During our “off season Chuck Alvarez wrote into the KTKC blog - here’s Chuck’s story:
I spent 8 years in the Army, I got out and moved back to California. I had been having abdominal pain for over two years. the doctors, both military and VA kept telling me it was just bad gas. Finally I got a colonoscopy. On April 8th 1996 the doctor performed the colonoscopy. This was at the VA clinic in Los Angeles. the doctor was doing his first scope and was told to go all the way. It is a good thing he did. He reached the transverse colon and there was the mass. If it had been his attending doing the scope, he would have only done the descending colon. I had been married to my wife Andrea for less than 1 year when we got the news. I had Colon Cancer. I was 26 at the time and Andrea was 20. I went in for my first surgery in April. After 10 hours of surgery they removed the baseball size tumor and a third of my colon. The prognosis wasn’t good. the cancer had spread to my liver. Doctors gave me 6 months to live.
During a post surgical follow up a Dr. Stamos happened to overhear my prognosis and invited himself on to my medical case. He was a Dr. with the UCLA medical center in Los Angeles and did pro-bono work for the VA. He told my wife and I that he could surgically remove the tumor and I would have more than 6 months. He was arrogant and talked down to us. He was a damn good surgeon though so I let it slide.
On June 18th 1996, three days after our first anniversay I went in for surgery again. I became the youngest Stage 4 cancer patient to under go a liver resection surgery for cancer. Something the doctor readily admitted to. After 11 hours and two critical events I came out of surgery looking like hell and unstable. I survived my second abdominal surgery.
A month later I started on Chemotherapy for six months as a precaution. After that we moved back to Kansas to get a fresh start. It was hard for me at first, there wasn’t much in the way of support except from Andrea.
Now fifteen years later, Andrea and I are still married. I am a firefighter with the Fort Riley Fire Department and have been in the fire service for almost 10 years. Everyday I wake up I am thankful and finding sites like Kilted to Kick Cancer gives me hope that there will more awareness and support for those going through what I did.