Shea Bamberg is a self-described diva and the inspiration behind the Get Your Rear in Gear / Diva Dash 5k event in Phenix City, Ala., on September 17 . Shea was diagnosed at age 28 with Stage III colon cancer, and has recently finished her treatment. Her and her mother are planning the Get Your Rear in Gear event in her hometown to:
- To educate everyone on the dangers/risks of colon cancer.
- To encourage all adults to seek a healthy lifestyle and to have regular screenings for all types of cancer especially colon cancer.
- To raise funds for cancer research and cancer awareness training in our community.
- To honor those who are or who have battled cancer.
Register for or donate to the Phenix City event here.
Learn more about Shea here.
Here’s Shea’s story in her own words…
In the beginning… I was completely ok. Never had surgery, never really been sick.
I don’t really know where it started, but once we came back from our cruise last September I just did not feel right. I went to the doctor because I thought I was lactose intolerant. I was tested, and nope, that’s wasn’t the answer. The doctor then sent me to a GI doctor. The GI doctor wanted me to have a sitz marker test. So, basically I had to swallow a capsule with 20 or so “silly band” looking things and then had x-rays on days 3 and 5 to see where they were in my digestive system. The GI doctor called after the last x-ray and said “you have a lot of markers still inside. I need you to do “xyz” to clean out your system”. Well, good ‘ol “xyz” landed me in the hospital! I had severe cramps on the right side of my body, tightness in my chest, and physically got sick. The ER basically gave me pain meds to feel more comfortable. They mentioned that my white blood count was up and said they could do a CAT scan or I could go home and then follow up with my GI doctor the following day. I opted to go home, sleep in my own bed, and follow up with my doctor that Friday. So, Friday I went to the doctor and explained that “xyz” just did NOT work for me. She told me to do the whole colonoscopy prep and scheduled an abdominal/pelvic CAT scan. Let the drama begin!
The next Thursday (December 9, 2010), I made it to the hospital and checked in. I mentioned to the lady that I didn’t think I could finish the contrast stuff without getting sick. The coolest radiology lady said “I don’t see anything”. I then went into the bathroom and poured out my remaining fifth of the chalky stuff. Victory! Then I was called back to the CAT scan. The lady that hooked me up was very nice. I didn’t know I would have to have an IV for the CT, so I was surprised when she made me sign saying I was ok with it. You see, I had had my first “diva moment” at the ER the following week when the ER nurse put in my first ever IV. I have a real problem with something staying inside me. So, I warned the CT nurse that I had not had my Snickers that morning and that I was liable to be a diva. She walked me through everything and I believe I behaved well. The CT scan was quick and relatively painless. I was finished and on my way to work in no time. Holla!
I got to work, had a few meetings and then started doing some actual work. Around 12:00 or so and my cell phone rang. I noticed it was my GI doctor’s number, so I answered the phone. The doctor said “Hi Sydney, can you come in this afternoon to go over your test results today?” – Stop! Remember this is the CAT scan I had that morning – I say “well, I’m at work, but I guess I can come in later…” The doctor then asked if Todd can come with me. I am totally just not understanding…, why does Todd need to come? Why do we need to come today? I actually said to my doctor, “Dr. Raina, you’re scaring me”. She said she knew it sounded scary, but she really just needed to talk with me today. Cue Todd… I called Todd and told him, and he just couldn’t stand waiting. He sent me an email saying “I can’t work. I’ve gotta get outta here”. I talked to my boss and Todd and I decided to meet at the house and then ride to the doctor together. I ate a little lunch at work and got a few things finished and then headed to the house.
Todd asked if I wanted anything to eat because he was going to pick something up. I said “no, I’m good” – side note: that was and still is the WRONG answer, WRONG answer! Todd called as I’m on my way home and said he got Long John Silver’s and he didn’t eat all of it so if I’m snacky I can have what’s left. When I got home I was a little hungry so I ate one piece of fried fish, a handful of fries, and a bunch of crispy things (remember what I ate, it’s important to the story). Todd and I headed off to the GI doctor trying to determine what could be so horrible that the doctor would want to see both of us on the day of the test – note to self: nothing you think of is ever good. We got to the office and were taken to a consult room. On the wall was a digestive disorders poster, Todd joked that if he had had that earlier he would have had me diagnosed for sure! On to the serious stuff… The doctor came in and said that the CT people called her during a procedure to let her know that the CT showed a mass on the left side of my colon. I totally did not comprehend what she was telling me. What? A mass in my colon? My right side hurts because I have a blockage? Processing..processing..I’m pretty sure that nothing is really connected. So, she said that I need to have a colonoscopy the next morning after I meet with the colon and rectal surgeon, and there is a strong possibility that I might be admitted to the hospital for surgery to remove the mass on Friday! Craziness! Complete craziness!
I don’t think I really reacted the way normal people would. Do normal people not cry when they hear they have a mass in their colon that their doctor doesn’t know what it is? Do normal people just sit there and go “ok, what do I do now?” What do normal people do? Why did I feel so calm about everything?
