Archive for Sunday, June 1, 2008

Terminally ill man hopes others learn from his tragedy

Longtime Lawrence resident Jeff Young was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at the young age of 28. At 31, doctors told him he likely only has a few months to live. In May 2008, Jeff and his wife talk about the importance of catching this disease early, despite guidelines that have most people being checked for the disease starting in their 50's.

June 1, 2008


Jeff Young, shown with his wife, Abby Young, got to hold KU's 2008 National Championship basketball trophy recently. Jeff Young, 31, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Jeff Young, shown with his wife, Abby Young, got to hold KU's 2008 National Championship basketball trophy recently. Jeff Young, 31, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Past Event
Jeff Young Benefit Texas Hold 'Em Poker Tournament

  • When: Saturday, June 7, 2008, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Eagles Lodge, 1803 W. Sixth St., Lawrence
  • More on this event....

Jeff Young thought he had a bad case of food poisoning. Instead, he ended up in a fight for his life.

"You never know what's going to happen," the 31-year-old Lawrence resident said. "That morning I felt fine. I wanted to go play golf, and by that afternoon I was in the hospital."

Young, then 28, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, a disease that's rare for someone his age.

It's also a disease that's highly preventable if caught early, according to the American Cancer Society. Yet doctors don't recommend screening for the cancer until the age of 50.

"This can happen at 20, 30, 40, 50, and most colon cancer is caught in the late stages," said Jeff's wife, Abby Young. "It makes me so angry that not only us, but people everywhere are experiencing this at a young age, and there's no sense in it."

Part of Abby's anger comes from watching her husband of nearly five years battle the disease. Jeff has been through two surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy.

And in March the couple got some bad news: The chemo was no longer working. Doctors told the Youngs that Jeff most likely had two to three months to live.

"My first reaction was it wasn't (me) they were talking about, and then it went directly to how am I going to tell people," Jeff Young said. "I've been worried about how it affects other people."

Even in the face of death, Jeff Young is hoping others can benefit from what he's gone through.

"Everyone's dealt a deck of cards," he said. "Mine was to have cancer and teach somebody."

The lessons the Youngs hope others will learn from their tragic situation: A simple colonoscopy could save your life.

"You know Jeff's not the only one, and that's what is so frustrating," Abby Young said. "He has something that's preventable that he shouldn't have to go through and nobody should have to go through. And it just boggles my mind that we have the technology out there to scan for this, and it's not done until you are 40 or 50. It just doesn't make sense."


lori 10 years ago

Unless you have a family history of colon cancer or are symptomatic, I doubt insurance is going to pay when you are that young. We can ask our docs to schedule our colonoscopy when we are 20 or 30, but then we'd be stuck with the entire bill. Just like mammograms for younger women--insurance won't pay unless there is some significant family history or a lump is found. These things are pricey and out of many people's reach if you have to pay cash up front for them.

james bush 10 years ago

Thanks for thinking of others, Jeff. God help and bless you and your wife and family.

number3of5 10 years ago

I had a colonospy recently and the pain is something I never want to go through again. They would have to knock me out completely for me to ever consider it. Most people don't experience the pain, but I sure did.

LawSW 10 years ago

It would be good to see a follow-up article about the symptoms...

yellowhouse 10 years ago

I do not ask to walk smooth pathsNo bear an easy loadI pray for strength & fortitudeTo cross each rock strewn road!Give me strength that I might scaleThe highest peaks aloneand turn each boulder I must climbInto a stepping stone.

monkeyhawk 10 years ago

I have had 5, all pain free. Thirteen polyps were removed during the first one.Colon cancer is truly an avoidable diagnosis, and I feel so sorry that this young man is afflicted. Everyone should listen to his story and ask their doctors to schedule a colonoscopy.

littleone 10 years ago

If your doctor orders it, I am pretty sure that your insurance will pay for it. The insurance company won't know if you are having symptoms of any kind of disease. I hate to see you going through this Jeff. I hope you take comfort in knowing that coming forward may save other lives. Bless you and your family.

