TURLOCK, Calif. — Carlos Perales’ life is like a lot of people's. He’s been working from home for almost two years, he’s a father and stepfather to a house full of kids and he shares his home office with a dog.
But there’s one big difference between his life and most Americans'. Right now, it’s hanging around his neck.
“The 5FU, which is a little pump, looks like a lemon. It’s funny. This little guy's gravity feeds into me,” said Perales.
It’s the pump for his chemotherapy. He’s been battling aggressive colon cancer. The doctors told him his outlook wasn’t good.
“That was the first time ever in my life that I ever felt like I was going to faint. Because when the doctor said two, two-and-a-half years, you’re kind of like, 'Oh, really?' Not necessarily what one wants to hear at being 36 years old, who just had twins,” said Perales.
His diagnosis came just a month after his twin sons were born.
Perales said he ignored some of the symptoms of colon cancer, like a change in bowel habits, blood in his stool, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and unexplained weight loss
Early detection is one of the keys to surviving the disease.
“Bowel cancer is one of the few cancers that’s generally preventable,” said Dr. James East, a gastroenterologist with the Mayo Clinic. He and his research team have new evidence that may help make screenings more effective.
“There’s another kind of polyps called hyperplastic polyps, which historically we didn’t think turned into cancer, but research in the last decade has indicated that these polyps may account for as many as a third of bowel cancers that develop,” said East.
Also known as serrated polyps, they are harder to find than other polyps.
“They are subtle, they are almost flat, they are almost see-through, and so they are very challenging to detect when we are doing a colonoscopy,” he said.
But with improving cameras for colonoscopies, the new knowledge about polyps and bringing down the recommended age for a colonoscopy from 50 to 40, Dr. East and other gastroenterologists hope to prevent even more cases of colon cancer.
While that information won’t help Perales now, he has a message for everyone else.
“Fight for your life. You get one. Make sure you get enough of it, but if you feel something's wrong, fight for it. Don’t accept the answer of, well, you don’t need it, you’re too young. Go find somebody else and don’t stop knocking on that door until you feel you’ve exceeded every option possible,” said Perales.
Perales is fighting for himself and his family.
“When it comes to the kids, I’m just like, I can’t go yet. That’s what I said in the beginning. I was like, 'Nah, I got to get these boys to be good people and good men. And not leave them stuck.' My daughters need a good role model. At least one that I can try to be. Let them know what a father should be to them,” he said. “I got things I got to do and that’s my fighting drive.”