I am a teacher, currently teaching Art History and Art Appreciation for Montgomery College, just north of Houston, TX. I have been fit and healthy all of my life, even teaching fitness classes for 9 years, until I was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 46. I am also a wife and mother of two daughters, and we have lived a full life, including education, travel, and service to others.
There is no history of colon cancer in my family, however there are other cancers. Both of my grandmothers died of cancer – one lung cancer and the other breast cancer. My father had melanoma treated successfully when he was 56 and my youngest daughter has had a melanoma in situ.
I was diagnosed with stage II colon cancer. My only symptom had been fatigue, which I attributed to perhaps a needed adjustment on my thyroid medication. When I went in for a checkup, my family physician noted that I was anemic, which was unusual for me. Rather than dismiss it, she had me do a routine fecal smear and found blood, and subsequently ordered a colonoscopy.
The colonoscopy showed a tumor in the transverse colon and I became a patient at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas for treatment. I underwent a colon resection and also had a complete hysterectomy because of the other problems in my intestines. The surgery was not a piece of cake, but I looked at it as a life-saving action and was eager to have it done.
At week 6, I began oral chemotherapy; however, I had a toxic reaction to it and elected not to continue the chemotherapy. Because of the stage, it had been offered to me as an option and not as necessary.
Two years later, it was discovered that the type of cancer that I had would not have responded to the chemotherapy, and confirmed that it had been a good decision to discontinue.
It has now been 8 years since my first diagnosis and my health has never been better. I still continue my periodic checkups and am thankful every day for the health that I have.
The love I was shown and the care that I was given by family, friends, and my medical team changed my life for the better. Although I would not wish this diagnosis on anyone, I learned more about life having gone through it. The biggest enemy is fear but you can face it and take an active role in your own treatment.
Having a cancer diagnosis was quite a shock since I was too young for a routine colonoscopy and was considered low risk, even by my doctors. The cancer was detected early and my prognosis was good, but the surgery and treatment was not easy and did have side effects that I manage successfully. My outlook has changed since the diagnosis and I now live each day more aware and thankful. Once I healed, my health is now robust.
The phrase “Get Your Rear in Gear” reminds us to take an active role in battling the detection and treatment of colon cancer. I love that the phrase brings to mind a rather unpleasant subject in a positive and clever way.