esl03 10 years ago

My dad has been living with Colon cancer for 5+ years. He is almost 70 years old. I hope this young man doesnt give up the fight to live. Its a tragic cancer to live with and I see what it can do to a person. It doesnt matter how old or young you are you can still get cancer. People just need to be smart and get tested. My heart goes out to this family and all the other families that are dealing with this.

janeyb 10 years ago

I thought colon cancer was almost unheard of in people in their 20's. Is this cancer on the rise in younger people and what is causing it? Is a diet high in fat or food additivies a cause, or a sedentary lifestyle watching too much television or playing too many video games? Perhaps some research is in order for prevention.

Ronda Miller 10 years ago

Jeff is the definition of hero with his strength of fighting this illness and now stepping forward to share what he has been through with others in the hopes of saving other lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Jeff, and your lovely wife, extended family and friends.I agree that more information about his symptoms and health insurance coverage will be given. It will be an interesting follow-up. Please keep us posted and we hope you win the fight!

gr 10 years ago

super tramp,While you are right that there appears to be a mystery in some cases of dietary choices, in other cases the answer is obvious. If you had a group of people with a 90% chance of getting colon cancer, wouldn't you think doing everything possible to prevent it from occuring be done rather than waiting until performing a test to confirm it? Removing polyps may prevent cancer at that specific location, but do you think that whatever is causing the polyps could cause cancer to grow in other non-tested areas?

supertrampofkansas 10 years ago

Pogo,I am wondering how many routine colonoscopies are done by colorectal surgeons (not specialists but surgeons which is the site you are listing). Please note that Lawrence is not alone in not having any colorectal surgeons. There are only about 6 of them in the Kansas City area which I have been told by other doctors is an unusually high number. Many very competent and good surgeons do not specialize in any one area but are more than qualified to do colorectal surgery. Just because these surgeons have certification in colorectal surgery does not guarantee you will have best person doing your colon surgery. You still need to do the research and find the best doctor qualified for your health needs.

Linda Endicott 10 years ago

I feel for this young man and his family. Cancer is not an easy thing to go through, for either the patient or their loved ones. To be quite blunt, health insurance, or the lack thereof, makes a tremendous difference to a lot of us. At this point in time I have no symptoms whatsoever of any type of cancer (as far as I know). Through work, I have an insurance policy that is separate from my regular health insurance, just for cancer itself. I pay extra for this. It's supposed to cover screenings for cancer and some treatment if you are diagnosed. Do you know what it pays out for a mammogram? An entire 50 bucks. Wow...the mind boggles. Now if someone can just tell me where I can get a mammogram done for 50 bucks...And let's be realistic....if I was ever diagnosed with cancer, even with health insurance, I couldn't afford treatment. Not with all the deductibles and co-pays and the costs of cancer treatments and medications. I would be bankrupt in a heartbeat...Especially since cancer patients, if the cancer progresses, usually become ill enough that they can't continue to there goes your insurance anyway, unless you have a trust fund somewhere and can actually afford Cobra...So...what is the point of finding out if I have cancer, if I know I can't afford to treat it anyway??

Alia Ahmed 10 years ago

gr,I used to think a colonoscopy would be considered as early detection of colon cancer and not prevention, per se. However, if a person has polyps that are not yet cancerous removed during a colonoscopy, it seems like in those cases, it is prevention and not "fixing" it. I just had my first colonoscopy last week after putting it off for several years. My colonoscopy was performed by a very competent gastroenterologist here in Lawrence at LMH South and I don't remember any pain. I realize one of the medications they use causes some amnesia so I may have experienced temporary discomfort during the procedure, but I do not recall it if I did. The prep the day before is no fun, but I imagine colon cancer and the ensuing treatment would be a lot more painful and inconvenient than that. I'm glad I could get the procedure done in Lawrence by a competent medical specialist. Since my colonoscopy results were normal, I do not need another one for another 7-10 years. My insurance paid for the entire procedure with no deductible or copay since I'm over 50. Best wishes to Jeff and Abby and thank you for sharing your very important story and experience with us.

