Colon Cancer Survivor Is Back on Course

photo of Robin Embry and his family

Colon cancer survivor Robin Embry says he feels blessed to be back on the golf course – playing, coaching high school boys and girls, and spending time with friends. It’s been about 2 years since a diagnosis of cancer changed Embry’s life. He says there is nothing like hearing, “You have cancer” and there is also nothing like hearing, “You are cancer-free.”

Embry was age 49 when a sharp pain in his side sent him to the doctor. He’d noticed blood in his stool for some time, but had chalked it up to hemorrhoids. Now, however, tests including a CT scan and a colonoscopy revealed many polyps – growths – in Embry’s colon. Doctors removed them all, including one that was very large. A biopsy confirmed it was cancer. Over the next year, Embry had regular follow-up colonoscopies and each time a pre-cancerous polyp grew in the same area of his colon. Each time, the doctor removed it.

Eventually, doctors recommended Embry have that section of his colon removed. Embry looked forward to getting the surgery over with, recovering, and getting back to spending time with family, working, and playing and coaching golf. The surgery went smoothly, but when Embry went back to the doctor for a follow-up visit, he learned a biopsy showed cancer cells in the section of colon that was removed. There was a chance it had spread to lymph nodes or other organs. Embry would need more surgery. “That was difficult,” said Embry. “One reason we opted for this surgery was that every indication was the cancerous polyp was contained within the colon.”

In the surgery Embry had in March 2014, the lower third of his colon, including all the lymph nodes, were removed and biopsied. For about 2 months after the surgery, while his remaining colon healed, Embry lived with an ileostomy, in which his intestine was connected to an opening in the skin to allow for the passage of waste.

“It was not desirable to have an ileostomy, but I understood it was needed and quite frankly I have strong faith in God,” said Embry. “My real prayer was that regardless of my circumstance I would be a Christian that acted like a Christian. Did it bother me? Yes. Was it crushing? No. I would live in a way that showed that God was in control, and that whatever path he took me on he would be with me.”

Embry says he and his wife learned to care for the ileostomy through trial and error. She helped a lot because it was in a place that was difficult for Embry to reach. The surgery to reverse the ileostomy (reconnecting the intestines) was even more difficult, he says, but he got through it with support from his family, friends, and work colleagues. It also helped that results from the biopsy showed no cancer in the lymph nodes removed near Embry’s colon. His surgeon told him he is cancer-free. “Boy, to hear those words!” said Embry, “If you are currently battling any sort of cancer – I pray you hear those words!”

Embry says he’s grown from his experience. He says it’s a really good feeling to know that people care, and that if you need something, all you have to do is ask. “Like a lot of people say, cancer gave me much more than it ever took away. All the care, concern, and love you get from all the medical staff, friends, and family changes you. I’ve seen God working through all these people and it increased my faith.”

"Like a lot of people say, cancer gave me much more than it ever took away. All the care, concern, and love you get from all the medical staff, friends, and family changes you. I've seen God working through all these people and it increased my faith."

Robin Embry

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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