Softball to the gut may have saved Washington man’s life

Posted at 12:22 AM, Mar 24, 2018

SEATTLE –  A Washington state man is determined to get the word out about the importance of colon cancer screenings after an ill-timed catch blessed him with a timely diagnosis.

Tacoma Police Lt. Alan Roberts says the softball missed his glove and hit him instead.

"One of my girls threw the ball and it hit me in the gut and first thing I thought was, 'Oh my gosh, that's painful,'" Robert said.

But the pain didn't go away, so Roberts went to the doctor the next day. After a series of tests, including a colonoscopy, a doctor found a large tumor and diagnosed him with colon cancer.

"Had I not been hit by that softball, I had a month to live," Roberts said.

One surgery later, Roberts is cancer-free. But, he noted, the most important part about his story is that he had no signs, no symptoms, no family history.

At 47, he was three years younger than the suggested screening age of 50.

"Cancer can occur in young individuals," he said.

Doctors at Chi Franciscan say colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths. And it's nearly preventable, if one gets screened regularly starting at age 50, or sooner if there's a family history or other risk factors.

Roberts hopes that by sharing his story, others will catch on -- and get screened, too. March just happens to be National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so his timing couldn't be better.

"I have learned from this experience -- you don't have to slap me twice -- preventative is the way to go," he said.