When Pat Spain, 31, stepped up to th podium this morning, he looked much thinner than he does on his Animal Planet show, “Beast Hunter.” That’s because the unpleasant feeling he noticed at the end of the show’s taping turned out to be colon cancer. He’s since lost 30 pounds.
Spain stopped by the Cancer Action Network’s New England Research Breakfast at the Museum of Science to talk about coping with colon cancer. (First, he shot a photo of the museum’s huge cricket model for his Facebook page. ) After the talk, he was off to chemotherapy.
“So,” he said “…this is the best I’m going to feel for two weeks,”
A Genzyme scientist and wildlife biologist, Spain was discovered by National Geographic after spending all his money and free time producing a show on You Tube called “Nature Calls TV.”
But as the NatGeo show was about to wrap, he began to feel “not quite right.”
Having recently visited Sumatra, Mongolia and the Amazon, he thought he had picked up something traveling. After five months and numerous misdiagnoses, his doctors did a colonoscopy and, in January, discovered the cancer.
Without blaming anyone, he said found the experience “pretty embarrassing and dehumanizing.” A low point – waking up from an induced coma to learn he had undergone an ileostomy.
The experience made him understand why people don’t talk about cancer.
“That’s why I’m very happy to speak to everybody and anybody,” Spain said. “When you are on TV and you’re in front of the camera as much as I am all the time, you tend to make your mistakes in public and that tends to remove that embarrassment factor.”
Since then, his ostomy has been reversed and his bedsores have healed.
But, he noted that chemotherapy is “much harder than I thought it would be.” He compared it to a ritual he went through for his show – being bitten hundreds of times by bullet ants which, he said, “have the worst sting in the animal kingdom.”
He thought if he could handle that, he could handle anything. But, he said “cancer has been harder…Chemo is my bullet ants.”
So, he got involved with the American Cancer Society because he wants people to know: “There is no rule that only smokers and people over 50 get cancer.”
And, he got a standing ovation.