“But, you’re so young” (16)

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Lately, I keep hearing this statement. I don’t like it. Cancer does not affect only those within a certain age range.

I am 29 years old. I had my ten year high school reunion last summer. I have finished college. I have almost finished with graduate school. I can rent a car. I can buy booze. I can do whatever I want (as long as it is legal, of course). Hell, my mom was married with four kids by the time she was my age. The only thing I can think of that I’m too young for is Retirement, unfortunately.

I am not too young to have cancer. But, I do want to address why I have cancer at this age and hopefully make up for yesterday’s scare a little bit.

I have a genetic mutation known as Lynch Syndrome, also referred to as Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC).What a freakin’ mouthful. According to lynchcancers.com, it is “a hereditary disorder caused by a mutation in a mismatch repair gene in which affected individuals have a higher than normal chance of developing colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, and various other types of aggressive cancers, often at a young age.” Basically, the genes that are supposed to catch and repair mistakes when DNA is copied for cell division don’t quite work correctly and that can lead to errors when the cells do divide and cause problems…like cancer. About 3-5% of the 140,000+ cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed each year are caused by Lynch Syndrome. So it’s rare, but not that rare. Here I was thinking I was special. The weird thing about it is, you actually inherit the increased risk of cancer, but not the disease itself. Someone will have to fill me in on how that works (that was rhetorical).

Now…let’s get to the dessert portion of this whole shebang. Lynch cancers are characteristically slower growing and respond better to treatment than other cancers! Yeah, that’s an exclamation point. Yeah, I’m excited. I finally found something to go my way. I think I’ll run with it.

Anyway, I’m not too young for cancer. BUT, I am too young to give in to its demands. I’m a Gladiator and I will when my independence in the Coliseum against that which shall not be named.

Stay positive out there folks. There’s a good way to look at every situation, you just have to find it.

Happy Friday!


P.S. If you can’t tell…Gladiator is my favorite movie. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED????

4 thoughts on ““But, you’re so young” (16)

  1. Hi Zach,

    When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 53, the comment I received then and now is “but, you’re too young to have Parkinson’s”. Like cancer, PD does not discriminate on the basis of age..or gender…or ethnicity. I have lived with PD for 6 years and have found that a positive outlook is critical to managing my disease which I why I am glad you are the Gladiator and will fight the cancer! Go get em! By the way, after taking the fall semester off to have brain surgery (the good news is they found a brain to operate on!), I will be back in the classroom in the spring and am very glad to be back. I too hope you will be back in the classroom, Gladiator!

    1. Professor Bennett, I will definitely be in the classroom and plan on going full-time so I can graduate in May. I look forward to seeing you at Cornell!

  2. Zach, Just read your entire blog. You are the gladiator to have dealt with all that you have. Thanks for sharing your journey. See you in Cornell! Stay strong!

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