Colon cancer survivor John Fields began getting into shape around the time he had his first colonoscopy 12 years ago. He was 54 back then and his colonoscopy showed nothing wrong. In fact, the doctor told him he could wait 10 years before coming back for another colorectal screening test. But Fields wanted to lose weight and gain more energy, so he joined a fitness club.
As a way to motivate himself to stick with it, he began keeping track of how many weeks in a row he worked out at least 1 time.
“Before I started my fitness program, I was tired all the time and I was overweight. I’d come home from work every day, sit on the couch, and watch TV,” said Fields. “When I began to lose weight, I was motivated by that euphoric high. The hard part was sticking with it after that high was gone. That’s when I started counting weeks. I try to work out 3 to 4 times a week, but I work out once a week at least. Last week was 624 weeks: 12 years.”
Signs and symptoms
In the summer of 2016, Fields began having some health problems. He was tired all the time, had a lot of indigestion, and his mental functioning seemed off. His doctor scheduled a battery of tests including a colonoscopy, for which he was then due anyway. It had been 10 years since the last one. Fields had the procedure and when he woke up, his wife told him they’d found a tumor.
Fields had an unusual reaction to the news. He was happy they’d found something to explain the fatigue and other symptoms. And he was optimistic that his fitness regimen was going to make his recovery easier.
Fields’ treatment would include surgery to remove about 12 inches of his colon and 20 lymph nodes. In the hospital after surgery, Fields’ nurse encouraged him to get out of bed and begin walking as soon as possible. He said, “Let’s go,” and within hours of his surgery, Fields was walking the hospital’s halls. Four days later, he went back to the fitness club and walked there. “They told me walking was something I ought to do, so why not keep up my record,” he said.
Fields later learned that his colon cancer was stage II. It had grown through the wall of his colon, but had not spread to other organs. He would not need chemotherapy, radiation, or further surgery.
Fields has now fully recovered from his surgery and gets follow-up testing every 6 months to make sure the cancer hasn’t come back. As long as he stays healthy, those visits will stretch out over time to 1-year intervals, and then 3-year intervals.
Fields is keeping up with his fitness routine, which includes cardio training, circuit weight machines, Pilates, and yoga. He has worked out at the same fitness club and hasn’t missed a week for 12 years. In addition, he is now eating healthier. He’s cut out most fried foods, processed foods, and red meat. He’s added more chicken and fish, and lots and lots of fruits and vegetables. “My wife just pumps ‘em down me,” he says.
While he experienced some discomfort after the colon cancer surgery, Fields says he had no real pain. “I don’t have any way of judging how well my recovery was compared to most people my age, but the surgeon and oncologist said that my physical conditioning had made a huge difference,” said Fields. “To me this shows the importance of having a fitness program in one’s life, especially as we get older.”