How Colorectal Cancer became Clint Cummings Legacy of Hope

Clints Colorectal cancer announcement and the resulting actions of his friends, and family.

The announcement

How do you define a hero? Some would say it’s the soldier standing guard, others it’s the police and fireman, or the parent giving their life saving a child. All of these people have one thing in common: They are common people facing extraordinary circumstances. Here the hero is a person who shows you how to live in the face of adversity.

Clint Cummings was on the top of his game: An amazing tattoo artist who owned his own shop Sparrows Tattoo, alumnus of the second season of Spike Ink Master and with a hit television show, Tattoo Nightmares Miami. On January 1st 2016, all of that came to a sudden stop when he was diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer.

When someone mentions Colorectal Cancer, most people think about a man in his mid-fifties or later and not someone like Clint who was only thirty-five. Colorectal cancer was exactly the announcement when Clint went onto his Instagram January 30th to announce to the world his diagnosis. That was also when his friends and family started pushing his legacy forward without even realizing it.

The Fundraisers

Chonna and Zac “Lefty” Colbert started making calls and did the near impossible task of planning and pulling off a benefit. The day started with the throaty roar of two dozen or more motorcycles as Clint’s mother Renee “Nay Nay” Cummings pulled into the lot of a strip mall Sunday, February 28th 2016. For at least five minutes the stream of bikes rolled in and parked in orderly lines outside Zac “Lefty” Colbert’s Infamous Ink tattoos.

The crowds started lining up outside the door ninety minutes before the door opened and wouldn’t stop until after 9 pm. Inside the shop every artist station was filled including the piercing station as people flowed in as their numbers were called. The whole event had the air of a carnival and tattoo convention combined with bands entertaining the crowds and a BBQ tent set up to feed them. Chonna and Lefty are a shining example of what many people aspire to and at the end of the benefit raised over $21,000 for Clint.

Going through Clint’s work and talking to people who knew him; saw his love of comic book superheroes influenced his tattoo’s and art style. While undergoing chemo Clint finished preparations for his Art of Hero’s event. His plans changed and he decided to include a charity which specialized in colorectal cancer and selected FightCRC whom he invited to his event. Clint said “I want this to be about the cancer and raising money to fight it.”

The Art of Heroes event brought together some of the best artists in the tattoo community. People like: Lefty Colbert, Joe Capobianco, Sarah Miller, Mark Matthews, Ron Stafari, Ceeze Castanada, and St. Marq Agee. In addition, artists like Halo, Tatu Baby, and Nikko Hurtado sent art work to be sold during the event. This time Clint wasn’t trying to raise money for himself, instead he was doing it for the charity and to help raise awareness for colorectal cancer.

The crowds were as numerous this time as they had been in Waco months before. Clint had purchased hundreds of prizes including new Xbox’s and PS4’s which would be raffled during the day.. Even as the day began and the doors were opened mother nature got involved. With winds whipping up and blowing the tents over the raffle and the BBQ leaving volunteers holding on tightly and strangely enough laughing. The whole day was filled with a sense of excitement, hope and determination.

After the storm blew past the lines were still there and the people who had come out to support Clint seemed to share the same sense of enjoyment. Lines moved quickly and again people were getting tattoos past closing time and some even made plans to return later in the week.

During a very short lull in the excitement Clint mused “It looks like I’ll finish chemo around August and I think that’s when Ink Master starts shooting again.” Clint was always planning for the future and made it plain that stage IV colorectal cancer was not going to stop him.

Sadly, cancer has no respect for anyones hopes and dreams and after a short hospital stay December 2016 Clint went home in hospice care and passed away within a few days on December 23, 2016.

Advocacy information for how you can get involved with your own health and help others @Fight Colorectal Cancer.

Note from Doug Schwartz, the Twisted Tattoo Collector

One thing Clint was adamant about was advocacy and that advocacy is being carried forward by Fight Colorectal Cancer and by me. I have dedicated this year to education and advocacy; getting the word out about how this disease can be prevented and what we can do to care for ourselves. I have volunteered for Fight Colorectal Cancer’s Ambassador program and have dedicated my one year as an ambassador in Clint & family’s honor.

Clint’s chosen charity was and still is Fight CRC. Fight CRC is that VERY loud voice in the world of colorectal cancer which stands on the steps of the Senate and Congress demanding people take notice. Take notice of the fact this cancer is preventable and does not have to be the nation’s second most deadly cancer.

Symptoms to watch out for.

