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Don’t put off your checkups

When Dan Kneip turned 50, his doctor said he was past due for a colonoscopy. He felt fine but took his doctor’s advice and got screened. Turns out, the routine exam revealed he had Stage 2 colon cancer. The diagnosis changed his life, to say the least. However, had he not gone in for that screening, he may not be here to tell his story 14 years later.

“If I hadn’t gone in for that colonoscopy when I did, clearly the outcome could have been much worse,” he says. “Checkups are so important for catching cancer early. When it comes to cancer survival, there’s nothing more important than catching it as early as possible.”

Since he was first diagnosed, Dan has had 16 surgeries and has spent over 110 days recovering in the hospital. After 10 years of being cancer-free, he had another setback when he was diagnosed with Stage 1 bladder cancer in 2017. He is currently on an immunotherapy program.

“There’s a likelihood that I’ll be checked for the rest of my life and that tumors may come back, but as long as I keep on my schedule and go in and get my checkups, I can manage it,” he said.

An advocate for others
Despite going through some rough times, Dan manages to stay positive, continues to do the things he enjoys, and is an advocate for encouraging others to get their health screenings when they are due.

His support for others helped two people close to him get colonoscopies when they’ve needed them. Through a routine checkup, his brother-in-law was diagnosed with a Stage 1 cancerous tumor, and pre-cancerous polyps were revealed for the husband of a colleague. Since these cancers were caught early, both are doing fine now.

“It makes me feel good that I was able to convince people to get checked and catch things so early that they could take care of it and go on with their lives,” he said. “Routine screenings like colonoscopies are easy screenings, but you have to go in and get screened in order to detect and catch things at an early stage.”

Hitting the slopes
While undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer, Dan was itching to get back to his favorite outdoor activity – skiing. He says being on the slopes at Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort – which he calls his “mountain home” – helps him relieve the stresses of daily life. While his oncologist was initially against the idea, he knew it meant too much to Dan and that he would go anyway. So, with the help of friends following him with a hazard materials bag in case his chemo pump came off, Dan was able to enjoy a few runs down the mountain.

Since then, he continues to spend time on the mountain whenever he can. In fact, he’s gone so much that he’s become a favorite with the Mount Meadows staff. Not only has he been awarded his own bar stool at the local Mazot Eatery, he was also featured as one of the ski resort’s most notable skiers during its 50th anniversary celebration. Check out the YouTube video here.

Patients skipping appointments
Today, one thing that concerns Dan about the COVID-19 pandemic is the number of cancer patients that are skipping their appointments. Reports show that as many as 63% of cancer patients are foregoing their appointments because they are nervous about being exposed to the virus. Dan, who doesn’t miss an appointment, said the medical community is doing everything it can to provide a safe environment for its patients.

“They’re doing a fantastic job keeping everyone safe,” he said. “They have less people in the waiting room and they’re staggering their appointments throughout the day. I feel perfectly confident about going in for my appointments. I have no worries whatsoever. There’s really no reason to put it off.”

Tips for getting screened
Through his experiences, Dan shared his thoughts about why people shouldn’t skip routine health screenings.

  • Listen to the experts: If you have unusual symptoms or if something doesn’t seem right, don’t put it off. See your doctor and tell them what doesn’t feel right. They can navigate you to the right medical team for help.
  • Follow their advice: If you are not sure when you are to be screened, talk to your primary care doctor. They’ll help guide you through what you’re supposed to be getting done.
  • Don’t skip your checkups: Routine screenings can save your life. Even for people who are due for routine screenings such as colonoscopies, these are easy screenings that can detect anything in the early stages.
  • Try to live a healthy lifestyle: Get your exercise, don’t smoke and eat right. These things help increase your chances of surviving cancer or catching things early enough that they can be successfully treated.

While Dan is the first to admit that a cancer diagnosis can be challenging, for him, staying positive is how he battles the disease day to day.

“Focusing on the positives in life is what has really helped me,” he said. “Be thankful that you are still here and are able to do the things you love doing. I do everything I always did, it’s just a little more work to do it.”