NASHVILLE, Tenn., June 11, 2013 – USA Today journalist Brian Mansfield was diagnosed with colon cancer last summer, and over the course of his journey, he documented his recovery to his loyal readers. He often calls himself the “token cancer survivor,” sharing his message of hope and inspiration to the masses and wants people to know that it is a disease that is highly preventable.
At a recent Cornhole Challenge, an event to bring awareness and raise money for colon cancer, presented by singer Craig Campbell, Mansfield shared his emotional story with Examiner, as well as what people can do to avoid it.
Examiner: Your story is rather inspiring. What has the last year been like for you?
Brian Mansfield: It was about this time last year that I was having some digestive problems. They finally got bad enough that I went to see a gastroenterologist, and he recommended to start taking Prilosec, if it’s part of the upper system. Let’s get a colonoscopy, because you’re getting right at that age that I like people to start getting [it] at 50, just to rule anything out. When the did the colonoscopy, they found that that I had a tumor in my colon. They took it out. Fortunately, we found it early enough, got it out early enough. It hadn’t spread anywhere. I ended up being on the examples of what can happen when you’re paying attention and find it early and do the things you need to do. For me, it really has been a matter of finding the cancer, taking out the cancer and not having cancer. We also found out that I have a genetic condition called Lynch syndrome, which means that I’ve got somewhere between a 60 and 85% chance of developing cancer in my life. So, that’s how I wound up with it. Lynch syndrome is something that’s as common as breast cancer gene that cause Angelina Jolie to decide to have her double mastectomy. The thing that’s different about Lynch syndrome is that 98% of the people that have it don’t even know that it exists. Also, it’s much easier to detect than breast cancer and much easier to do something about, to prevent. That’s why I’m here to let people know more about that.
EX: You chronicled your journey online. Why?
BM: It’s a way to keep working. [laughs] I knew it was going to be the best story that I was going to tell anybody all year, no matter how it ended up. Since I’m a writer, that’s something that as long as I could put my fingers on the keyboard and stand to look at a screen, I can do that. Even when I couldn’t get up and walk around or go to shows or do interviews, I could still sit and write about what was going on. It really wasn’t anything more than that. I knew that I would have a story to tell. I knew that I would be constantly asked about what was going on with it anyway. If I just wrote it all and convinced someone to pay me for it, it would make things a lot easier.
EX: When you’re attending events, do you ever get mobbed by fans who recognize you?
BM: I’m lucky if I get one or two. Every once in awhile, I will get one or two, especially if I’ve been on some TV shows lately or something. I haven’t been, so I’d be really surprised if someone actually recognizes me. It happens just enough to be encouraging but not enough to be annoying. [laughs]
EX: I hear you call yourself the “token cancer survivor.”
BM: [laughs] Craig [Campbell] is doing this cause because it’s important to him. His father died from colon cancer when he was about my age. He’s also had other family members that have had colon cancer. So, it hits really close to him from that standpoint. I’m the one person that I know of that’s participating in the tournament that’s actually had it. So, that’s kind of why I’m here. I’m here to show that there are different outcomes, especially for colon cancer. [It] is so preventable, if you do the screenings when you’re supposed to. There really are different outcomes.
EX: Has anyone reached out to you to share their story with you?
BM: Oh, lots of people. I had artists that did that. Wade Hayes got diagnosed with colon cancer several months before I did. He was probably the first artist that called me. But I have also had as people read the stories I was posting…there were lots of people that were in the same situation I was in, that got diagnosed the same time I did. So, we were kind of taking each step of the journey together.
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