In June, 2011 I was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer. No family history. No genetic disposition. At 37 years old, a healthy, working mother of 3 young children, why would I get this? Researchers still don’t know the scientific “why” the incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing in those under 50 years of age. But I believe the reason “why” I was diagnosed with this ugly disease is to help others. I was diagnosed so I could spread the word, that if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable. Many, like myself, go on to live productive lives once our treatment is completed. But others are not so fortunate, that is why it is important to listen to your body, be your own best advocate, and get a colonoscopy!
In the fall of 2011, I started to notice a pain in my lower right abdomen. Nothing major, but enough that I went to have it checked out by my general practitioner. She told me that as a working mother of three whose husband had a stressful job, I probably just needed a break. She sent me home with some pain killers and a bottle of Tums. This was my only symptom and even though I continued to visit my GP, cancer never entered the conversation. Kidney stones, irritable bowel syndrome, and an ulcer were all considered.
It wasn’t until I was physically unable to stand when I drove myself to the emergency room that an MRI and CT scan were performed. This was over 7 months after my initial complaint. Test results showed a tumor on my right side and I was rushed into emergency surgery. 48 hours later, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer treatment is not fun. Chemotherapy and radiation are not the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in my life. In fact, it is the most horrible nightmare I have ever been through. But, I am here. I am alive. I saw my daughter graduate high school and college. She recently got her first job. These are milestones that I wasn’t sure if I would ever see. I’m lucky and I know it.
Many others are not so fortunate and many have similar stories, of misdiagnosis and providers that don’t consider colorectal cancer in those under 50 years of age. That is why is it is so important to listen to your body, to be your own best advocate, and to insist on a colonoscopy if you have any symptoms that lend themselves to a colorectal cancer diagnosis. Don’t blow off a pain in your side, continual diarrhea, or blood in your stool. Contact a provider and insist on getting to the bottom (pun intended)
of your symptoms.
If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I was only 37. My children were 11, 6, and 4 years of age. While I carry physical scars, we all carry emotional scars from that time. Surviving cancer is not easy but it can be done. My family is proof of that. While no child should see their mother go through, what I have been through, I am here. Thank you for letting me share my story, I hope it helps even just one person.