BUFFALO, N.Y. — Michael Garvey's cancer journey started in 2022 after a lunchtime conversation with his uncle.
"[He] said, 'You know your grandfather had colon cancer in his mid 50s.' I hadn't given it a lot of thought up until then," said Garvey, now 45.
At the time, he was a year younger than the recommended age to begin colorectal cancer screenings, but still, he had a feeling something wasn't right. He talked with his doctor and scheduled a colonoscopy.
"The doctor said we found something," said Garvey. Further testing revealed he had early-stage colon cancer.
"I need to stay strong. I need to stay positive. There are people in my life who want to see me improve and get better and that rely on me. My kids were a constant source of strength for me," said Garvey.
His wife, Lisa, was also one of his biggest supporters. She knows more than her fair share about cancer, having worked as a nurse at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center for 17 years. She said her work experience provided some relief.
"When Mike got the diagnosis, it was a comfortable place for me to jump into action and get him hooked up with the people he needed to see," Lisa Garvey said.
Soon a team of doctors was outlining a treatment plan and helping Garvey navigate the unknown.
Garvey recalls the day he showed up to Roswell Park for his first radiation treatment.
"I walked up to the receptionist, and right as I got to her, somebody rang the bell. The person behind the desk kind of read it on my face and said, 'You'll get there too'," Garvey said.
Radiation was followed by chemo pills, and later, months of chemotherapy. Fortunately, he didn't need surgery.
On March 1, just like the receptionist said, Garvey rang the bell at Roswell Park, signaling remission.
"My energy is coming back. I kind of wish my hair would come back a little bit more, but that was on its way out before cancer every happened. But yeah, today, I am feeling good," Garvey said.
Colorectal cancer symptoms include:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that's not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recently lowered the recommended age for colorectal cancer screening from 50-years-old to 45-years-old. You should talk to your doctor about getting screened sooner if you have symptoms or family history.
Regular screening for colorectal cancer can find growths that can be removed before they turn into cancer, as well as find cancer earlier when treatment works best.
Erie County's Cancer Services Program (CSP) offers free colorectal cancer screening for men and women 45 and older. People at risk for colorectal cancer and those who do not have health insurance may qualify.