Ld and her family found out about the Get Your Rear In Gear – San Antonio event in January and had weeks to get ready to participate in honor of her sister Christina “Chris” Vasquez. Chris was diagnosed in April of 2018 and passed away exactly six months later in October. The aggressive cancer came as a complete shock.
Chris was having issues with bloating and constipation and went straight to the doctor the same day. When the doctor heard about her constipation problems, he referred her to a gastroenterologist who scheduled her for a colonoscopy on Friday, April 13, 2018. She was given her diagnosis that afternoon after her colonoscopy. There was a mass and the doctor was almost certain it was malignant. After a biopsy and multiple tests done at the end of the following week, it was confirmed to be colorectal cancer and they told her she had 3 to 5 years left to live.
“She had to have surgery to see how big the mass was and if it was removable. April 26th was when they scheduled her surgery. They opened her up and then closed her right back up, telling her that it was more than they expected, and they ended up just doing an ostomy procedure.”
After one round of chemotherapy, things were looking up and everyone had hope, but by July they informed Chris and her family that the cancer had already spread to her brain, lungs, and liver. By September, just 5 months after she was diagnosed, Chris couldn’t even walk.
“By the end of September, my mother and I ended up taking her to the hospital. They did an x-ray because she wasn’t able to walk and was becoming incognizant. They discovered it had then spread to her back and her spine. It had pretty much spread all over.”
With no family history or prior knowledge of colon cancer, everyone was blindsided. Ld herself had GI problems, but was not aware that her knowledge of her problems would help prepare her family for what would happen to Chris.
“I, on the other hand, knew about colorectal cancer because in my twenties I was having GI problems. I went to a GI doctor and ended up doing an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. They told me they found polyps and removed them, and told me to come back in 5 years. But my doctor never told me to tell my family or warned me they were at risk. So when my sister was diagnosed, I told her that I could’ve said something before because I had been having colonoscopies for almost the past 15 years, since I was 21.”
Chris reassured Ld that it was not her fault. Even with
Ld’s history of polyps, Chris’s gastroenterologist said it was not an inherited genetic mutation that led to her diagnosis. Ld went back for a colonoscopy after Chris’s diagnosis and a few more polyps were found and removed. With both of their experiences, Ld and Chris tried to reach out to her family to get screened. Her parents were cleared after their colonoscopies, and Ld is still reaching out to her other sisters to get screened. She even urged her 18-year-old nephew, Chris’s eldest son, to get a colonoscopy because of his mom’s diagnosis and his own GI issues.
“Getting a colonoscopy is a wise investment for your health. Similar to how we invest financially and in education, why not take medical investments seriously?” Ld continues to advocate to others about screening early, even for those that are under 45. “At least once in your early years, get a colonoscopy even if insurance doesn’t cover it. I know it’s pricey; I’m still paying for the one I got last year, but that can help if they do find something. It’s better to say, ‘At least I checked and there’s nothing wrong,’ or ‘They checked and I have to go every five years.’ People think colon cancer only affects the patient or the survivor, but it affects everyone around that person.”
Chris’s presence was felt throughout the San Antonio event. Her favorite color was blue, she loved butterflies, and her birthday is in March. “There were butterflies everywhere at Morgan’s Wonderland [during Get Your Rear in Gear – San Antonio]. There were butterfly stepping-stones, butterfly chairs, and butterflies on the fences.”
Signs like that made the event even more meaningful for Ld and the friends and family that came to walk in memory of Chris. By telling this story, Ld is honoring the memory of her sister, and reminding everyone to not ignore unexplained symptoms, and to get screened. Your health is the biggest investment of your life.RETUN TO FACES OF BLUE LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUNG ADULT COLORECTAL CANCER