Cancer. The word is supposed to be foreign to most people my age, but here I am with stage IV colon cancer. The thing about cancer is it doesn’t discriminate.
My name is Tiffany Thomas and I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at the age of 20. I started my journey in September of 2013. A year of complaining about pain the doctor finally listened to me. I had suffered for a year with abdominal pains, bloody stool, terrible menstrual cycles, cramps, lower back pain, and frequent diarrhea. I kept going to a family doctor who would send me to countless different doctors. They did multiple ultrasounds, large amounts of lab work, and I was put on many different medications. Although, when I would ask for a CT scan or something like a colonoscopy, the doctors said I was too young for that. Until one day the pain was just too awful.
I demanded some type of scan when I arrived at the hospital. I was given a CT scan, which revealed a large cyst on my right ovary about the size of a softball. I had an ultrasound the next morning that confirmed that the cyst had begun to double in size just overnight. The decision was then made to do surgery to remove the cyst and possibly my right ovary.
I remember crying in the hospital bed because I was so scared and confused. I was told before my surgery that the cyst was not cancerous but they were required to send it off for testing. I made it through the surgery without any complications, but they did end up taking my right ovary. I stayed in the hospital for a few days and then I was released.
A few days after being home I received the phone call that would change my life. I remember the call like it was yesterday. My gynecologist quickly asked how I was doing. With a heavy sigh he uttered the words you have CANCER. I froze! I started rambling on about what does he mean I have cancer and it didn’t start in my ovary? My surgeon went on to explain that the mass sent off for testing came back as cancerous. The pathology report showed that the cancer was centralized somewhere else, possibly in my stomach, colon, etc.
Not only were the next couple of days a blur, but basically the whole month to follow. I met my first oncologist, Dr. Trocha. My colonoscopy revealed that indeed the cancer didn’t start in my ovary but that the cancer had spread to my ovary from my colon. Dr. Trocha informed me he had found a large tumor in my upper colon. On September 27, 2013, I had surgery to remove a foot of my colon. After recovery I would soon meet my main oncologist, Dr. Edenfield.
Let me just start off by saying the first time I walked into the cancer center at Greenville Memorial, I was terrified. I sat in the exam room surrounded by my family and fiancé, it all felt like a dream. I was told before I would be receiving chemotherapy. A million questions rushed through my head… “Would the chemo hurt?,” “Would my hair fall out,?” “Will I like this oncologist that I am trusting my life with?.” As soon as Dr. Edenfield walked into the room he had a huge smile on his face and said, “are you ready to fight?” I knew he was the right doctor for me. He told me that my complete diagnosis was stage IV colon cancer. I was informed that stage IV only had a five year life expectancy. Frankly, I was scared to death! How could I have had all this pain for a year and not one doctor thought that maybe it was colon cancer. At that point a tidal wave of emotions hit me all at once and all I could do was cry.
Nevertheless, Dr. Edenfield was there to help me get through my emotions and see that a future was possible. Over the month of October I got ready for chemo. I got a port placed in my left side and was educated on chemotherapy. I learned the side effects and that I wouldn’t lose my hair due to the type of chemo I was receiving. On November 19, 2013, I did my first round of chemotherapy. I had no idea in that moment that my cancer would not only come back two more times, but that I was about to embark on the hardest and craziest journey of my life.
Almost four years later I was about a year cancer free. In the almost four years since my cancer diagnosis I have endured one port placement, five surgeries (both ovaries removed and two feet of colon removed), six weeks of radiation, 18 rounds of chemotherapy, and countless blood draws. It is hard to believe I was only 20 years old when I was told I had stage IV colon cancer and that I had five years to live.
Five years used to seem like a lifetime, now I felt like it wasn’t enough. I thought to myself that I wouldn’t make it to 25, graduate from college, get married, or have a family. Although, I had a team of doctors, family, friends, and God who told me otherwise.
Now, the journey to get here was harder than I could ever imagine. However, now I am thriving and almost one year cancer free. I am now married. We live in Greenville, SC, with our Goldendoodle, Spiller, and our cat, Lenny.
Overall, I want to help educate others and maybe along the way learn something about myself. Cancer has taken a lot from me, but it did teach me something important. That I am strong and that God does have a purpose for me. My purpose is to bring awareness and support to a disease that has taken years off my life, in hopes it doesn’t do the same to someone else.
My cancer journey has opened me up to an entire supporting and loving community, that I never knew existed. I have met so many people who are battling cancer or are survivors. They have truly impacted my life for the better. I have learned to be thankful for all the little things God gives you and never take anything for granted. I learned how many people chose to ignore cancer, but that in reality more needs to be done for the fight against it.
My hope in sharing my story is that someone who is suffering from the same symptoms I did and the doctors keep telling them they are too young read this and get answers. You are never TOO young for colon cancer. Please, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms like I did or you are over the age of 50, please do hesitate to get screened.Return To Faces Of Blue Learn More About Colon Cancer