IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) – The recent passing of actor Chadwick Boseman has put a spotlight on the thousands of young people battling Colon Cancer. Boseman died at the age of 43, after a 4 year battle with the disease.
“Chadwick Boseman is super inspirational hero of mine. I’m a big fan of Marvel movies, he’s the “Black Panther”. I love him in those movies like Jackie Robinson”
But 22-year-old Isaac Moel has more than just that in common with the actor.
“When you think cancer a lot of people think older people, like grandparents. They don’t see me on the street or see Chadwick Boseman and his movies and think that’s what a cancer patient looks like,” said Moel.
But it’s Moel’s reality. At just 23-years-old Moel received his own diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer in April of 2019. The Iowa City native and rugby coach, was diagnosed, 18 months after his symptoms started.
“I was having bad stomach cramps when I had to go to the bathroom or really bad constipation,” said Moel. “Then in April of 2019, it got bad. I was getting high fevers, cold sweats and I couldn’t hold down food.”
After numerous ER trips and doctor appointments, Moel had a diagnosis and started treatment – 19 rounds of chemotherapy, and over a dozen surgical procedures.
“Being only 23 years old cancer was the last thing on my mind,” he said. But, experts say it’s starting to be more common among younger people.
According to the Colon Cancer Coalition, this year, about 18,000 people under 50 will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
“The trends in the young onset colorectal cancer have been concerning,” said one of Moel’s oncologists at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Dr. Pashtoon Kasi says genetics play a role, but lifestyle and environment factors also contribute.
“Like many things it’s not just one factor. It’s probably a combination of some genetic factor, some diet and lifestyle factors, some link in the microbiome, which again is affected by the genes as well as affected by the environment. Also it’s more common in some races, so in African Americans, the risk of colon cancer is higher,” he said.
“What’s intriguing is for whatever in the young onset colorectal cancers, they tend to be more left sided colon or rectum. That’s another observation that points to different origins and reasons as to why.”
Kasi says for younger people who don’t usually meet the guidelines for getting screened should watch for other things including rectal bleeding, persistent pain and abdominal pain that is out of the ordinary. Moel says although he waited longer than he should have to see a doctor, he’s optimistic. His most recent scan showed tumor shrinkage.
“So I meeting with a surgeon next week,” said Moel. “I’m hoping I can beat and I’m expecting to beat cancer.”
Moel credits family, support groups and his team of doctors to his progress, and urges others to pay attention.
“Listen to your body. You’re not invincible, and be willing to have uncomfortable conversations,” said Moel. “And if anything abnormal jumps out, go get it checked out right away.”
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