Anthony Bruemmer was only 46 when the unexpected happened. On top of his very physical job (drywall finisher), Anthony worked-out and was in great shape. His busy life included working hard, long hours, breeding and raising chickens on his small ranch and enjoying time with his family and fiancée, Laura. Not accustom to being sick or visiting doctors, Anthony couldn’t quite believe it when he starting bleeding suddenly while going to the bathroom when he got home from work in July 2005.
Doctor appointments and a colonoscopy revealed stage III rectal cancer. It really hit him when he left work the day after he was told about the cancer, and packed up his tools. He said, "I didn’t know if I was ever going to work again." Aggressive chemotherapy and concurrent radiation were started immediately. "I was a champion quitter—I quit drugs, alcohol, smoking, and even biting my nails but I couldn’t quit cancer—I had to go through with it," said Anthony.
Four months of treatment and coping with many side-effects had Anthony weak. Constant diarrhea had him spending most of his time in the bathroom. Anthony agreed to participate in a clinical trial where he received a shot that may have contained a new drug (Sandostatin) to help stop the diarrhea. "It was a big fat needle filled with very thick stuff, but it worked! I’m thankful that I got the new good drug," explained Anthony.
Surgery followed in March 2006. Eight days in the hospital, lots of pain and a slow recovery didn’t stop Anthony from fighting. "I have a positive outlook—I’m an ‘I can’ person, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because I can!" Additional radiation and chemotherapy followed the surgery and lasted until October 2006. Anthony had to learn what foods to eat that didn’t cause either diarrhea or constipation. He experienced two additional hospital stays due to constipation. He also had another shot of Sandostatin to stop the diarrhea at one point. "I felt like I had the entire Rite-Aide store in my house," exclaimed Anthony.
"I need to thank all my supporters—I couldn’t have gone through all of this without my Mom, who took great care of me, my extended family that flew in to support and visit with me. I also want to thank all the people who prayed for me at various churches, the guys from work, family and friends. It meant the world to me to feel their love and concern. My fianceé, Laura got on the internet and explained to me what to expect. It was a great help, especially when you don’t know anything about cancer!"
"I value life—I value it more than eating red meat, which I love but can’t eat anymore," said Anthony. He admits that going through this treatment was very difficult, but worth it. "My life has changed—I’m so happy to be here. It’s incredible, I can work—I can live! There has to be a reason I’m still here. Reading the bible and going to church helps me, along with my great doctors. Dr. Deanda who first saw me at the Chino Hills annex, Dr. Chanduri who was my medical oncologist, Dr. Rao who was my radiation oncologist, and Dr. Mohan who did my surgery—they were all great to me."
Today, Anthony feels great (except for some neuropathy in his feet) and is back to work. He looks forward to his daughter’s wedding this fall, his own upcoming marriage and continuing his hobby of breeding chickens. He wants others to know that it’s not always easy; you need to be positive and stay strong – just do what they tell you to do and you can get through it!