Cancer doesn’t look the same on everyone. I am a strength and conditioning coach and, at 38 years old, a two-time colon cancer survivor. When I was first diagnosed at 34, I weighed more than 200 pounds with eight percent body fat; many thought I was too healthy to have cancer. Although colon cancer has been considered an “old-man’s disease,” the number of cases diagnosed in people under the age of 50 is steadily increasing.
Among individuals 50 and up, the rate of colorectal cancer is decreasing; however, the incidence of colorectal cancer in individuals under 50, where screenings and awareness are not as prevalent, is rapidly increasing.
Exercise is a passion for me. It gives me something that I can focus on and has helped me to recover. I use the will-power I bring to the gym to fight cancer and encourage others to do the same. Treatment for cancer involves a lot of visits to medical facilities. The staff at Cone Health’s Cancer Center helped me feel welcome and comfortable. Everyone knows your name, and from valet parking to housekeeping, everyone smiles. I try to pay that forward, because you never know how your attitude can inspire and strengthen the people around you. Once I was diagnosed, I started attending local support groups to meet other survivors who understood what I was going through. In some ways, this journey through cancer gave me a new purpose in life; today, I can spread awareness of colorectal cancer in young adults, and maybe through telling my story, empower others to fight. Staying healthy and active has helped me recover from treatment, and I plan to get back to a new normal and level of fitness as soon as possible.
Colorectal cancer runs in my family. My son will start getting screened at the age of 24, ten years earlier than the age I was when I received my diagnosis. If you have any immediate family members with colorectal cancer, you have a higher risk. Cancer affects individuals and their friends and family differently. In my case, I chose to try to see the positive side. Over the last four years, I have worked to put a positive light on a negative situation. I’ve made new lifelong friends at the Cancer Center, and I can always stop in and visit between follow-up appointments to encourage new patients. Rather than letting cancer define me, I try to defy it through fitness and advocacy. It’s changed the way I live day to day, but I’m inspired to accomplish my goals. Since my diagnosis, I’ve presented my story at the local, state and national level to encourage Congress and insurance companies to provide better access to diagnostic technologies for people under 50.
Cone Health is hosting a Cancer Survivor day celebration on June 18, at the Greensboro Science Center. Survivors and their family members are welcome to attend and meet with other local survivors.
Chris Ganser is a two-time Cone Health colon cancer survivor and a strength and conditioning coach. Since his diagnosis, Chris spends countless volunteer hours attending cancer support groups, presenting his case at the local, state and national level, and meeting with state and national representatives to encourage policy changes regarding access to diagnostic technologies for people under 50.