David Dubin had a family history of colon cancer, but failed to get screened for it when young. Now he’s on a mission to make sure others don’t make the same mistake.
David Dubin was only 29 years old when he was first diagnosed with colon cancer. After surgery and 6 months of chemotherapy, he was deemed cancer free.
But 10 years later, doctors found another tumor on Dubin’s colon. And not long after it was removed, a third tumor was found—in his kidney this time—and it was removed as well.
“There was a lot of cutting and a lot of pasting,” Dubin, now 45, said in a recent interview. “But after that I kind of went back to a relatively normal lifestyle, which kind of makes me different.”
What Dubin calls a normal lifestyle would qualify as highly active by most people’s standards. It involves running his own business, coaching and playing soccer, and tending to a budding career as a voiceover actor—all while raising 3 sons along with his wife, Robin. Through it all, the shadow of his 3 bouts with cancer continues to hover over him.
Based on genetic testing performed after his second tumor appeared, Dubin’s doctors determined that he suffers from Lynch Syndrome, a genetic condition that increases one’s risk of developing colon cancer. (The condition also played a role in Dubin’s kidney cancer.) But Dubin had known that colon cancer ran in his family even before he got the test results; both his grandfather and father survived the disease.
As a result, Dubin continues to undergo regular screening for a range of cancers, and the threat of yet another bout with the disease remains very real to him. Before his initial diagnosis, however, Dubin didn’t take getting screened seriously. Even though he was fully aware of his family history of colon cancer, he thought there was no way he would be affected by the disease at such a young age.
“I was in my 20s, and although it was written right there on the charts, it wasn’t until I started showing symptoms that I got checked,” Dubin explained. “And, ultimately, obviously, the diagnosis was colon cancer in my 20s.”
Now, as a 3-time cancer survivor, Dubin is on a mission to make sure others understand the importance of family history as an indicator of one’s risk of developing a life-threatening disease.
“You do need to know your history,” he said. “Your primary physicians, your specialty physicians need to know your family history so that they can make recommendations for early screenings.”
Dubin also emphasizes the importance of finding health care providers with whom he had a good rapport.
“I’ve met with a number of physicians in the past, and if I did not have a comfort level with them, if they didn’t treat me as a person as well as a patient, that relationship ended,” he said.
He advises other colon cancer patients to find providers with whom they have good relationships in order to ensure that they get the best possible care.
“Have an open conversation with your physicians and even an open conversation with your pharmacist,” he said. “Discuss the pros versus the cons of taking any sort of medication or any sort of treatment.”
Based on his own experiences in dealing with the disease, Dubin realized there was a lack of colon cancer awareness. To help change this, he founded AliveAndKickn, a nonprofit organization that uses soccer to raise money and to promote colon cancer prevention.
Although many people may be uncomfortable discussing colonoscopies, Dubin is determined to change the conversation.
“I have the ability to talk about colon cancer with people around the kitchen table, and they’re comfortable with it,” he said. “If there’s no one else that’s going to talk about it, then I’ll do it.”
Through his organization, Dubin tries to raise awareness of just how many people are affected and will be affected by colon cancer.
“Colon cancer is not just an old man’s disease,” he said. “It affects people under 50 and it affects women almost as much as men.”
For more information on AliveAndKickn, visit http://www.aliveandkickn.org/