My name is Sarah and I am a colorectal cancer survivor.
I was 33 when I was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer. I have three kids at home – they were only 7 months, 18 months, and 5 years old when I got the news. I had blood in my stool and was extremely constipated, but the doctor always told me that these symptoms were “pregnancy-related” and were a result of the iron supplements I was taking to combat my “pregnancy-related anemia.”
I have a family history of colorectal cancer – my maternal grandfather passed away at the age of 36 from colon cancer but none of his children or grandchildren knew that we should be screened 10 years before his onset age (26). Now, we all get regular colonoscopies. My siblings have since had colonoscopies and they were clear. When my kids are older, they will know that they have to get colonoscopies starting at the age of 20.
I am currently undergoing chemotherapy and have had several surgeries. I have lost my hair, had it grow back, had an ostomy, then had it reversed, so I feel like I’ve been through it all with no end in sight.
But cancer doesn’t know who it’s messing with. I came into this world as a tiny fighter and won’t leave without a fight. I’m a momma and nothing can top the strength I will forever have to be with my babies. My mission now is simply to live to see my kids grow. I want them to look in the stands and see their proud momma, to be at their games, their performances, their school parties, their graduations, their weddings, their birthday parties, etc.
My kiddos don’t know the word cancer or chemotherapy. He knows that I’ve had a “sick part” in my stomach that I had to get cut out, and it came back, so I had to have it cut out again. He knows that I go to the doctor every other week to get “medicine that doesn’t make me feel good but helps the sick part in my belly”. That’s just been my way to slowly share the news. I have created email accounts for my kids and email them pictures and random thoughts occasionally. I have written down their passwords so that they can access that when they’re old enough. If you can’t already tell, they are my entire world and I am the proudest mom you’ll ever meet.
Although it’s easy to focus on the bad, I have to share the good that has come out of this – kindness. I have been overwhelmed by people’s support and their willingness to help and give. I’ve had people make me dinner, offer to buy my kids school supplies, send gifts, cards, prayers, money, do fundraisers, pay for my kid’s sports fees, and many of them have been anonymous. My brother and sister-in-law host an annual golf tournament that has raised over $10,000 each time. My best friend did an online fundraiser for a Disney trip and we had the most fun we’ve ever had as a family. My mom has never missed a doctor’s appointment and goes with me to every single chemotherapy treatment. My husband runs the household when I get back from those treatments and can’t leave the bedroom for 2 days. Co-workers have donated their sick days so that I continue to be paid even when I take time off. I have a Facebook group that I regularly post in – it’s a way for me to get the information out to my friends, family, and supporters without having to constantly talk about colon cancer in my daily life. It’s also a way for me to share the good news – for example, I recently had my first stable scan. Yes, happy dance!!!
I always thought I was a giving person, but wow, I don’t compare to the amount of love and support I’ve been shown.
I want others to know that it can happen to you. Don’t ignore your symptoms, get screened, know your family history, and don’t skip appointments. Also, get life insurance and disability insurance while you can.
Getting your rear in gear means taking care of yourself. Step it up. Be prepared and aware.