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Published on March 06, 2016

Beating Colon Cancer with Strength and Determination

Chris Ganser

Chris Ganser

Take one look at Chris Ganser and the last thing that would cross your mind is that Chris is a cancer survivor. Weighing in at 208 pounds with eight percent body fat, Chris is a 38-year-old personal trainer to high school and college athletes.

A gymnast by training, Chris hits the deck with 180-degree push-ups and can jump six feet in a single bound. Who would believe a fitness champion like Chris was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy at 18, rheumatoid arthritis at 24 and at 34 was told he had Stage 3 colon cancer? The rest is his story…

You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover – Even if it’s a Lean Fitness Machine

Dr. Eric Wilson

Eric Wilson, MD

Like so many other young colorectal cancer survivors, Chris endured several misdiagnoses, and went through several unnecessary tests, ER visits and hospital stays before his case got to Dr. Eric Wilson, a GI surgeon working with the Cone Health Cancer Center. The others simply thought Chris was too young to have it.

Dr. Wilson ordered a colonoscopy. The pathology report came back. It showed Chris had Stage 3 colon cancer. Chris underwent surgery.  

Dr. Wilson removed nine inches from his colon and 23 lymph nodes from his body. Chris then went through six months of chemotherapy.

“Chris holds a special place in my heart. Sort of surreal to see someone your own age, someone with eight-pack abs, diagnosed with colon cancer,” says Dr. Wilson. 

Most of Us Don’t Like Mondays, but Chris Hated Them – Now He Comes Back to See His Friends

Chris went to the Cone Health Cancer Center every other Monday for six months. He would first go in for bloodwork, then meet with Dr. Brad Sherrill, his medical oncologist, then head back to the infusion room for chemotherapy. On the last day of treatment, Cone Health Cancer Center gives patients the chance to ring the bell, signaling the end of treatment and the beginning of the rest of their lives. For Chris, everyone who treated him was there.

“My very first treatment the nurse sat with me for four hours right there just talking to me. I wouldn’t expect somebody to do that,” says Ganser. “By my third treatment everybody there knew my name. And it was like walking into a hotel. I hate to call them nurses. They’re really my friends.”

Husband to a Beautiful Wife, Father to an Amazing Young Man, Advocate for Under 50 Access to Care

Chris and his son

“We’re seeing more and more colon cancer among young people in their 30s and 40s and we don’t know why. Chris has been instrumental locally and nationally in raising awareness for colon cancer in younger people,” says Dr. Sherill.

Chris knows only too well the history of cancer in his family. His dad and grandfather, an uncle and two aunts have been impacted by different forms of it. Despite this history of cancer, colon cancer did not show up in Chris’s genetic tests.

Gina Dixon, RN

Gina Dixon, RN

Cone Health Cancer Center nurse navigator Gina Dixon, RN says that Chris is an inspiration to everyone. "He represents courage, strength, determination, and a willingness to help others advocate for colon cancer awareness for those under 50. When some of our younger patients meet Chris, and see how he looks, it gives them hope,” says Dixon.

Rather than letting cancer define him, Chris is attacking it through fitness and advocacy. It’s changed the way he lives day to day. He’s inspired to accomplish his goals. He lets go of the little things that don’t matter. And most importantly, he makes every moment count.

Exercise is a passion for Chris. That passion helped him make it through cancer treatment. It also makes him committed to having deeper relationships with his wife, his son and his fellow cancer survivors.

Since his diagnosis, Chris spends countless volunteer hours attending cancer support groups, presenting his case at the local, state and national level, and meeting with state and national representatives to encourage policy changes regarding access to diagnostic technologies for people under 50.

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Colon, Pancreatic & Gastrointestinal Cancers

  • Beating Colon Cancer with Strength and Determination