For as long as I can remember, I have had issues with going to the bathroom. I always attributed it to IBS or hemorrhoids. Never did the word “cancer” cross my mind. After my son was born, I started noticing more and more blood in my stool when I went to the bathroom. My husband finally convinced me that I needed to get this checked out before we started trying for our second baby. My son was one and a half at the time.
I went in for a scheduled colonoscopy on April 23rd, 2012 and my GI doctor told me right there in the chair when I woke up that she was 99% sure she found a cancerous tumor. I felt like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water on top of me. I didn’t even cry…mostly because I figured it had to be early stages, after all, I was only 26 years old. As the week progressed and I went for further testing, my final diagnosis was stage IV colorectal cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes and liver.
“How could this be?!” I thought. I was 26 years old with no family history, just starting my adult life. I didn’t know much about my diagnosis at first, so Google became my best and worst friend. I learned that stage IV survival rates are about 5%. Melt down. I learned that I would no longer to be able to bear children. Melt down. Would I be able to see my son grow up? What about my husband? My parents? My siblings? Would everyone be ok without me? After getting all the tears out, I learned that I needed to believe that I could be cured. I found doctors who all believed I could be a part of that 5%. If anyone out there has a doctor who is giving them a timeline of their life…find a new doctor! Find one who believes in saving you and beating the odds.
The first step was for me to get my port placed, and then I dove right into treatment starting with chemo and radiation daily for 6 weeks. I did 6 months of FOLFOX with surgery in the middle to remove my primary tumor and the spot on my liver. I ended up with two infections…one required a wound vac and the other required a drain. Both were in for about 4-5 months. I felt like the bionic woman! I then had 3 more surgeries each a month apart.
After all of this, I started on FOLFIRI, which I am currently on, and counting down the days until I’m finished. I’d like to say that I’ll be done with it all after that, but the next step is going to be removing all of my unnecessary organs. Goodbye lady uterus, ovaries, gall bladder, etc. The only perk is that radiation forced me into early menopause in the summer 2012, so I won’t have to deal with that anymore. Once I’m recovered from surgery, I’ll probably start on some type of maintenance chemo to keep the cancer at bay. And I’ll pray. A lot.
Cancer is just a small part of my life…my actual life is my family and friends that have become family. I feel like so much help has been offered my way on my cancer journey, and it’s due time I give something back. Get Your Rear in Gear is part of the Colon Cancer Coalition and a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. I’m sure many of us know someone who has been affected by colon cancer, and together we can make a difference in eradicating this disease. Not everyone is as blessed as I am to have so many strong people to fall back on. This is the reason I want to participate in the Get Your Rear in Gear race. I want to help the people out there who need financial backing to get the scans done that they need, the mothers who need extra help with child care while they are out of work but are too sick to care for their own kids, and most importantly to help fund research that needs funding. The more research we put into this disease, the closer we get to a cure.
I also need to stress that this is not an “old persons” disease. It can strike at any time, and I want young people to know that ignoring symptoms is not the answer. Early detection is key! I wish I had listened to my body when my symptoms first starting presenting themselves. I try not to regret anything, but I do regret that. I read a quote recently that says, “If the word colon bothers you, what must you think of the word cancer?”-Unknown. It really struck a chord with me. I hope that I can inspire others to get checked, and maybe even save a life.
Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Lisa who is Philadelphia’s Maude Daniels Award winner! Maude Daniels spent her life making sure the needs of others were fulfilled, even when she endured a decade of the devastating affects of colon cancer. Get Your Rear in Gear feels like Lisa embodies the spirit and continues Maude’s work with her positive attitude and influence on others.