Michael Jones doesn’t sweat the small stuff.
Many people might say it, but after being diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer at 26 and beating it, Michael, now 36, views life with a different perspective.
“One thing it taught me was that the little things don’t really matter,” Michael says, relaxing in his Coquitlam home after work.
“I don’t view things as drastically as I used to - being stuck in traffic or things like that - I just don’t care.”
Now a project manager at Cressey Development, Michael first learned about his cancer at Langley Memorial Hospital in 2009, where he sought treatment for a kidney stone.
After a CT scan that didn’t show why his hemoglobin was low, Michael underwent a colonoscopy with Dr. Scott Cowie and his team at Langley Memorial Hospital’s endoscopy clinic, which conducts more than 4,500 procedures each year.
Dr. Cowie remembers that because Michael had no family history of colon cancer, it wasn’t something that immediately came to mind.
“Without that (colonoscopy), we wouldn’t have his diagnosis - we caught it right in time - it was Stage 3 - the cancer had spread to seven out of 26 of his lymph nodes,” Dr. Cowie recalls.
“Stage 4 is incurable.”
Dr. Cowie remembers meeting with Michael and his family to tell the news.
“It’s always tough. Everybody responds differently - it’s a shock at 26 to have your life threatened.”
Michael remembers it clearly.
“Monday, July 20th was when I found out… my family was there - my aunt, who happens to be a nurse at Langley Memorial gave me the biggest hug ever,” Michael says.
“I went through all the typical emotions - anger, sadness, all that - but I remember thinking I can be upset over it but not because of it - I won’t let this defeat me.”
And he didn’t.
“I asked for a six-pack during the surgery but they did not give me one,” he quips with a grin.
“I went for surgery right away, on Wednesday, July 23rd.”
After a surgery to remove the tumour and chemotherapy, Michael started on a long and not often easy road to recovery, with yearly checkups and colonoscopies - and a few scares along the way - to help ensure he remains cancer-free.
“Early detection is critical. The rates of colo-rectal cancer are climbing in young people and timing can be everything,” Dr. Cowie says, noting he and his team conduct anywhere from 18-20 colonoscopies every day.
He remembers Michael having a positive attitude and support from his family.
“I think having that gratitude and being supported in your diagnosis, and knowing that the health care system is working for you can make a huge difference,” Dr. Cowie says.
“Our patients need to know we’re doing everything we can.”
Since beating cancer, Michael has done the utmost to enjoy life as much as he’s able, every day.
Whether that’s spending time with girlfriend Dana or snowboarding or summers at the lake or travelling to different countries to enjoy his passions, he’s always looking forward to his next adventure or taking on a new passion, like playing hockey.
“In the last 10 years, I’ve travelled more than I ever did before,” he notes, describing how he and a group of 16 other friends meet up to travel and snowboard in different places around the world, including Japan, Thailand, Europe, Indonesia, El Salvador and several other destinations.
“Two guys plan the trip and the rest of us just show up at the airport with our passports,” he says. “We don’t even know where we’re going until we get there.”
Dr. Cowie and his team gave him a second chance at life and his cancer is “always a reminder” to live life to its fullest, Michael says.
“I definitely see things in a different way now,” says Michael.
“One of my friends once told me that cancer was the worst, but best, thing that ever happened to me.”
He, like Dr. Cowie, emphasizes the importance of paying attention to any potential symptoms and getting them checked out, especially if there is a family history of cancer. He has nothing but respect for Dr. Cowie and the staff at Langley Memorial Hospital.
“Dr. Cowie saved my life,” Michael says.
“Go to the doctor. Pay attention to your symptoms - and to your girlfriend - when she tells you to go,” he says.
To help Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation purchase vital equipment to keep our endoscopy clinic running with the highest quality of care that all our residents deserve, contact the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation at 604-533-6422 or donate online here.