Teres Strange wants to make sure that others learn from her mistakes. Eating healthy and exercising wasn’t the only thing that Teres had to worry about. After having some abdominal pain and being diagnosed with hemorrhoids, she was finally talked into getting a colonoscopy by a friend whose husband was diagnosed with colorectal cancer two years prior. She reluctantly went in, thinking nothing was wrong, but when she awoke from her colonoscopy, the doctor told her they had found a tumor. ” When I found out about the tumor, the size of it, and the location of where it was, especially after I woke up, the world completely shattered. So it was kind of like, ‘Here we go.’ Teres was diagnosed in June of 2013 and started her treatment right after in July.
It was a difficult 6-month journey at the time, but Teres is doing great, only having to do colonoscopies every five years. ” I think about five years ago and now; I’m here, I’m healthy. During that time, I overcame so much.” Due to her experiences, she encourages others to be more proactive with their bodies. ” I think it’s just important to get the word out there for people to get checked, get their colonoscopy when they’re supposed to, and just be really aware of the changes with your body. So many times where we think we’re okay, and we may be okay, such as in my own case. When you know there’s something possibly kind of wrong, but you still kind of brush it off only to find something majorly wrong. See any signs of any type of change; to just really be aware of that; and to go really find out what’s wrong. It’s just really important to me. It’s been really eye-opening adventure with me through the last five years. It’s important to continue to just get that message out and to really give back and help others through the process.”
She continues to do so with volunteering at other cancer outlets and the American Cancer Society, where she helps with fundraising and Relay For Life. On top of volunteering her time, she has joined an osotomy support group and met with individuals to lend encouragement and words of advice. Teres has focused especially on mentoring women affected by different sorts of cancer to help ease the transition of dealing with what they thought was a normal life to a normal life with cancer. Teres says that women take the experience harder due to different variables in their lives and the constant pressures of body image. “I do a lot of mentoring with women because I didn’t have anybody at that time, so I decided to mentor them through that process. It’s even more important for me to say, “I got you. I know what it’s like. Everything will be okay.”
Although Teres had an amazing support system made up of her husband, kids, family, and friends, she knew that her husband struggled with the diagnosis the most. With her husband and kids seeing how healthy she was day in and day out, it was hard to see her be sick and wondering how it happened. Teres has no family history of colorectal cancer; only a second cousin who was diagnosed with breast cancer. There were no other red flags in her immediate or extended families.
Due to her non-existent family history, it was hard for Teres to find more information about colorectal cancer when she was diagnosed. Luckily, one of her husband’s co-workers was diagnosed 6-8 months prior to her diagnosis. Her husband introduced them in order for each of them to help each other out. It was through the co-worker that Teres and her husband learned about the Colon Cancer Coalition’s Get Your Rear in Gear events. They helped with fundraising for her husband’s co-worker’s treatments and other expenses. That was the first year that they participated in the walk. Ever since then, Teres has participated in the Philadelphia event for five years in a row. Last year, after relocating to South Carolina, Teres volunteered at the Charlotte 2018 race, where she had the best experience interacting with other survivors and caregivers. “You meet the people and hear their stories. There are the people who have beat this for 20 years, they give you inspiration and hope. And you go, ‘Okay, I can do this and this will be okay.’”
With her first experience participating in the walk, Teres was inspired to create her own team. “Strange Endings” has become a staple at the Philadelphia race and, this year, at both the Get Your Rear In Gear – Philadelphia and Charlotte races. Teres will be participating at both locations with her teams after forming a small following in Charlotte in the past year or two. She hopes to one day complete the race as a runner instead of as a walker.
Teres continues to preach to anyone willing to listen to her experience about colorectal cancer and colonoscopies. Just recently, she was able to reach through to a friend who finally listened and went in for a colonoscopy, only to come out and find 19 polyps. “I am constantly driving it in. It is so important to pay attention to your body and its changes. Especially the younger people, because they don’t go to the doctor like they probably should, even just preventative check-ups.”
Although people may tire of her constant preaching, Teres knows that she is getting the awareness across. “I do it for a purpose. I don’t want others to go through what I’ve gone through. I’m here to be able to tell the story and those that know me, have seen me, see where I’m at now. Follow your body and what it tells you and take care of it. Everybody, take better care of yourself.”
Teres hopes that bringing awareness to colorectal cancer will prompt more discussion and focus on this affliction. “You see breast cancer everywhere throughout the year. I feel like there’s not enough out there about colorectal cancer. I’m one person, and someone else is one person, but we do our part. You’re hearing more and more people being diagnosed. More and more young people are getting diagnosed.” Teres believes that colonoscopies at 50 years old, and even 40, are too late, especially for young adults who are being diagnosed early on in their lives. By bringing this topic to young adults, she hopes things will change. ” I just wish there was more media attention about this disease. There isn’t enough. But my best words of wisdom is to live your best life and enjoy each day and take the best care of yourself when you can.”
“I wear blue because I believe. I wear blue because I live to tell the story. I wear blue because I understand what others are going through. I wear blue because my mission is to encourage . That is my mantra . My ‘Strange Ending’ was also my new beginning.”