“Colon cancer? But I’m only 19,” I said to my doctor after he diagnosed me with stage III colon cancer on August 11, 2021.
I had just finished my first year of college basketball at Manhattan Christian College in Manhattan, Kansas. Playing college basketball had always been a dream of mine and I was lucky enough to complete that dream. However, my dream was cut short by my colon cancer diagnosis.
In July of 2021, I started to notice severe pain in my left hip and the left side of my back. I put it off as an injury I sustained while playing basketball and didn’t think much of it. However, a couple of weeks after I noticed this pain, it began to worsen. I finally decided to have an MRI done, which came back showing that I had an abscess on the psoas muscle in my back. I was admitted to the hospital immediately to have the abscess drained. At this point, I wasn’t too worried. I was given some antibiotics to kill the infection and that would be that. Or so we thought.
At that point, my doctors still couldn’t figure out what was causing the infection, so they ordered a colonoscopy due to minute amounts of blood seen in one of my stool samples. The results of the colonoscopy showed a mass with a circumference of 46 cm in my sigmoid colon. The mass had broken through the wall of my colon and spread to four lymph nodes. I had no idea how this could have been even remotely possible. Throughout my life I had always watched my weight, worked out, and kept a healthy diet. It just made no sense. Two days after my colonoscopy, I was scheduled to have colon resection surgery. The surgery lasted four hours and I had almost eight inches of my colon removed along with the cancerous lymph nodes. After further testing, it was found that I had a rare genetic mutation called Lynch syndrome. Lynch syndrome is a genetic mutation that increases your chances of developing certain cancers during your lifetime, colon cancer being the highest risk.
My family and I wanted a second opinion so we turned to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. It was a good thing we did, because, after a biopsy of my psoas muscle, it showed that what we had thought was an abscess, was actually a tumor. This discovery raised my diagnosis to a stage IV. The diagnosis ended up being a blessing in disguise because I was able to qualify for a clinical trial at MD Anderson. The clinical trial consists of two years of a mixture of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. I am currently six months into treatment and things are going very well. We have seen significant shrinkage in the tumors to the point where they are almost no longer visible.
Colon cancer has caused me to take a very different path in life. I had to give up basketball, the sport I have played and loved my whole life, transfer colleges, and give up many parts of my social life. I spent this past basketball season as a volunteer assistant coach for my former high school’s varsity basketball team and I just started a new part-time job. I am currently working towards a degree in Communication at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas in hopes of working in collegiate athletic administration in the future.
If you take anything away from my story, it should be that you are never too young for colon cancer. It does not discriminate. Particularly, if you are 45 or older, make sure you are having your regular colonoscopies. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you should do genetic testing. Watch what you eat, exercise regularly, and see your doctor if you have any symptoms.
If your doctor puts your symptoms off as something small, and your symptoms persist, be your own advocate. Your body will tell you when something is wrong. Take it seriously. It could save your life.
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Thank you for sharing it will help others. Stay strong and happy. I am fighting it with you. 💙
Hello I was 45 when I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I went thru a lot. I’m doing well now. But in Aug2022 I had peritoneal cancer. I got second opinion. I had a major surgery at the mayo. I had hypec surgery. Since this surgery no signs of cancer.