Thanks to an early detection and an laparoscopic procedure to remove the cancerous area, Papale recovered fully and is cancer-free to this day.
Thursday afternoon, Papale addressed a crowd that included more than 40 fellow cancer survivors as the special guest speaker for the 2007 Cancer Survivor's Day at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.
A self-described advocate for colorectal cancer awareness, Papale now devotes much of his time to speaking publicly on the importance of early cancer detection.
"My mission is to encourage people to go out and get that test," he said. "In my case, it was early awareness that saved my life."
During the 50-minute presentation, Papale, who still holds the distinction of being the oldest NFL rookie, engaged the crowd with plenty of humorous moments.
He also touched on poignant topics such as a childhood spent watching his mother battle serious health problems, and dedicating the college scholarship he earned at age 18 to his father.
Papale also discussed the details of his diagnosis and fight against cancer. He repeatedly credited his wife, Janet, with urging him to get the initial physical examination, and also with snapping him out of a period of emotional devastation in the days following the news.
Overall, the speech had an energetic and motivational tone, which seemed to connect well with those in attendance.
"[Papale] represents the enthusiasm that people need to have to get through the ordeal of facing mortality," said Licia Ramos, a survivor of breast cancer who attended the event. "He is very skilled at bringing out the hope factor which becomes suppressed in treatment.
"It's important to be encouraged."