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In Loving Memory: Erica Paul

Originally written as a Survivor Story in 2009

Erica Paul, Reston, VA

Erica Paul, Reston, VA

At 26 the farthest thing from my mind was colon cancer.  Now, at age 28, it is all I can think about.

In June of 2007, I was diagnosed with Metastatic Colon Cancer. Stage IV it had already spread to my liver and lungs. In the blink of an eye, my life completely changed, and my future was uncertain. I was a young professional, in the prime of my life, and now I was a young woman fighting to stay alive.  There was no time to waste; I had to immediately begin chemotherapy to stop the progression of my disease. I have been receiving bi-weekly chemo treatments ever since.  I am determined to get better and reach my goal of a clean scan without any evidence of disease, and I will do whatever it takes, including traveling up to NYC from Virginia on a monthly basis for treatment. It has not been an easy road, but it’s the road I am on, and I have accepted the situation that life has thrown my way.

I am very fortunate to receive some of the best medical care available. My local Oncologist and his team in Fairfax, VA have been fantastic, and are like an extended family to me. I also work with an amazing team of physicians at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City who have played a huge part in developing treatments and procedures that increase Colon Cancer survival rates and improve quality of life. Since having surgery in November of 2007, all of the tumor on the right lobe of my liver had been removed, and the remaining tumors on the left lobe would be treated by Hepatic Artery Infusion (HAI) pump therapy. The primary tumor in my colon was also removed, along with many diseased lymph nodes. Although the surgery was risky, it was very successful, and a substantial amount of the cancer was removed from my body.  The disease that remains on my liver and in my lungs have been stable for the most part until just recently.  Because of the progression of the tumor size in the existing diseased areas, I have decided to take part in a clinical trial at MSKCC that entails radioembolization to the liver using SIRSpheres.

Despite the side-effects that treatments bring, I am determined to live a normal, happy, and otherwise healthy life. I have found enjoyment in regular exercise which has helped me become stronger, has reduced the severity of side effects, and helps to reduce emotional stress that comes with the territory. In October 2008, I married my college sweetheart, Michael Paul. It was the happiest day of my life, and knowing that I had overcome adversity to get to that day made it even more special because at one point I didn’t think I would live to experience it. But, here I am, 2 years since my diagnosis, and although still fighting to beat cancer each and every day, I feel happy, healthy, and determined to help others by sharing my story and increasing awareness of cancer in young-adults.

Without the support from my family, my devoted husband Michael, huge network of friends, Team Fabulous, and even people who don’t necessarily know me personally–but are praying for me, I don’t think I would be as strong as I am, or have had as much success. The thoughts and prayers are working!

This experience has taught me not to take life for granted, and to thank God for each and every day He gives me. I try not to stress about silly, petty things anymore because it’s just not worth it.  Life is just too short and precious. Getting healthy and spending time with my family and friends is my top priority. I know something positive will come from this, and so much has already. I am hopeful that more than just my life is changed from this experience.

Update: March 6, 2011

It is with heartfelt sadness that I’m updating Erica’s page right now with news from her Caring Bridge site.  The Get Your Rear in Gear staff met beautiful and fabulous Erica the first time at the Alexandria 5k in November of 2010.  She had found out just days before the race about the event and wanted to make sure she could still attend since registration was closed.  Lisa Sanderson and I will never forget meeting Erica and her mother.  She fought hard to beat this horrible cancer and fought hard for all of us with the cause.  We are broken-hearted to know she is gone.

Kristin Lindquist Tabor