In November 2010, Coates sought treatment for severe abdominal pain and rectal bleeding at a VA hospital in Hartsville, S.C.
The doctor recommended a colonoscopy to determine if his suffering resulted from early stages of colorectal cancer.
For more than a year, Coates faced delay after delay, churning through one doctor after another until finally the routine medical test was performed in December 2011.
It showed he had advanced colorectal cancer, which could have been treated more effectively if had been detected that first day.
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