This is one of the most uncomfortable subjects for a lot of people and men seem to be quite a bit worse when it comes to discussing poop. Bowel movements are a thing and everybody does it so let’s get passed the silly embarrassment and talk about warning signs here.

  • Diarrhea – we are all just one food truck meal away from a good case of Montezuma’s revenge but what about when there’s no food truck involved? If you have diarrhea regularly it’s something you need to discuss with your doctor.

  • Constipation – another fun discussion. Again it’s about what should be happening and letting your doctor help you find relief.

  • Stomach Cramps – this goes along with diarrhea and constipation. Cramps, gas, constipation etc are all indicators of a problem and there is a rumor that your doctor can order tests and things that can find out what the problem is.

  • Poop not coming out right – If your poop looks thin and pinched, maybe the size of a pencil or so, and is hard to push out go see your doctor. Are you starting to see a pattern here? Poop is important and when it’s not coming out right you need to get help. When you start having several of these indicators at once then you REALLY NEED to get off your ass and into a docs.

  • Rectal Bleeding – That’s right blood coming out of your butt. There’s a problem here and you need a doctor.

  • Blood in your Poop – This again is a HUGE RED FLAG telling you to get into your doctors office ASAP. C’mon this isn’t all that hard. When you have severe issues like this don’t be THAT guy. You know the one who talks about seeing his doctor tomorrow.

  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss – Drop a bunch of weight quick? Then go see a doctor. At the end of the day surviving should outweigh those nagging fears and allow you to push yourself to be healthy.

  • Feeling like you still need to poop – If you poo and a few minutes later feel like you still need to go this can also be an indicator you should get checked out. Keep notes, and stay educated.

  • Nothing at all – This is that scary one. It is possible to have issues with no signs at all and researchers are constantly looking for new ways to detect cancer in patients.

If you are experiencing some of these warning signs you should talk to your doctor this is a curable cancer when detected early and survivors are leading happy productive lives. One things is for sure; ignoring the signs and lying to yourself will generally lead to only one, very permanent, outcome.

As mentioned previously this cancer is highly survivable and depends on you knowing your body, knowing your poo and being willing to talk to your doctor. According to the American Cancer Society the survival rate is:

Stage I – 92%

Stage IIA – 87%, Stage IIB – 63%,

Stage IIIA – 89%, Stage IIIB – 69%, Stage IIIC – 53%

Stage IV – 11%

Cancer is a fight, have no doubt about it but, fighting is exactly what everyone needs to do. During this years Ambassador training at Fight Colorectal Cancer headquarters many of the new inductees were, in fact, survivors. They ranged from Stage II to Stage IV and one of the most common themes running through the room was one of hope mixed with anger and a willingness to face this beast head on and not give a single inch.

Holy Poop I’m having a Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is another ‘C’ word that strikes terror into peoples hearts and it really doesn’t have to. Sure, the prep is annoying and your bland diet for three days sucks but you can get through it. According to fellow ambassador Paul Shadle people are looking at prep all wrong. Instead of fearing the prep Paul recommends “View the procedure as a purge and reset of your digestive system. When you get past the prep stage the tough part is over.” So that diet you’ve been putting off just got a headstart and a date to get going.

You are your own advocate and you have to stand up for yourself. The doctor cannot read your mind nor your body. You have to share symptoms and you have to demand things like testing sometimes. Did you know that if your parents or siblings are diagnosed with Colorectal cancer you should be tested ten years before they were diagnosed? That means if dad had it at 44 then your colonoscopy is not slated for when you are 50, it’s planned for your 34th birthday instead.

The dreaded Positive

You wake up from the colonoscopy and your doctor tells you they removed polyps and now you have to wait for pathology. Yes it is a scary thought and the stress you will experience is beyond imagining for most people. That’s where an organization like @FightCRC can help. Join the forums, talk to people in your specific situation and learn about the hope and support that’s out there. Don’t sit alone and focus on the negative.

You’ve seen the numbers and know this can be beaten and now that you know about it you know how to face it. Whatever you do don’t ignore it and hope it goes away.

Know your body…

Know the warning signs…

Know your poop!!!

There are resources available and people who will talk to you about your health but you need to make the first move. Over the next few months you can follow along at The Twisted Tattoo Collector as the writer faces his first colonoscopy and all the mental pitfalls that may entail.

Thanks to @fightCRC

American Cancer Society

Sparrows Tattoo

Elias Ellison and the Needleboys

Everyone who made it possible to get this information out.

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