We called everyone. Friends, family, coworkers, bosses…. My parents told me that if there was a possibility of me having surgery they were coming. Todd and I went home and tried unsuccessfully to sleep. The next morning I woke up at 8:00 just to find out that the surgeon’s office doesn’t open until 9:00. At 9:00 I called and learned that the surgeon was in Lawrenceville and had 2 surgeries that morning. He couldn’t see me until 4:00 that afternoon. Oh! Did I forget to mention that after my appointment the prior day I was told no more food, liquids only. Yes, that means that my last meal was LEFT OVER LONG JOHN SILVER’S! At 4:00 we headed to the surgeon’s office for the consult. When they asked me how I’m doing I forcefully said “I’m HUNGRY!” The surgeon sat Todd and I down and explained that I have a mass on the left side that is causing a big blockage on the right side which requires surgery. We said “Wait! What happened to the colonoscopy?” The surgeon explained that we could do a colonoscopy but since they would be pushing air through it could cause the area to rupture. A stint in the mass might work, but it could also be more hazardous because it is unlikely that it would work and, even if it did, if it messed up I would wind up having emergency surgery. I think I asked the surgeon 3 or 4 times “I have to have surgery?!” and each time he said “Yes. You have to have surgery.” He even called my GI doctor while I was in the office to discuss if another method was available – nope. After I finally got it through my brain that I was going to have surgery I asked the surgeon “so, how long are we talking about here?” He said “about 5 – 7 days.” Ok, ok, not ideal, but I’ll be out of work a week. Nope. He said “you’ll be in the hospital 5 – 7 days. You’ll be out of work 4 – 6 weeks!” What?! I actually told the doctor, “No, you don’t understand, its year end. We have an audit coming up.” I’m pretty sure he said “You’re having m-a-j-o-r surgery.” I so did not sign up for this. How dare it be called “elective” surgery – NO! I did not elect this. Recount! Re-count!
I was glad my parents were there. I think the roughest time was when I was told how extensive all of this was going to be. I felt like my life was already disrupted with this horrible pain, but now the pain was actually taking away my life. Taking away what I love to do. Taking away my control. I did not like that one little bit. During this whole thing I have tried not to cry. I almost lost it. The only thing that kept me together was looking at my mom. I’m pretty sure I saw a tear in the corner of her eye, but I quickly said “don’t you cry”, that was more for me than her. It worked and Todd and I headed over to the hospital for my pre-op. The pre-op didn’t take too long. The worst news I got was that I was not allowed to wear makeup or jewelry the day of the operation, and I was supposed to come in with baggy clothes and flats – boring… I can’t function without mascara.
Todd and I headed home to focus on having a good weekend. That Saturday Todd and I had a great day. I woke up early and set my work “out of office” and tried to figure out how to drop my first semester Masters course. I then did some quick Christmas cards and took it easy. I survived on Ensure and Powerade. I was a walking Miralax commercial. I’m pretty sure I’m 30 years younger than their usual demographic.
The following Monday I had surgery. It went well, but I was woken up by “Auburn Bashing” in the recovery room. Not cool people. I received my diagnosis while still in the hospital. I had stage III colon cancer. Do 28 year olds really get colon cancer? Apparently so.
After being released from the hospital I went home to heal. It was a slow process.
Cancer had never been a part of my vocabulary. It was something I heard about but didn’t really think about. Cancer couldn’t affect me. If I didn’t acknowledge it, it didn’t exist. How wrong I was.
After recovering from my surgery I started chemo. I would go in on Tuesdays and get an infusion for a few hours and then head home with a pump – oh, so glamorous. I flat out refuse to wear a fanny pack, ever. I would return on Thursdays and have the pump removed. Chemo was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I intentionally made myself sick to prevent my cancer from spreading. You may be reading this and think “yeah, so what? It’s what you do.” No, it’s so much more than that. Nausea that won’t go away with no drug to help the problem, fatigue, weakness to the point where you wonder if you can make it down the stairs without falling, soreness like someone has filled a bag with baseballs and beat you with them, not to mention the cold sensitivity and numbness, and you do this week after week after week. The symptoms only get worse the more chemo you have.
By the end I was worn out. Chemo did teach me a lot. I’m stronger than I thought I was, I can endure anything, positive thinking always outweighs negativity, and each day is precious – enjoy it.
I am finished with my treatment and am struggling to make peace with everything being over. The drugs are slowly working their way out of my body. I am looking forward to returning to a normal life, even if normal is slightly different now.
I Get My Rear in Gear because I’m a colon cancer diva!
I run for me. I run for those who have gone through the treatment and lost their battle, I run for those who will be diagnosed and need some support, I run for those who have loved ones fighting the fight. I run for my community. Cancer patients know that one huge thing we want and need is understanding and only ones who have been through it or cared for someone really understand what it means. I run to support those who need a little more understanding. I’m here for you, I get it.
If you would like to learn more about what a colon cancer patient goes through or just get a good laugh, feel free to visit my blog.