Survivor Story: Trish Lannon

Posted by | April 03, 2014 | Stories - Survivor Stories | 8 Comments
Trish Lannon Elkridge, MD

Trish Lannon
Elkridge, MD

My journey with cancer began in March 2007 when I ended up in the emergency room surrounded by nurses and doctors who were telling me they were surprised I had not had a heart attack because I was missing two thirds of my blood volume. At the time I had convinced myself that there was something wrong with my appendix, but it quickly became apparent that there was something much more serious going on.

After five blood transfusions over a twenty-four hour time period, I was wheeled into the operating room where they found a cancerous tumor in my ascending colon. Surgeons removed about eight inches of my ascending colon, my right fallopian tube and ovary, and 15 lymph nodes – 8 of which turned out to be positive. My diagnosis? At the age of 39, I had Stage IIIC Colon Cancer. Trouble had hit me from behind…literally.

I was put on Folfox4 as my chemo regime and due to my struggling blood numbers, it took me eight months to complete six months worth of chemo. I was determined not to let chemo get the better of me! Believe it or not, I went to work every single day during the eight months that I was on chemo. Work kept my mind busy and being around all the children helped lift my spirits. I needed my life to be as close to normal as possible for myself and for my family. Going to work made me feel strong. I felt that if I could continue my life as it was before my diagnosis, it meant that I would be okay and beat it. I did not want anyone’s pity. I did not want people looking at me and only seeing a victim – I wanted to be seen as a fighter.

When I came home from the hospital I was so lost. Here I was, not the typical victim of colon cancer. I was a woman and I was 39 years old! I did not fit the typical mold of a Colon Cancer patient. Everything I searched for about Colon Cancer referred to men or people over the age of 50. When I tried to find a support group, the nearest one was two hours away and mostly consisted of older men. I had to find something! I needed questions answered. I needed to feel like I wasn’t alone in this crazy journey!

After searching on the Internet, I found a great online support group for people under the age of 50 who are battling Colorectal Cancer. The Colon Club became my rock and my support system and I finally began to feel like I was not alone! Having this amazing support group helped me to fully understand what was going on with my body and allowed me to be a better advocate for myself. I became a stronger person and was no longer embarrassed to talk about my colon.

Instead, I began to talk very openly about my experience and encouraging others to get screened early.

As part of my desire to educate others, I applied to be a model in a calendar that educates people about colorectal cancer and how it can affect women as well as men and those under the age of 50. The Colon Club puts together this wonderful calendar they call The Colondar every year. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be picked,

but one day in February of 2008 I got the call that I had been selected for the 2009 Colondar.

TrishLannon1

Being Miss March for the calendar has been such an honor and it has opened so many doors for me. I have been interviewed for newspapers, TV, my college alumni magazine, and my sorority alumni magazine. I have been speaking up about the need for early detection and getting the word out about being your own advocate with your doctor about signs and symptoms. If I had to go through Colon Cancer, I needed to have a purpose – and mine is to educate everyone about Colon Cancer and to make them understand that they don’t have to be afraid to talk about their butts! Colon Club

I had been NED (no evidence of disease) for 16 months when I got the call that I had breast cancer – specifically DCIS stage 0 grade 3. Trouble was now hitting me from the front. I was assured it was not my Colon Cancer coming back and spreading, but a totally separate cancer.

After I felt apart initially, I picked myself up and got to fighting. Due to the amount of areas in my left breast that had linear calcifications, my surgeon told me I would have to have a mastectomy of my left breast. I then met with my oncologist who laid out all of the statistics for me, which led me to make the decision to have a double mastectomy. I did not want to find myself in this situation again five or ten years from now. I had a lot of people who were shocked by my decision to remove my right breast, which was healthy, but it is my body, my fight. The double mastectomy was my “big bat” and I was going to fight back and win!