AshleyMarie 10 years ago

I know of a few women that are going through what Jeff is. You can read about their battles on their blogs. One is Jennifer Ireland and the other is Shawndra Turner. They both were diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in their late 20's.Jennifer Ireland- Turner-

lawrencechick 10 years ago

Give me a break Pogo....a colonoscopy is a simple, routine procedure. Go to the Cleveland clinic for a colonoscopy? What next- consult a neurosurgeon the next time I get a headache. Thank God you are not in a position to allocate health care dollars.

simplykristib 10 years ago

Jeff, lots of good thoughts and prayers for you!No we need a serious change of insurance rules in this country. The insurance companies want to emphasize prevention but they won't pay for simple screening tests like mammograms and colonoscopies until you are of a certain age. A lot of people don't know they have symptoms until it is too late. One of my mom's cousins was just diagnosed last year with stage III colon cancer. She had surgery, radiation, and chemo. She's cancer-free.Both my parents were recently diagnosed with lung cancer... Talk about a cancer that has no screening or very little funding for research and it is the number one killer of all cancers. Yes, they are former smokers but they had stopped years ago.

Lindsey Buscher 10 years ago

this is really sad and if younger people really can't get medical tests because of insurance, then you can just lump this in with all the other stories of people affected by our terrible health care system.seriously, we think we are so advanced as a nation and democracy, yet we have a system that's sole purpose is to profit off of human health and suffering. Can anyone tell me what is wrong with our health care system being non-profit organizations? The competition is still there free-market still determines who sinks or swims, the only difference is that the currency is not human lives. At least they both look really happy posing with that Championship trophy.

supertrampofkansas 10 years ago

gr,In a perfect world, that would be wonderful if we knew all the answers to your questions. However, scientifically speaking, we know very little about the questions you asked. In fact, if you do any research at all regarding this issue, you will find specifics such as dietary requirements for preventative healthcare to be all over the map. Also diet is only the tip of the iceberg (environment, genetics, viruses, etc.). So colonoscopies do represent a way of health screening especially for people who have strong genetic history for colon cancer. If you have a group of people that has a 90 plus percent of getting colon cancer before the age of 50, wouldn't you think that a simple colonscopy could save their lives?Also please note that doctors are required to indicate whether the colonoscopy is a screen or related to some specific medical diagnosis.

gr 10 years ago

Poor Jeff. Another victim.A victim of what?"A simple colonoscopy could save your life."Well, no. It would be an indication something is wrong. However, catching it soon, would not prevent getting colon cancer nor some other cancer later on if nothing else about his life was changed. Considered "cured" is 5 years. Many who have had cancer before and get "cured" get cancer again and die.Questions to consider are: how did he get it? It's in his colon. What would go into his colon to cause it to get cancer?Could it be food?Could it be the types of food?What types of food (and/or lacking of types) lead to colon cancer?If whatever caused it continued to exist, wouldn't he get it again, even if it was "caught in time"?Either there still is hope for Jeff, if something changes. If nothing changes, there isn't much hope.What to change? Stage 4. Hmmm. Sounds like something drastic must change - completely different than what has been the last 20+ years. Getting more poison in his body doesn't sound like the answer.Several have written about something being wrong with our "health care system". Well, that's true, but what the commenters really mean is our "sick care system". Health care would mean preventing the colon cancer in the first place - not "fixing" it once there. Finding out that you are sick is diagnostic - not "health care". When doctors tell you that what you eat doesn't affect your health - that's not health care. That's an outright lie.

lori 10 years ago

Littleone:To bill insurance you need to supply a code that identifies the reason for the exam. "The doctor ordered it" doesn't cut it. Neither does "rule out {insert disease here}" It has to be a specific reason. If that reason isn't covered, the insurance won't reimburse. If the doc makes up the reason, that is fraud and if he/she gets busted, they risk losing their ability to bill insurance and medicare ever again, and they'll probably be heavily fined.Consumers need to lobby their insurance to get this test paid for; it isn't a problem with the physician (unless the test wasn't ordered appropriately when the pt reports suspicious symptoms), but with the insurance company.

