March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time to brush up on knowledge about the disease and how you can prevent it. Although the risk of colorectal cancer increases after the age of 40, anyone can get it. In honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, check out this story about a young colorectal cancer survivor:
Adam Gallagher, 28, served in the Army eight years. Twice, he was deployed to Iraq where he and his unit were responsible for protecting their convoy, patrolling routes, preventing ambushes, and transporting equipment. He received several honors, including a Purple Heart, for his service.
“I always wanted to join the Army,” said Adam. “When I was in Iraq, I saw things that most people won’t ever see. It was chaotic, but fascinating.”
When he returned from his second deployment, Adam left the army as a sergeant and accepted a job working as an environmental health and safety manager for oil and gas companies in the Pittsburgh area. In January 2013, he went to UPMC Urgent Care because of a cramp in his side that had been bothering him since August. What he thought would be a gallbladder issue, like the majority of his family had, turned out to be colon cancer. James Lee, MD, PhD, at Hillman Cancer Center, confirmed the diagnosis through a biopsy and colonoscopy.
With the support of his family, friends, and colleagues, Adam didn’t waste any time. He was ready to fight. Adam immediately scheduled surgery and chemotherapy, but because he had limited side effects, he continued working and going to the gym and tried to live his life as he typically would. He even managed to find a new job as a recruiter, for which he is passionate.
Following treatment, his platelets were not recovering well. Surgical oncologist, Herbert Zeh, MD, at UPMC CancerCenter decided to remove Adam’s spleen and gallbladder, perform a liver and colon resection, and place a chemotherapy pump in his liver. Adam is recovering now from this most recent surgery, and his prognosis is promising.
Throughout his time in the Army, a cancer diagnosis, and career change, Adam wore his game face and kept a positive attitude.
“I’ve always seen the light at the end of the tunnel; I’m the type of guy who works hard for everything. Whether it was the Army or cancer, I thought, ‘Go ahead and doubt me. If there’s a chance of surviving, and others can do it, I’ll do it, too.'”