NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Metro Nashville police officer is grateful to see this Easter Sunday. It’s after he was diagnosed with cancer on his wife’s birthday.
“(I remember) Talking to my wife and telling her you need to go first thing tomorrow and start planning vacation time to do those things you just hadn’t had a chance to do,” said Sgt. Cary Briley.
It’s a conversation no husband wants to have with their wife but it’s one Sgt. Briley will not forget: finding out on her birthday that he had cancer.
“I went to the emergency room and it was on a Friday night after I had a stomach ache all day long,” said Briley.
He was 45-years-old at that point in 2019. He lived a healthy lifestyle and didn’t expect his doctor’s prognosis.
“He finally came in about 11 o’clock that night and approached it very well,” Briley recalled. “He goes ‘I found out what the problem was and it’s not good.’
Briley had colon cancer that had spread to his liver. Doctors at Ascension Saint Thomas presented him with a plan along with a simple but important piece of advice.
“After all was said and done… I remember asking the doctor ‘what can I do to help myself? What kind of diet to I need to be on? What kind of supplements do I need to be taking?’ He said my advice to you is very simple: don’t stop living,” said Briley.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States, according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
Ascension St. Thomas’ Dr. Patrick Wolf said it’s not common for people under the age of 50 to be diagnosed with colon cancer but he is seeing it happen more often and credits that to people being more aware of the need to be tested.
“For an average risk patient and that’s someone who doesn’t have a family history of colon cancer or no personal history of colon cancer, screening typically starts at the age of 45 and the gold standard for that is typically a colonoscopy,” Dr. Wolf said. “Screening is typically recommended if there are no polyps found every eight to ten years until the age of 75 and then it’s kind of on a case-by-case basis after the age of 75.”
Briley remained in the hospital for several days.
“The toughest part for me was after I left the hospital, waiting those two weeks to start chemotherapy,” he said.
After a lengthy and difficult battle that included chemo and surgery, he is now cancer-free, and back to active duty for the East Precinct.
“I find myself faced with things that probably, before the cancer diagnosis, I might be afraid to do or be afraid to try and I have to remind myself hey you’re a cancer survivor, you’ve been faced with a lot of fears that you’ve overcome,” he said.
He now has a new outlook on life said a recent trip to the mall proved it all too well.
“The lady at the counter was like this small bottle of perfume which is exactly what my wife had or you can get this gift box. And I’m like you know, she’s been through quite a bit, there’s nothing special about this day but I’m not going to be scared to buy this gift box,” said Briley. “I know that may sound kind of silly but that’s the mindset you get into is to take advantage of opportunities to be nice and be a good person to people.”
Experts said almost 150,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year. CLICK HERE for more information.