MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – March is colon cancer awareness month, and a local nurse diagnosed with the disease is sounding an alarm to the community about getting screened.
At just 36 years old, Reid Williams is battling stage four colon cancer. The nurse anesthetist at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery was diagnosed in December 2022.
“Nobody wants to hear they have cancer, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it,” Williams said. “The way I know to describe the emotion at that time was just despair. I was in a pit of despair, just as low as you can imagine.”
Reid said he had to quickly overcome that despair and shift to a mentally strong mindset. He knew he was going to need to fight for himself and his family.
By the time he was diagnosed, the cancer had already spread to his liver. He has since undergone four rounds of chemotherapy and is now preparing for his first surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. After that operation, it’s four more rounds of chemo and then another surgery to remove part of his colon.
As a patient in his 30s, he wants others in the community to know the symptoms:
- Bloody stools
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
“I would just say don’t ignore that. I was having rectal, bloody stools, but it wasn’t all the time. It was just intermittent,” he said.
Experts say by 35, you should begin asking your doctor about screening options. A family history of colon cancer increases your risk, meaning you should be screened by 40 or 10 years before your family member’s diagnosis.
“Colonoscopy is the gold standard to prevent and screen for colon cancer. It’s not something most people are excited about doing, but it’s really not that big a deal. It’s not painful, you’re asleep for it, and it’s not that inconvenient. In my opinion, there’s really no excuse not to do it. It could save your life,” Williams said.
Reid’s motivation is his wife and three children. He says he is leaning on his faith to keep positive.
“You know there’s just nothing good about having cancer, but that faith has allowed me to pick out the little good things along the way.”
And he has all of Jackson Hospital behind him.
“Family, friends, our life group at church… I don’t know how you could go about fighting something like this alone. I don’t know how you could do it,” Williams said.
Reid’s surgery is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. His family is asking for prayers during this challenging time.
To prevent colon cancer, doctors recommend staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, not using tobacco products, limiting red and processed meats, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women, and it’s the second most common cause of cancer deaths when numbers for men and women are combined. It’s expected to cause about 52,550 deaths during 2023.
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