Family hopes missed diagnosis will save others

Stage-four colon cancer misdiagnosed in 38-year-old father of two, who has been told he has weeks to a few months to live. Family encourages others to get second opinions.

Getting a second opinion can save your life. That's a powerful message from a Centreville, Va. couple who got married in a hospital so that the bride's brother could be there.

It wasn't the wedding she dreamed of, but Robin O'Neill would not have had it any other way.

"We are extremely close. And so it meant the absolute world that he had to be there, no matter what," said O'Neill.

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Robin and Sean O'Neill pushed their wedding date up and held it on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. That's where Robin's brother Vannarin Ly is being treated for stage four colon cancer. Ly is married with two small children.

"My brother is 38-years-old. He was diagnosed at 38. And it was something that wasn't necessarily on the doctor's mind. Maybe that's why they didn't do a full colonoscopy," said Robin.

In January of last year, Ly began having symptoms, bloody stools and diarrhea. Robin said he went to his doctor who put him on a gluten-free diet, did some blood work and had Ly undergo a sigmoidoscopy, which only examines the lower third of the colon. No cancer was found.

"They just said he had inflammation, that he was just constipated that he just needs to work through it," said Robin. "That was our lesson learned. Well, could there have been more tests they could've done? Now, we know the answer is yes. "

Ly was not given a colonoscopy which examines the entire colon. Two months after the sigmoidoscopy, which found no cancer, Ly was on vacation with his wife when his cancer made a frightening appearance.

"He was in Aruba and his bowel perforated. So he essentially went into septic shock," explained Robin. In Aruba he had surgery to remove part of his colon that was consumed with cancer. That was in April of 2017.

Back in Boston, Ly was put on chemotherapy but the cancer spread and now, his family is trying to make the most of the time he has left.

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"At this point, I don't think the anger and the blame is something our energy needs to go toward," she said.

Robin, who is a pediatric nurse at Children's Hospital, and her husband Sean, who is a Fairfax County Fire Fighter, say people need to know they can and should speak up.

"I want people to know that you're allowed to ask, 'what is a colonoscopy? Please explain it to me," said Robin.

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"Whether you're a firefighter or any individuals, they know their bodies more than anybody else. Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself. Ask for another opinion, ask for more tests, so that they can catch something early and they don't have to go through what Robin, her brother, and her family are going through now.

The O'Neills wanted to speak out also because March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

If you'd like to help the family deal with Vonn's large medical costs, visit this website.