bearded_gnome 10 years ago

I read the other day Janeb that obesity dramatically increases the risk of colon cancer. that was apparently a recent finding. logie,take your ad elsewhere; most of the 45-million number you and your fellows cite includes majority people who have chosen not to get health insurance. they have prioritized other things ahead of it. and, when you mandate more things for health care insurance, the cost of it has to go up. more mandates, fewer people choose health insurance because it costs more. (Janet Reid,thank you for a great story. i agree, please follow up this with an article about warning signs of colon cancer. and many thanks to the youngs for sharing their story, God bless them and their family. I certainly hope they beat the odds!

1977 10 years ago

I am Jeff's wife, Abby, and would like to thank all of you that have put us in your thoughts. In research that I did for a paper some estimates say it takes up to 20 or 30 years for a polyp to metastasize. That means even when people are getting diagnosed in the later stages there still was plenty of time for them to find the polyp before it turned into cancer.

Bossa_Nova 10 years ago

Abby,thank you and jeff for sharing your story. next time i go to the doctor i will ask her about getting checked. take care and stay strong.

ReadingSports 10 years ago

God bless Jeff and Abby. I'll pray for them.I have a parent in final stage, hospice. He's older, but it's still hard.

gr 10 years ago

"Certainly you can reduce the risk through diet and etc but you can't get rid of the mutated gene."I would agree with that statement, excepting the idea of epigenetics. Your genetics are there and diet mostly doesn't change them, but diet can overrule or prevent expression of those genetic malfunctions.As expected the cancer industry says diet has no effect on polyps, and no matter the diet, polyps will reoccur in those with a history of them. Which seems to imply not all have polyps. They did peddle asprin. Another site said if there is a family history of polyps, individuals should be tested at 40, otherwise at 50. Which also implies not all have polyps. Other sites say only certain people get them who have risk factors.I also looked at this site about preventing and curing them: this government site about lowering your risk through diet and exercise:

supertrampofkansas 10 years ago

gr,Sure I agree that everthing should be done to prevent it from happening but the point is, it still happens. As I said the research is all over the map. Genetically speaking, when you are missing key mechanisms that help repair your DNA that contain mistakes in its code, it doesn't matter what you do, you will get cancer. So colonoscopies become your best tool for prevention.As for the polyps, polyps are present in everyone. It doesn't make any sense to say that polyps have a causation. It is like talking about what causes your fingers. However, what causes the polyps to become cancerous is a good question and represents a major area of research.

supertrampofkansas 10 years ago

Hi gr,Just google polyps. It is non-specific term that refers to bumps in your colon. Both the literature and doctors who specialize in the colon anatomy say everyone has them. There are different types of polyps that seem to be more associated with cancers but from what I can tell, they still start from a bump in the colon. My limited understanding of it is that it is like a freckle on your hand which does have the potential develop into cancer depending on exposure and/or genetic make-up etc.There are several different hereditary colon cancers out there that have been extensively studied. For example if you google these syndromes you will find that they are caused by specific inherited mutations that are sufficient in themselves to cause colon polyps, colon cancers, and non-colonic cancers. Certainly you can reduce the risk through diet and etc but you can't get rid of the mutated gene. I have seen different statistics with different syndromes so it just depends on which ones you are talking about. I could list a bunch of sites for you but I figure with google you could probably find a whole lot more than I could give you here. Hope the helps.

gr 10 years ago

super tramp, Sorry to disagree, but could you give some research references saying that "it doesn't matter what you do, you will get cancer" if you are missing key repair mechanisms? And/or maybe I'm asking what percentage of people are that way.Also, it appears to me that you are saying polyps are "normal". Anything on that? Because, I've read that having polyps is an indication of risk of cancer and they'll remove them if found. To me, that would be non-supportive of everyone having them.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.