I am a wife. I am a mother of three. I am a grandma to four (and soon to be five). I am a sister to five. I am an aunt to 14. I am a friend to many. I am a colorectal cancer survivor.
I turned 50 in 2008. I knew I was supposed to get the dreaded colonoscopy, but put it off because honestly I really didn’t want one. My second and third grandchild were born weeks after my 50th birthday, and I was busy enjoying them, working, and living my life. I did have a couple of isolated episodes approximately 10 months before my diagnosis of bleeding after a bowel movement, but nothing alarming.
All that changed at the end of March 2009. I had the urge to use the restroom, but could not. I was in so much pain I was rolling around on the floor. My husband was extremely concerned and immediately called 911. I went to the hospital where they performed a CAT scan, but nothing showed up. They recommended I get a colonoscopy.
I received a colonoscopy in April 2009. I will never forget the doctor’s face when he shared the news with my husband and I. He had found a large mass in the rectal portion of my colon. He was devastated, as were we. Our gastro doctor was great. He immediately set up an appointment with an oncologist, and colorectal surgeon. It was honestly the best team of doctors I could have asked for.
The surgeon was not able to immediately operate on me to remove the mass due to the large size. I had to undergo chemo and radiation from April through June in order to shrink the tumor. After completing the treatment and allowing my body to heal for six weeks, I underwent colorectal surgery where they found that the tumor had grown out of the rectal wall and was found in four lymph nodes. I was diagnosed with Stage III B rectal cancer. I received treatment at Baylor Grapevine and Texas Oncology in Grapevine.
After my surgery, I had to heal for a few more weeks before I could begin chemotherapy again. I received numerous rounds of chemotherapy and additional radiation after they found questionable areas near my aortic artery in a PET scan.
The effects of colorectal cancer on me, my family, and friends has been huge. If we didn’t realize life was precious before, we sure do now. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. We must cherish today.
My diet and lifestyle has changed quite a bit since I was diagnosed with cancer. I cannot eat many fibrous food for the life of me. They upset my stomach so much since my treatment. Moreover, I’m constantly worried about being away from a restroom. Who would have thought that at 50 I would have to worry about having “accidents”?
I wish I had a good support group of other individuals going through a similar diagnosis. My family was wonderful through the whole ordeal, but they couldn’t honestly understand what it felt like to be 50 years old have an ostomy. Or what it feels like to have accidents. I just wished there was somebody to talk to who was going through it or had been through it in order to “normalize” my whole experience.
I had trouble with my bowels before the diagnosis, and I still have trouble. I am currently seeking therapy at the Center for Pelvic Health in Southlake, TX. I am hopeful that it will make a difference in regaining control of not only my bowels, but also my life after cancer.
My words of wisdom are to reach out. Find a group or even an individual who has been there, who truly understands. Ask your doctor for a referral. I really think it would have made a huge difference in my emotional well-being during treatment, and probably even now.
The best coping skills for me were being with my family. I can honestly say just watching my grandbabies play made me almost forget about having this horrible disease.
This has been a long and tough journey. I can honestly say that I thought cancer was a death sentence before ever being diagnosed. But life taught me that it doesn’t have to be. I was fortunate enough to have a supportive family, great friends, and amazing doctors who saw me through from beginning to end. Without them I don’t know if I would be here sharing my story with you today.