When Tri-City restaurateur Marty Martin was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007, there was one chance in 10 million that his brother might also have the same disease, especially since there was no family history of cancer and both were under 50.
But Marty kept bugging his brother Darren to get checked out, especially because Darren had not been feeling well.
"He was adamant about me going in because I'd had some stomach troubles," said Darren, owner of the Magill's restaurants in Pasco and Richland.
Darren had been to the doctor more than once to try to figure out what was going on, and he even had a CT scan, but it showed nothing. So at his ailing brother's urging, he got a colonoscopy -- and cancer was discovered just six weeks after his brother's was diagnosed.
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Darren's cancer was caught early. But Marty was not so fortunate, as his was terminal by the time it was found. He battled the disease for more than a year and died in May 2008.
"He was my big brother and my best friend," Darren said. "And he saved my life."
Marty was 44 when his cancer was caught, and Darren was a year younger. Both were a half-decade away from the age when most people are encouraged to begin receiving colonoscopies.
"People need to get checked," Darren said. "Nobody knows more about the suffering and consequences of colon cancer than my family does. My parents almost lost two sons in the course of a year."
Marty went through aggressive chemotherapy treatments because they were the only hope his doctors had of saving him. His tumor had attached to his abdomen and the cancer had spread to his liver.
"The chemo just tore him up," Darren said.
In the meantime, Darren faced incredible obstacles. He went through multiple surgeries, and his colon collapsed. He was put into a drug-induced coma to allow his body to heal, and he stayed in the hospital for more than two months. Marty would come visit Darren in the hospital even as he went through chemotherapy.
"This overwhelmed our whole family," Darren said. "I have an 8-year-old daughter, and I cannot imagine her growing up without her dad. Let's just say she gets a bit more spoiled than the rest of my children were," he added with a grin.
Marty, who owned the Francisco's restaurants, had a plan to open Magill's on Road 68 with Darren, and they did manage to do that just before he died at age 45.
With the still-painful memory of losing his brother near the surface, Darren is a staunch proponent of early detection because colon cancer is one of the most treatable diseases if caught early.
All it takes, he said, is a regular colonoscopy. In fact, Darren will buy a meal for anyone who gets a colonoscopy, as long as they bring their paperwork into the restaurant with them.
"You're starving after your colonoscopy!" he said with a hearty laugh.
Darren also helps others battling cancer by sponsoring events. For example, a spaghetti feed Wednesday evening at the Uptown Magill's will help pay medical costs for Mazie Draper of Richland, a 2-year-old who has leukemia.
Darren still holds some regrets that he didn't get a colonoscopy a year or two earlier, when he first started having stomach cramps.
"If I would have gone in, there is a possibility I could have saved my brother. Instead, he saved my life."
-- Andy Perdue: 582-1405; firstname.lastname@example.org. The lavender ribbon we are using in this series represents awareness of all cancers.