Nicole Lorenz wants her kids to know about her legacy; helping others by being the best she can. “If I ever pass from this [disease], I want my kids to look back and hopefully see that their that mom lived her best life. She always showed love and helped others. She was so full of love and she really loved us.”
Nicole was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer at the age of 28. She started getting symptoms after having her third child, which led to doctors misdiagnosing her as having hemorrhoids and overlooking her age. Nicole was also going through a very difficult divorce, which she attributed the stress to her growing symptoms.
After the divorce and in a new relationship, Nicole’s boyfriend, Allen, pushed for her to go see the doctor again. He assumed Nicole was being shy about eating in front of him because of their new relationship, but realized it was a deeper health issue. When she did return to the clinic, there was a different doctor covering for her regular physician. This doctor also told Nicole that it was simply hemorrhoids. Nicole brought up the fact that her daughter was now 7-years-old, and she had a hard time believing those pregnancy-related hemorrhoids were still to blame.
The doctor tested her hemoglobin, which can be an indicator of blood loss. It came back extremely low at 5.9, and Nicole was urged to go to the hospital. “I told her I couldn’t because I needed to pick up my daughter in 10 minutes from kindergarten. After I left her office, she called to say wanted to get to the bottom of this, and wanted me to come in for some additional testing because she couldn’t understand why I was so anemic.”
A CT scan was ordered and Nicole’s results came back normal except for her spleen and unexplained spots on her liver. She had an enlarged spleen, and the doctors attributed the spots as liver bleeds. With other tests and ultrasounds, they still could not determine what was behind the enlarged spleen, so an endoscopy and a colonoscopy were ordered.
Nicole woke up from her colonoscopy and was told that she needed to call her physician and schedule a follow-up right away. When she called, the receptionist told her the doctor wasn’t in and told her that her results came back as normal and the follow up would be routine. Nicole was relieved that it wasn’t something serious or even devastating like cancer, and promptly called Allen and her friends to let them know there was nothing to worry about. But the relief was short lived. Soon after finishing those calls, the receptionist called back and apologized for reading the wrong chart. She informed Nicole that she needed to come into the clinic the next morning, and to bring her family with her.
“Right then and there I already knew it was cancer.” The mass they found was on part of her colon and part of her rectum, but they still couldn’t explain the liver spots. They continued to focus on the mass and would not answer any questions she had about the liver spots. She decided to get a second opinion as soon as possible.
“The first thing the doctor told me was we needed to find out what the spots on my liver were, and that’s when I found out it had spread and it was stage IV. She told me that the other doctors would’ve just ignored my liver. She said that the mass wasn’t doing anything, and if they had just focused on the mass, I would’ve died because the tumors in my liver were out of control.”
Nicole’s determination to get a second opinion was based on her negative experience with the first doctor, as well as the feeling she got that they didn’t know how to treat a young patient with late stage cancer. “When the doctor came in, he didn’t even introduce himself. He simply asked how many kids I had.” Nicole told him that she had three kids, and he responded by telling her that radiation and chemotherapy could sometimes prompt early menopause.
“That really freaked me out because you hear about cancer, but you don’t know the effects of things. I knew about people having to go through chemo and radiation but never knew that one of those things could put you through menopause, and make it impossible to have kids. You don’t know about these things. You only know about hair falling out. It really scared me.”
Nicole is doing her best to help as many people as she possibly can. She openly shares her story whenever she possible, and encourages and inspires others to share their stories as well as an ambassador for Fight Colorectal Caner. She hopes that her story will show other young adults, especially moms, to take a close look at their symptoms and not to put it off for a few years like she did.
After a failed clinical trial, Nicole and her doctors are waiting to see what the next game plan will be. There’s a possibility they can resect her liver, but with two spots that are in a hard to reach area, the doctors know there’s no possible way to get rid of all the spots. Right now, Nicole is focused on her story.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It didn’t care that I was a single mom at the time, that I was in a new relationship, or that we were in a really good point in our lives. It doesn’t care that I’m a mom and can’t take any sick days. I just don’t want anybody else to be misdiagnosed because they’re too young. I don’t want people to have a stage IV diagnosis, like I had.”RETURN TO FACES OF BLUE LEARN ABOUT YOUNG ADULT COLORECTAL CANCER