Recently, Robert Flores, the author of #FuckCancer, was interviewed by Be Screened, Get Screened, a website dedicated to getting people to screen themselves for colon cancer. Thank you! Due to space restrictions, some of the answers were cut short so I present to you the full-interview here. If you are interested in interviewing Robert, let us know!
When Robert Flores was diagnosed with colon cancer, he immediately looked for people that had gone through the same fight. Unfortunately, he found it frustratingly difficult to find anyone that understood what he was going through. So he wrote “F*ck Cancer!,” a book describing every step of his journey, in hopes that nobody else would have to search as hard as he did.
We got the opportunity to interview him about his book and his experience with cancer.
BeSeenGetScreened: Please tell us about your book.
Robert: Everyone’s cancer is slightly different from the next, even if it’s diagnosed in the same category. From the beginning I heard “highly unusual” from all three doctors. My surgeon, my oncologist and radiologists all said the same phrase when I initially met them. My tumor had come out the skin of my left buttock. I thought I had a cyst, that’s what I told my primary doctor, and I also thought I had hemorrhoids. My primary doctor tried to remove the cyst and when the biopsy came back he gave me the bad , horrible news. As I went through my treatments I looked for a mentor , a friend with a similar diagnosis. I asked my surgeon if she was treating anyone else like me so I could talk to them . Dr. Anita Gregory told me I was only the second person she had seen with this kind of colorectal cancer. I went on social media and found on Twitter three women who were tweeting about their respective cancers. What a great inspiration they were . I was in awe of their strength to be able to write so eloquently about their experience and all while going through chemo and radiation .So I decided to have a go at it. I started a blog. When I was up to putting a sentence or two together. I did this so maybe I could help someone like me , who was going through treatment. I didn’t sugarcoat anything. My book is a very raw account of what I experienced. I learned a lot about cancer. I learned a lot about health insurance. I learned a lot about friendships.
BeSeenGetScreened: What kind of response have you gotten from your book
Robert: The response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s published by an independent publisher, Santino Rivera, Broken Sword Publishing. Santino saw my blog and felt it would make a great book. As an independent publisher he looks for subjects that the big publishers don’t touch. There isn’t a book on any library shelf or bookstore shelf about a Mexican American male , that shares with the reader very personal insight to his dealing with cancer. The best quote is from a new Facebook friend, a female teacher, health worker who told me to post information about the book so she could share with her friends, ” We don’t ever hear stories like this” Boom. Exactly why Santino found the need to publish my story.
BeSeenGetScreened: Tell us about your experience with colon cancer.
Robert: My experience with colon cancer was the most painful,torturous experience of my life. I started with 6 rounds of chemo every two weeks. I would leave the infusion center attached to a chemo pump that I would carry for a few days then go back to have it removed. immediately after a completed the 6 rounds I started radiation. 25 sessions of radiation. This time I had the chemo pump attached to me 24/7. So I had to shower with it , which meant I had to put saran wrap around my picc line so I wouldn’t get it wet. The picc line was a life or vein saver. After all this radiation they let me recover for a month , then I had my surgery to remove the tumor , my sphincter, my colon. I have a permanent colostomy. I had a few complications but when I recovered from surgery I started on 12 more rounds of chemo every 2 weeks. Along with that I did an infusion of the drug Erbitux every week. Quite a marathon.
BeSeenGetScreened: What was most helpful to you in your fight against cancer.
Robert: So many things come to mind. It wasn’t just one or two things. The fact that I might be the most optimistic person, ever. I wake up happy. I’m usually always smiling. My glass is always three-quarters full. My immediate family is very small but we are very close. I was surrounded by family and friends ready to help. I had a ride to chemo , a ride home from chemo. Friends constantly checking up on me. Friends that I knew on Twitter, I had never met them, but they were there for me on social media. Every day. Every night. I also relied on my faith. I’m Catholic. I attended Catholic school for 12 years. I’m very private about my beliefs. I prayed so much. It was like breathing. I prayed constantly. And I had complete faith in all my doctors. Dr. Samuel Lin, my primary, when he told me that I had cancer he had already scheduled me to meet my surgeon, Dr. Anita Gregory. I met her the next day and was very impressed with her. Dr. Gregory picked my oncologist, Dr. Tariq Mahmood and my radiologist, Dr. Robert Ashe. Both also impressive. my Dream Team.
BeSeenGetScreened: How has your life changed since.
Robert: I have made a concerted effort to make sure in some ways my life hasn’t changed. I am back at work, I am a meat cutter, I am still a hard worker. I’m still very productive. I still try to go to sporting events. I am trying to lose weight, so I exercise. In ways my life has changed. I want to give back. This book is one way. I’m donating to CHOC , the children’s hospital, and to the Latino Health Access here in Santa Ana. Proceeds from the book. I am willing to talk to anyone that is going through cancer treatment. A co-worker just had colon cancer surgery. I’m mentoring him.
BeSeenGetScreened: If you could give one piece of advice to people trying to fight or prevent colon cancer, what would it be.
Robert: I’ve learned from other people’s experience that healthy eating and exercise doesn’t guarantee you that you won’t ever get cancer. But it is good advice. You also need to get your regular check up with your doctor. If you have a family history of cancer tell your doctor. Push for that colonoscopy . Don’t avoid it. I had no symptoms. My cancer was so low on my body I felt fine. My appetite was normal. My energy level was normal. If the tumor had grown in the usual direction which is up into my internal organs I would have had some indication that something was wrong.
Have a healthy and honest relationship with your doctor.
BeSeenGetScreened: Why should people read your book.
Robert: I hope that by reading my book it will open up a dialogue with those that normally don’t talk about this subject. In many cultures cancer, especially colon cancer is not something we share at the dinner table. It is a very private matter. But not so private that we avoid it. My book can be that icebreaker. The difference between early detection and fourth stage cancer. I’m not an expert on cancer. But I found that by talking to someone who went through or is going through treatment it is so much more authentic. Don’t get me wrong. I love my doctors and my nurses were like angels. Midway through my 12 rounds of chemo I met Andrew who had stage four colon cancer and we became immediate friends. We bonded like two veterans of some distant battle. Comparing chemo stories, telling colostomy jokes. May he rest in peace. He was a Rock Star in my eyes.