On May 15th, 2009, I had a double mastectomy and began the reconstruction process. My surgeon placed tissue expanders under my chest muscles that she filled every week until I was back to the size I was before all of this happened. August 20th, I will have another surgery to get breast implants. There will be two more surgeries after that to complete the reconstruction process and I was told that by Christmas of this year, I would be finished the reconstruction process. Since I was stage 0 and my sentinel nodes came back clean, I will not need chemo. I am now back to being NED!

Two cancers in two years. Two! What are the odds? But it happened, and you know what? This journey has made me who I am today. I am stronger. I am a fighter. I am a winner. I speak out about Colon Cancer almost daily to whomever will listen and now I have begun to encourage everyone to get a mammogram and not put it off. My mammogram saved my life and it was my first one! I did not have the benefit of early detection with my Colon Cancer – but then I was 39 and colonoscopies do not begin until you are 50 – this needs to change!

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8 Comments

  • Jessica M says:

    Thanks so much for sharing Trish, you are no joke, facing two cancers and fighting them head on, love the calendar picture, your story is very encouraging and encourages me to get all the necessary checks done, even if it’s just a niggle and you’re under 50, you remind us to get it checked out! God bless you x

  • Julia says:

    Wow! Trish you are one amazing woman.
    I stumbled upon this site whilst researching bowel cancer information to prompt my Husband to go and have a colonoscopy.
    I’m overdue for my mammogram due to a recent hysterectomy, but reading your story as soon as I’m mobile I’m off for one.

    Wishing you all the best and thanks for your story.

  • Pheebie says:

    You’re amazing! I was diagnosed with stage 3C rectal cancer at 41 years of age. Like you, I didn’t fit the ‘profile’. I had no family history, was a healthy eater & daily exerciser, not overweight, and was otherwise the picture of health. Who knew? I had a colonoscopy because I thought I had a hemorrhoid. Oh, how I wish that was all it were. I’m now going through FOLFOX and have an ileostomy (which will be reversed after I finish chemo). Your story gives me hope and strength to finish out my next 3-5 cycles. I’ve been working while in treatment, too, although I have had to take a day off due to fatigue. (My job is very physical.) In my book, that’s no so bad, considering the side effects some treatments can have.
    Thank for being an inspiration and advocating earlier screening – I agree with you 100%: the 50 year standard needs to change, ASAP.

  • Niurka Cristobal says:

    Your story has touched me beyond words can describe. I was just diagnosed with colon cancer stage 3b (out of 12 nodules 2 showed cancer activity). I was already operated to remove the tumor and had part of the intestine removed and reconnected. The pathology report shows negative margins. I have a pet scan coming up and I am petrified that it is someone else. You are amazing having the spirit you have and strength to fight so hard and with so much courage. I hope I get that spirit. I need to conquer this. I have two small children. One is 7 years old and a baby of almost 6 months. It breaks my heart to think they won’t have their mom with them in such an early age, but I try to immediately take that though out of my head and think I will beat this. I have never been an optimistic person and maybe this is what I needed to change that and be happier with the simple things life has to offer. Thank you for being such an amazing role model to all of us new to this journey. I hope to be as strong as you.

    • Debbie says:

      Wow Niurka, I feel like our stories are very similar. I am only 32 with 2 boys (3 and 1). I had my tumor removed and 29 lymph nodes and 1 came back positive so they want me to start chemo in a few weeks (12 round – 6 months).
      I am on an emotional roller-coaster, I know I have to beat this – my kids need me and I need them but I am terrified of how my body will handle chemo. I have lost a lot of weight and down to 49 kg and that is my biggest fear.
      Just focusing on each day as it comes xoxo

  • Hilliary Norris says:

    Trish, I read your story with tears running down my face. I’m a 32 year old female and a single mom. I was diagnosed with colon cancer 2 weeks ago. I’m in shock. I went online to try and find support and somehow I found your story. Thank you for reminding me to fight, fight for life and fight for my son.

  • Valerie Allwardt says:

    There should not be an age limit for a colonoscopy.

  • Paul Richard says:

    Thanks for sharing such an inspirational and motivational story, Trish. After reading your story, majority of patients suffering from Colon Cancer and are undergoing Colonoscopies will definitely become strong and will fight the disease.

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