Editor’s Note: The Courier asked cancer survivors and/or family members to share their stories during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
A few people have written to tell of their experiences.
We thank all the people who participated. As many of you said, you want others to know about the experience and to always have hope.
Their stories will run often this month.
Last year, I submitted a story about my mother’s cancer and my survival as a family member. This year I have a new chapter and my own story to tell.
I was motivated to move into the health promotion field following my mother’s colon cancer and death and have been working to get the word out about preventive screening tests, eating right, exercising and taking measures to reduce your stress, all of the things you can do to prevent disease or catch it in its early stages.
While planning to host CoCo, The Colossal Colon, an exhibit designed to increase awareness of colorectal cancer, I decided to practice what I preached and scheduled my screening colonoscopy. I was 45 but had been urged to screen at 40 due to my mother’s cancer history. I had heard you should screen 10 years prior to your family member’s diagnosis, so I held out for 45.
On Feb. 10, I went to my screening. I woke up afterward just like they say, feeling like nothing had happened but quickly learned otherwise. I had been in the procedure for 90 minutes and had a large polyp removed in pieces.
The doctor came and spoke to me before leaving the hospital and told me he couldn’t tell if it was cancerous or not, but that he would let me know as soon as he knew.
That weekend was the longest weekend ever. I kept reliving my mother’s story and the unknown was nearly unbearable.
On Feb. 14, my doctor called me out of a meeting with his news — that wasn’t good. There was a small amount of cancer (adenocarcinoma) in the large polyp he removed. He recommended that I have a colon resection since I was healthy and “young.” For the first time in a while, I realized I WAS young!
On Feb. 28, I underwent colon resection surgery and had 1 foot of my colon removed as well as numerous lymph nodes. The waiting game was on again.
The news came that the section and lymph nodes removed were cancer free! Hallelujah!
At my two-week checkup, I learned that I will have appointments every three months for two years to check blood level markers to be sure the cancer doesn’t return. At my one-year anniversary, I will have another colonoscopy and CT scans to be sure the cancer hasn’t traveled to my organs.
Screening tests are so important. Guidelines are out there for our own good. Get screened — it could save your life! It saved mine!
Have your first screening colonoscopy done at age 50 and earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer.