My name is Sonia Morris. I’m originally from Southern California, and moved to Nashville, TN two years ago. I have been married to my husband for six years and we have two fur babies, Nala and Yoshi. They are full bred shiba inus and are spoiled as spoiled can be, mostly due to me.
My cancer story officially started on June 19, 2017. I had been having symptoms for about three years prior to my diagnosis. I kept going to different doctors begging for them to do something and to check to see what was going on with my body. I was having blood and mucus discharge, thin bowel movements, severe rectal pain, a decreased appetite, and weight loss. I went to four different doctors before someone took my symptoms seriously. I kept being told that everything was due to diet, and I need to eat healthier and that everything should get better. I did, yet the improvement was only temporary. When I moved to Nashville, I saw a gastroenterologist at Vanderbilt University who listened to what I was saying. In his mind he thought I had ulcerative colitis and ordered for a colonoscopy as well as an endoscopy. We were all surprised at the results.
At 30 years old, I was diagnosed with stage III rectal cancer on June 19, 2017. I remember waking up from my “nap” and wheeled into a secluded room. Right away, my husband knew it wasn’t going to be good. They told us I had cancer and I broke down crying. I can’t even remember everything that was said because I was just in shock and I had shut down mentally. Next thing that happened was me in a wheelchair heading to get a CT scan to confirm my diagnosis. From then, it was nonstop doctor visits, scans, blood draws, exams, and consultations.
I started my chemo infusions on August 2, 2017, and I had a total of eight infusions. I tolerated it well considering some of the horror stories I have heard from other people. I lost half of my hair, and had severe fatigue and nausea. I had neuropathy that kicked in after the 4th round and thankfully it would go away after about a week from having my infusion. The thing I did hate about chemo was the steroids. They played tricks on me and I gained weight off them, which wasn’t a bad thing at the time. I finished all eight rounds on December 8, 2017. Coincidentally, that day was the 9th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing from the same cancer.
I started radiation on January 2, 2018, with a total of 28 rounds, or 5.5 weeks Monday through Friday. Radiation was honestly the hardest part for me because of the side effects. I had severe burns, internally and externally. I went into premature menopause and can no longer have kids. It caused severe fatigue to where it was hard to even work. I finished radiation February 9. It took me about a month to get my energy back, just enough to keep working my full-time job. I did enjoy my two-month break before having my surgery.
I had life-saving surgery on April 17, 2018. I had a total proctocolectomy done, which is basically removal of my entire colon, rectum, and anus and I was sewn up. My hospital recovery was difficult on myself and my loved ones, physically and mentally. I stayed in the hospital for a week, with four of those days being in the ICU. My heart rate was extremely elevated, my blood count was low, and I needed a transfusion. I couldn’t eat or drink anything for those four days. I had an NG tube down my nose into my stomach because I was vomiting nonstop and it couldn’t be controlled. But my surgery put me in NED status, so it was all worth it in the end. When I got home from surgery, I had weighed a total of 86 pounds, my lowest ever. I started to adjust to what my new normal would be. In a year, I gained back 35 pounds and I’m at my healthiest weight I have ever been. I’m back to doing just about everything I was doing prior to getting sick.
I am now 1-year NED and weigh 120 pounds. My appetite is back as well as my energy. I think I even have more energy than before. I enjoy every day to the fullest with my fur babies and husband. I have met some incredible people due to cancer who are now my lifelong friends, as well as some who have, unfortunately, passed away. I feel that my purpose in life now is to help those who are newly diagnosed get through cancer and to raise awareness to help prevent some from having cancer. So far it has been extremely rewarding.
At a support group session, a fellow member had said “Let your mess be your message.” That little sentence stuck with me and it made total sense. I completely understood what she meant because that’s what I’m doing now, without even realizing it. I took my mess, my cancer journey, and I’m sharing my message with the world in order to advocate for the younger generation. I attend conferences and events in order to learn new information on ways that I can be a better advocate and to connect with other warriors/survivors of my cancer type. I’m a part of many support groups in order to help others get through their journey with everything that I know. I educate the public on what colorectal cancer is, signs to look for, how it can be prevented, and the type of screenings that are available. Pretty much what I’m saying is, without my “mess” I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be the advocate that I am; the voice for those who are no longer around, and the advocate for the future. Thanks to my medical team at Vanderbilt University, I am alive and well today.
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