When my husband, Pat, was being treated at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for colorectal cancer, he wasn’t just fighting his own personal cancer battle; he became an amazing advocate for others battling young-onset colorectal cancer as well.
Pat was a young, otherwise healthy 29-year-old U.S. Marine when he was diagnosed. I think when people saw Pat smiling back at them from Dana-Farber’s Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center’s website, they were shocked. Most people, especially young people, don’t think a colorectal cancer diagnosis can happen to them, but Pat’s story woke people up to their own risks.
Throughout his treatment, he dedicated himself to raising awareness about the disease, helping and serving others, and working toward a greater good. Even before cancer, Pat was always a hero in my eyes.
Since his passing, my whole identity has changed. I am now a young, widowed mother who is trying to deal with the grief of losing my best friend and love of my life while raising our infant son. Through my grief, I’ve felt desperate to turn my pain into purpose and to continue Pat’s work advocating for colorectal cancer awareness. No one can ever advocate the way Pat did, but I know I can try.
With Pat gone, it’s more important to me than ever to help raise awareness and funds for young-onset colorectal cancer. I want to try to carry on his name, his memory, and his legacy in a way that would make him proud and make a difference in the world.
Pat’s diagnosis and treatment has helped Dana-Farber and his oncologist, Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, advance studies in young-onset colorectal cancer, which is becoming more prevalent in young, healthy people like Pat, and improve awareness of symptoms and screenings. I pledge to carry on Pat’s dedication to Dana-Farber by sharing his story during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and beyond. No other young wife or husband should have to be widowed at 31. No other child should have to grow up without his or her father or mother, or parents have to bury their young son or daughter, because of this disease. I hope no other amazing person will have his or her life cut short because of this disease.
Read more of Amanda’s story and her experience of being a caregiver in a pandemic.