Colon Cancer Survivor Says Routine Screening Saved His Life

"I find that almost anything makes me happy now: watching a bird, saying hello to a server in my favorite coffee shop, listening to sounds of a nearby creek, washing the dishes."

Christopher Foster
Christopher Foster - Stories of Hope

Christopher Foster has practiced healthy habits his whole life. “I’m active. I love life. I love my wife. I love nature. I try to stay fit. I go for a walk every day and lift weights three times a week,” said Foster. He also has always followed his doctor’s advice for regular colon cancer screening – a decision that Foster now credits for saving his life.

The American Cancer Society recommends everyone be tested for colon cancer beginning at age 50 – and even younger for people with a family history of colon or rectal cancer or colon problems that raise their risk. There are several different screening tests and Foster’s doctor recommended colonoscopy for him. Colonoscopy uses a flexible lighted tube with a small camera on the end to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum.

In previous colonoscopies, the doctor found and removed pre-cancerous growths called polyps from Foster’s colon. Because of this, Foster was advised to come back for repeat testing every 3 or 5 years instead of the usual 10 years – and he did.

In November 2013, a week or so after one of these colonoscopies, Foster’s doctor called him to say that a biopsy showed he had colon cancer and he would need to see a surgeon. One month later, he had surgery to remove part of his colon. Luckily, it had been caught early, in stage II, before it could spread to other parts of the body. For that reason, and also because of Foster’s age – he was 81 – his oncologist did not recommended chemotherapy. Instead, he is being treated with active surveillance, including regular CT scans and colonoscopies.

Foster says recovery from surgery was tough. Lean to begin with, he lost 17 pounds during his week’s stay in the hospital. His biggest challenge was learning to walk normally again, but through determination and help from a physiotherapist, he succeeded. Today Foster says he feels better than ever.

“As I move forward in my 80s I find that almost anything makes me happy now: watching a bird, saying hello to a server in my favorite coffee shop, listening to sounds of a nearby creek, washing the dishes,” said Foster.

Ironically, he says his experience with cancer has brought more joy into his life. He writes about it in a book that he published in order to help inspire others facing a cancer diagnosis. He credits cancer with helping him face his fears, including fear of the cancer coming back and fear of death.

“Anxiety still comes up, but I do find that the fear can actually help me uncover more of the fundamental joy of being, the joy of life itself, that for me was covered over for a lot of my life,” said Foster. “I think in trying to suppress my fear, I suppressed my joy. Conversely, now that I’m facing the fear – the joy has been increasing. I’m a pretty happy guy now.”

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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