I am Natalie and a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I am studying to become a nurse and specialize in Pediatric Oncology.
I have no history of cancer. The symptoms I had were an increased appetite, constant weight loss, anemia, and always exhausted
In December of 2007, I became very exhausted all of the time. I would get up in the morning and still be tired after a full nights sleep. Even though I have never been the one to catch bugs or the flu, I knew something was very wrong. In early March of 2008, while walking around campus between classes, I told one of my best friends that I thought I had cancer. A week later when I was walking to work I experienced severe rectal bleeding. I immediately called my mother and told her she needed to rush me to the ER.
She called my doctor’s office and they reassured her that I had probably busted a blood vessel in my rectum. I kept telling her that something was very wrong. Instead of going to the ER we went to Urgent Care. My family doctor took one look at me and knew something wasn’t right. He took a tube of blood and ran it to see where my counts were. As soon as he saw the results, he came in the exam room. He looked at my mother and said “Natalie needs to go to the ER. “Am I saying she’s going to die tonight if she doesn’t go? No, but there is a chance”.
I was admitted to see a doctor within five minutes of arriving. They took a stool sample and checked me for a bacterial infection. My hemoglobin (Iron) levels had reached a 7. I was informed that if I bled anymore or dropped to a 6, I could have a stroke at age 19. To perform more tests, they admitted me to the hospital that night and gave me two blood transfusions. They gave me a day and a half to recover and watched my blood counts.
The third day, I had a colonoscopy. That simple procedure changed my life. I was diagnosed with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). I had 140 polyps in my colon and part of my rectum. Along with those, I had 50-75 small ones in the bottom of my stomach and a five inch tumor in my colon. FAP is a very serious genetic disorder that causes thyroid and colon cancer. If not caught by age 30, chances of living are slim.
Three weeks later, I had my colon removed. During my surgery, my surgeon realized that I had swollen lymphnodes. He removed 60 and only one was malignant. I started my six months of chemotherapy that May. Since chemotherapy, I have been coasting through doctor’s appointments. I still continue to grow polyps, but they remove them before they turn into cancer. My last CT scan came back clean, so I have been in remission for a year 🙂
Having cancer has forever changed my outlook on life. I have made it goal to touch as many people as I can with my story to raise awareness about colon cancer.
Some words of wisdom, “In trying times, don’t quit trying”