Frank Pitman has been part of the Hope & Cope family since 2011. He has devoted over a decade to raising awareness about colorectal cancer. His journey began with a personal tragedy but has since transformed into a mission to educate others and save lives.
Born and raised in Laval, he attended McGill University, where he studied English literature. Yet, his life’s work has been far from academia. Instead, it took a different turn when he lost his sister to colorectal cancer.
“My younger sister was diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer in 1999,” he explains. “At that time, I had no knowledge of colorectal cancer.”
Frank’s sister passed away a year later at just 44 years old. He served as her principal caregiver throughout her battle, a role that deeply impacted him.
At first, he wanted to distance himself from hospitals and cancer discussions. However, his own experience with colorectal cancer ignited his passion for patient advocacy.
“My sister died for no reason because her cancer was preventable,” he says. “When I got it, I didn’t have to. If someone had told me that I was more at risk because of my family history, then I would have pushed to get a colonoscopy.”
Fortunately, doctors caught Frank’s cancer early while it was still treatable with surgery alone. But he could have avoided it entirely with better information and proper screening.
The Importance of Screening for Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
Through his work with the (CCRAN), Frank educates people about the need for timely intervention and the importance of being proactive in taking care of your health.
“The number one thing is to get screened, even if you don’t have symptoms,” he explains.
The goal of screening is to catch cancer symptoms at a pre-cancer stage when polyps can be removed before they develop into a malignant tumor. If caught early enough, colorectal cancer is highly treatable.
One concerning trend Frank mentions is the increasing number of colorectal cancer diagnoses in people under 50, with a decrease in people over 50. Part of it is due to early screening.
However, younger populations often overlook their symptoms or receive incorrect diagnoses from medical practitioners. So when the cancer is diagnosed, it happens at a later stage. This can happen because many people mistakenly believe they’re too young to have colorectal cancer.
Frank stresses that colorectal cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age.
Don’t Ignore Symptoms
Some potential indicators of colorectal cancer include:
blood in the stool
persistent constipation or diarrhea
narrow or abnormal-looking stools
bowel movements that leave you feeling like you aren’t completely empty
While these symptoms may not necessarily mean you have colorectal cancer, they should be investigated further.
Frank shares that when he first saw blood in his stool, doctors attributed it to hemorrhoids. He has since met many colorectal cancer patients who initially received a similar diagnosis. He urges people to take any instances of blood in the stool seriously and to advocate for a colonoscopy if necessary.
Unfortunately, many people avoid discussing their bowel movements or seeking medical attention due to embarrassment. As a result, they can literally die from shame.
His message is clear: prioritize your health, be proactive, and don’t let embarrassment or fear prevent you from seeking the care you need. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in the treatment and prognosis of colorectal cancer.
“When it comes to how we poop, people are hesitant to talk about it. But if you have any symptoms whatsoever, bring it to your doctor’s attention,” Frank insists. “If you don’t like the answer you get, please be vigilant and proactive. Insist on a colonoscopy.”
This is part 1 of Frank’s story. In part 2, we’ll talk about how volunteering with Hope & Cope, Colorectal Cancer Canada, and CCRAN has impacted the community and his life. And we’ll also talk about the Jumbo Colon! Stay tuned! In the meantime, you can reach Frank at email@example.com.
March is colorectal cancer awareness month. If you, or someone you love, have been diagnosed with cancer and need help, we’re here for you. All you need to do is contact us.