Help increase screening and prevention for colon & rectal cancer.


Faces of Blue: Karla Olesen

Colon Cancer Coalition

I wasn’t thinking about being diagnosed with anything more than an infection. Cancer wasn’t in my plans, especially with only 2 days of symptoms. It started with a little dark blood on Wednesday, August 21st, 2013. Alarming… but no big deal. I ran 3 miles that night and I was a little out of breath, but it was humid. The next day there was a little more bleeding so, I thought, maybe this is something to call the doctor on. My General Practitioner got me in that morning, did an exam and full blood work up. I left with an antibiotic and a CT scheduled in the morning. I went back to the office, did my normal Thursday night routine, and at 8 p.m. I received a call from a nurse saying I was supposed to go to the ER. She informed me that I had hemoglobin of 7.9 meaning I was anemic.

My Mom brought me to Methodists ER. They rechecked my hemoglobin: 7.6. I was bleeding somewhere. I had a CT that did not show a thing, so I was admitted in the hospital and had a blood transfusion (2 bags) that night. This was only time I cried, hearing I needed a blood transfusion.

Karla Olseen 3Friday the 23rd of August was my colonoscopy, which revealed a tumor. I received such amazing care from Dr. Stahnke and her nurses. The word colonoscopy is a scary word to some, but they made it the easiest part of my treatment, and for once, I was not scared of what my results were going to be. My team of Doctors was going to take care of me; I felt this. We knew it was cancer in my ascending colon, which looks like the oral cancer in I have seen in the office I work in. I met with my Surgeon that evening, Dr. Jones, who I felt incredibly comfortable with from the moment I met him. We scheduled my subtotal colectomy for 7:30am the next morning. My brother and sister brought my 3 children to the hospital (I am a divorced, single mother) so I could tell them. They fell apart and I stayed positive telling them what we were going to do: get rid of the tumor, do chemo, enjoy life, fight and take it one day at a time.

On Saturday the 24th of August, I was wheeled away to have 1/3 of my colon removed. Dr. Jones connected my small intestine to my large. I don’t remember anything from that day. On Sunday I didn’t feel a thing. I had an epidural to avoid any use of narcotics that would constipate me. On Tuesday the 27th of August I could finally eat something….broth. It tasted so good! I hadn’t had any food since lunch on Thursday and I was famished. The next day, I met with my Oncologist, Dr. Zylla, AGAIN… I was in the best hands. Thank you God for placing me these outstanding Doctors care.  My pathology report read great things, well, at least to me. My tumor was large: 9cm; even though it grew outside of the colon wall, it was only an adhesion to my abdominal wall not invading it (meaning it didn’t travel into it). 21 lymph nodes were removed (6 were positive with cancer), my CT showed clear lungs, and my MRI showed clear liver…no metastasis. I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. I knew I could handle this. The cancer was removed and now I just needed to heal quickly so I could start chemotherapy to make sure no cancer cells were cruising around places they shouldn’t be.

I finally got to go home on Thursday, August 29th after a whole week in the hospital. Blessing! I was excited to go home to get my children ready for school and to get our routine down so life could get back to normal with this little bump in our road called cancer.

Karla Olseen 2My chemotherapy treatments are for 6 months every other Monday for 3 days until I have my infusion pump removed on Wednesdays. Fatigue is my enemy, cramping my get-up-and-go style, but I listen to my body and rest. The nausea is also tolerable with my medications. I have lost 10 pounds and keep trying to gain it back, but it’s a roller coaster. I am keeping active, which I heard this is key. I run 2 miles every other day on my off chemo weeks, walk 2 miles every other day during my chemo weeks, do Pilates reformer to keep my muscles strong, and I eat to make my nutrition count. I feel good mentally and physically.

To me, Get Your Rear in Gear means getting screened and also listening to your body. My hope is to protect my children, their children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and anyone who will listen to be aware of the signs. I was diagnosed at the fabulous age of 40 with colon cancer.  My 3 children will get screened at 30…. 10 years younger than the youngest diagnosed. I am happy for that rule.

My General Practitioner said to me, “If you can run 3 miles with a hemoglobin of 7.6, just wait until you are done with your treatment. Karla you will move a mountain!” My reply: “YES I will!”

I plan on it!

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Vanda Edmondson says:

    You are an inspiration! I too was diagnosed at a young age and it changed my life for the better. Your strength, courage and tenacity, are to be commended. Your children and those around you will learn so much by watching the way you have dealt with the situation. Positive is the ONLY way to go. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Karla Olesen says:

      Vanda, I believe it has changed my life for the better also. That might be hard for some to comprehend but the stronger bond that has been made with my children,family and friends (new and old) is unbelievable. I love my life! Thank you for your kind words! God bless you!

      • Vanda Edmondson says:

        I read your story again and I was inspired all over again! Keep on keepin on!!!
        Blessings to you and yours….

  • Sandy says:

    Way to go Karla! Your attitude is amazing.

  • Sarah Rolf says:

    Karla, you are amazing! Your story and your positive attitude through all of this is so encouraging. I pray for nothing but the best for you and your kiddos. Xoxo

    • Karla Olesen says:

      Sarah, Thank you so much! I think of you often and pray for your beautiful family. I hope you all are well. Xoxox

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