Jason's story

Colon cancer

Patient Voice spoke with cancer advocate Jason Manuge about his mother’s experience with colon cancer and how it’s shaped the way he views his own diagnosis today.

Kingston, ON

When my mom’s colon cancer came back in 2013, it was pretty much the worst-case scenario. She had metastases everywhere — her ovaries, her bones, her spine. I was in college in Kingston, Ontario, and my parents lived outside Ottawa, where my dad had been posted when he was in the Canadian Forces. Fridays after work, I would drive straight up there to spend the weekends helping with my mom’s care in any way I could. Buying groceries, doing laundry, just spending time with her. Then, at 5am every Monday, I’d drive back to Kingston for school and work.

As devastating as it was to watch someone I loved so much go through something so painful, I felt fortunate to be able to help in that way. It gave us the time to say everything that needed to be said and to process the anticipatory grief together.

It’s been seven years now since she passed, and I’m revisiting that idea of anticipatory grief. Last year, I received my own diagnosis of stage 3 — now stage 4 — colon cancer. Having seen my mom’s trajectory with the disease up close, I couldn’t help but project myself onto that same path. It felt like some sort of cosmic joke.

“…it’s become clear that my story is very different from hers.”

But as I’ve learned more about my disease, it’s become clear that my story is very different from hers. There are metastases in my liver, but they’re contained there, and that opens up a number of treatment options that weren’t available to her. Whichever fork in the treatment path I take, though, I’m firmly in the realm of irreversible decisions.

I think back to Christmas 2015 with my mom. We knew it was our last holiday together. Her treatment had been getting so difficult that she’d made the decision to be done with it — she needed to stop. We had that conversation together, and I understood. I was there at the hospital in January 2016 when she died, and I remember feeling a strange sort of relief alongside my grief. I was devastated, but there was also a sense of peace that the struggle and the suffering were finally over.

I tap into that same sense of peace when thinking about my own future now. Either I’m going to overcome this cancer or I’m going to die from it. It really is that black and white.”

Jason Manuge will be speaking about cancer advocacy at Health eMatters in Toronto on Friday, October 27th. To learn more about Health eMatters click here.