Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 12th, 2011
During his time in Sumatra, Pat Spain stopped at the Ragunan Zoo, Jakarta – Indonesia, to spend time with the 7-year-old female orangutan, named Pinky. Photo Credit: © Icon Films
In an in-depth exchange, Pat Spain explained yesterday how the program “Beast Hunter” had saved his life.
Kept quiet until after the “Beast Hunter” season began in the USA, perhaps to head-off charges of sensationalistic promotional efforts, NatGeo decided late yesterday to come forth publicly, due to Spain’s request, during Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Through back channel emails, such as the one he granted to me and via NatGeo, Spain wants to become a spokeperson for early awareness, detection, and prevention of colon cancer.
He explained it quite straightforwardly to me, thusly:
I’ve been experiencing some pretty bad stomach issues for the past few months…ever since Sumatra actually. Well, after months and months of “maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that,” I finally received an answer about 1 month ago: colon cancer. A shock yes, but at least we caught it early enough where surgery was a very good option.
The surgery was relatively easy, I recovered very quickly, and was ready to announce to everyone that I was recovered and was cancer free (I didn’t want to tell anyone until I knew a definitive answer on what it was, as we weren’t sure it was even cancer until after the first surgery and the pathology results came back, and until I knew what the prognosis was, had it spread, etc.). Well, it was cancer, it was all removed by the surgery, and thankfully, it had not spread to any other organs! Then, a few days after my surgery, I had some major complications which required 2 more emergency surgeries and about a 1 months stay in the hospital. I lost 30 pounds (I look a little like the machinist right now) and had some dark days, but with the love and support of my family and Anna (who took nearly 1 month off to help me) I knew I’d get through this.
I’m happy to report that today, I’ve put 10 pounds back on, the doctors have a very good diagnosis for me, and I am officially cancer free! I will undergo 1 more surgery to reverse the very fun ileostomy bag I currently have in a couple weeks, then some months of chemo (which I’m told is nothing like the movies) and then, should be back to my old self. A little more appreciative of all that I have and a little more grateful for everything and everyone in my life.
Nat Geo and ICON have been amazing to me through all of this. They have fully supported me and all of my decisions and stuck by me with unwavering loyalty. I am so lucky and privileged to have an association with such incredible organizations.
This has been a crazy experience and I’m looking at it as something I can learn from and help others with my story. I plan on becoming an advocate for early detection and treatment of this very preventable disease. If you are having GI issues, DO NOT ignore them! You have to be your own advocate and you know your body better than anyone. I was diagnosed with everything from gluten allergies to stress but kept pushing it and going back to the doctors before they finally did a colonoscopy and honestly, I would not have done that if it hadn’t been for Sumatra and all of the travel I had done. I would have written this off as something minor but, I went to some funky places and knew the risks, so I pushed it, and because of that, this was detected early. “Beast Hunter,” Sumatra specifically, saved my life. I love the show for so many reason, but saving my life is one of the top ones. Maybe tied with going down in the sub. Pat Spain
In the Gunung Tuju Kerinci National Park, Sumatra, Pat Spain, Beast Hunter, looks for clues of animals sleeping in tree trunks. Photo Credit: © Icon Films.