LOS ANGELES – At 22-years-old Zachary San Nicholas felt like he had life, goals, and family on track.

“I was about to graduate college. I was already trying to set up a life in a different state. I was in a good place with my family. I was really, really happy and all of this just hit,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas’ life came to a standstill when he experienced bouts of stomach pain, diarrhea, and a misdiagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Until he found out last year what was really making him feel sick.

He was diagnosed with stage four Goblet Cell Carcinoid Colorectal Cancer. A rare colon cancer that affects about one in two million patients in their 50s. But Nicholas is only 22.

“There’s been a lot of uncertainty. A lot of ‘I don’t know’ or ‘Let’s just see what happens’ and that’s the most frustrating part,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas had to leave college to take care of his health by moving closer to the University of Southern California’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center to be treated by one of the world’s top colorectal cancer physicians, Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz. Research studies found the number of young adults getting diagnosed with and dying from colon cancer is on the rise. About 71 percent of young adults, like Nicholas, who experience the disease's symptoms are initially misdiagnosed, according to The American Cancer Society.

After doctors discovered Nicholas’ rare colon cancer, there was little Dr. Lenz could offer other than chemotherapy.

“When I start looking what has been published on the global level there’s nothing. This is a rare disease, never been collected no center is really big enough to understand the molecular makeup and whether this disease or this particular tumor needs to be treated differently,” Dr. Lenz said.

Dr. Lenz is leading a new research study with Nicholas’s medical profile to better understand how this disease affects patients and what treatment options are best to fight this cancer.

“It gives me a greater purpose and I’m really happy to be a part of a more positive effect or a more positive impact on people to get screening to get more testing and to be more cautious about their health,” Nicholas said.

Despite the many unknowns, Nicholas is hopeful that his current treatment plan will help him beat this disease. He also hopes by sharing his medical journey, he will help future patients get their colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer ahead of time and one day regain their health too.