PGA club professional and colon cancer survivor shares story to help save lives through awareness and screening

March 11, 2019

Colon cancer isn't polite, and the symptoms aren't delicate. But in order to save lives, the details of this disease can't be downplayed or minimized. 

Colon cancer isn’t polite, and the symptoms aren’t delicate. But in order to save lives, the details of this disease can’t be downplayed or minimized. That’s why patients like Eric C.C. Gilliland, PGA, head golf professional, Audubon Country Club are eager to share their personal stories to save people like you.

At age 35, Gilliland noticed trace amounts of rectal bleeding. Rather than keep the symptom private, like so many would do, he shared his concern with his wife, Susan.

“Fortunately, she’d just read an article about 10 symptoms of colon cancer which cannot be ignored,” says Gilliland. “I consulted my general practitioner who — despite no family history — insisted a colonoscopy be done as soon as possible.”

During the procedure, cancerous polyps were discovered and removed. Within a matter of hours, Gilliland was at Baptist Health Louisville for an emergency resection of his colon. 

“My surgeon, Dr. Raymond Pierce, was a golfer who understood the active lifestyle of a PGA Club Professional,” says Gilliland. “Dr. Pierce performed an aggressive surgery, removing 12 inches of my colon, to give me a chance to return to my life as a golf professional.”

Amazingly, Gilliland was back to work, full time, only a few months later. “The team of Dr. Michael Kommor, medical oncologist, Baptist Health Medical Group CBC Group: Consultants in Blood Disorders and Cancer and Dr. Mitchell Kaplan, gastroenterologist at Baptist Health Medical Group Gastroenterology, have provided expert advice and post-surgery surveillance in the 12 years since diagnosis.”

Gilliland is still cancer free and is an outspoken advocate of lifesaving colonoscopies. In addition, he says people should be aware of common colon cancer symptoms. Those include a change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea, rectal bleeding or blood in stool, and persistent abdominal cramping or discomfort, just to name a few.

“Know the symptoms. Know your family history. Get screened on time,” says Gilliland.

Find out your risk for colon cancer by taking our free health risk assessment.