A 26-year-old police officer was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer just weeks after joining the force.
Shawn DePasquale was inducted into the Rollinsford Police Department in New Hampshire in December 2017.
But just three weeks later, doctors told him he had stage IV colon cancer and that it had spread to his liver.
Because DePasquale is a new hire, he has had to take unpaid time off to receive his treatments, which are not covered by insurance.
To help him out, his fellow police officers have been holding fundraisers – including raffles and T-shirt sales – in hopes of helping DePasquale pay his medical costs and spreading awareness of the disease.
Officer Shawn DePasquale, 26, with the Rollinsford Police Department in New Hampshire was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in January
Three weeks earlier, DePasquale (left and right) graduated from the New Hampshire Police Academy. Doctors told him that he needed to receive treatment quickly because the cancer had spread to his liver
Colon cancer is a cancer of the large intestine, which is the part of the digestive tract where the body removes water and salt from solid waste.
The cancer usually begins with growths called polyps. They are located on the innermost lining of the colon and become cancerous over many years.
A study published last year found that colon cancer cases diagnosed in adults younger than age 55 doubled from 1990 to 2013, although no one is sure why.
In response, the American Cancer Society updated its screening guidelines for colorectal cancer, now recommending people at average risk begin regular screenings at age 45.
Signs and symptoms of the disease include a change in bowel movements, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain or sudden weight loss.
Treatment options currently include surgery to remove any tumors as well as chemotherapy and radiation to kill cancer cells.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the US, among both men and women.
It is also the third leading cause of cancer deaths in both American men and women and is estimated to cause more than 50,000 deaths in 2018.
The five-year relative survival rate for those with stage I colon cancer is 92 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database.
However, once the cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the liver, it dramatically drops. The five-year relative survival rate for stage IV is about 12 percent.
DePasquale graduated from the New Hampshire Police Academy in December 2017 and joined the department in Rollinsford.
DePasquale (pictured with his mother, left, and his younger sister, right) has so far undergone radiation and chemotherapy to shrink the tumor and then surgery in July to remove it
Because DePasquale (far left) is a new hire, he has had to take unpaid time off to receive his treatments, which are not covered by insurance
Three weeks later, in January he was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, which had spread to his liver.
It’s currently unclear what, if any, signs and symptoms DePasquale was exhibiting before he received his diagnosis.
‘I mean I’m 26, I didn’t expect to come down with this,’ DePasquale told Boston 25.
‘You hear you have stage four cancer and immediately everything just fades out.’
DePasquale underwent radiation five days a week for five weeks followed by chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, and then surgery in July to remove it at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover.
He is currently undergoing chemotherapy for the cancer cells in his liver, which will require at least eight rounds.
Because DePasquale is still new to the job, he has had to take time off without pay to receive his treatments, which are not covered by insurance.
The police department has held numerous fundraisers to try to help their new hire including raffles and T-shirt sales.
DePasquale (pictured, left) told the station he hopes that sharing his story will raise awareness so that people will get checked if they suspect they have symptoms
The police department has held numerous fundraisers to try to help their new hire including raffles and T-shirt sales (above) which have raised at least $3,000
One event held on Saturday raised about $3,000, according to the Foster’s Daily Democrat.
Rollinsford Police Chief Bob Ducharme says the whole force was saddened by the diagnosis and wanted to do everything they could to help him.
‘Being the new guy on the force, his vacation time, his sick time was quite limited,’ he told Boston 25.
‘I’ve just been so humbled by this whole experience that so many people have reached out to help, especially in this day and age where there’s a lot of anti-law enforcement right now,’ he said.
DePasquale told the station he hopes that sharing his story will raise awareness so that people will get checked if they suspect they have symptoms.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up to help DePasquale pay his medical bills.
So far, more than $40,500 has been raised out of a $50,000 goal.