patient and his wife are trying to get that message out by sharing their story.

John McClelland, of St. David's, Pennsylvania, says it was love at first sight, when he spotted his now-wife almost two decades ago.

"It was just an immediate connection," he recalls.

The two met at a wedding, and had their own wedding shortly after.

Since then, they've made just about every decision together. But the one they made 6 months ago they say was the toughest.

Patty and John decided to stop treatment for his colon cancer.

48-year-old John was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer three years ago. He was only 48

Unfortunately it had spread to his liver. Treatment helped, but the tumors kept coming back. John's cancer is terminal.

"I knew I wasn't going to win this battle with this so I just wanted to live the fullest life with my wife so that's where we are now," he says.

Dr. Steven Cohen of Bryn Mawr Hospital says John's case is somewhat unusual. Colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, as long as people get colonoscopies.

Dr. Cohen says, "Most colon cancers start out as polyps so we have a several year span, really a many year span on average which we could find something as a polyp before it turned into cancer and take it out."

But the American Cancer Society says only half of Americans who should be screened are getting the tests.

Now John is working to change that. He urges others to listen to your body if you feel changes, get to your doctor.

And even if you are squeemish about the screening, John calls it a lifesaving gift for both you and your family.

Patty, John's wife, says, "I think he's more worried about me, but I tell him I'll be okay- I'm strong but it will be hard."

Again, John's case is unusual, in that he got the disease so young, but he is trying to turn a negative into something positive by helping others to prevent colon cancer.

It's recommended people start getting colonoscopies starting at age 50, 45 if you are African-American, and earlier if you have a family history.

To find a screening location, go to StopColonCancerNow.