My journey started around March 2014. I started having pain in my lower back. It started out not too bad at first and slowly progressed to where I couldn’t really do much of anything when the pain hit. I never really weighed myself. I knew I needed to lose some weight but avoided the scale for the most part.
Around June of 2014, a couple different people commented that I looked like I had lost weight. Around that same time, my bowel habits had started to change. I was normally on a pretty regular schedule when it came to number 2, but around that time, I started going multiple times a day and had a feeling a lot of the time like I still needed to go. The back pain had worsened at this point, so I started doing some research online regarding my symptoms (bad idea, this just made me want to avoid the doctor for fear of the worst). I finally decided however that losing 10-15 lbs without really trying and the almost constant back pain was enough reason to go to the doctor. I went to the doctor in July 2014 and explained my symptoms. I did mention to the doctor that, while looking up my symptoms online, colon cancer kept coming up. Based on my age (34) and the fact that I had no family history of colon cancer, she said that colon cancer was probably not the issue. She ran some blood work and ended up diagnosing me with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). The blood work did show that I was extremely anemic, which was always an issue during my pregnancies, so she put me on iron pills and some pills for the IBS. I gave the pills she prescribed some time to work and saw no change in my symptoms. If anything, they seemed to be getting worse at this point.
When I went for my follow up appointment, I explained that the pills were not working, so she prescribed another one to try. By this time, it was mid August. Again, I gave the pills time to work, all while the back pain was becoming almost unbearable. It was around mid September, and the pills had not helped at all. At this time, I started noticing blood in my stool. I called my doctor and advised her of the blood and the fact that the pills were not working, so she referred me to a GI doctor. I was scheduled for an appointment with the GI on October 1st, but on Sept 29th, my supervisor at work decided to take me to the ER because my back was hurting so bad at work. At the ER, they did a CT scan, which showed an obstruction in my colon. The ER doctor explained that there was a huge list, based on my symptoms, of what it could be. He actually said that colon cancer was a possibility, but based on my age and lack of family history, it was very low on the list. I was admitted to the hospital for further testing.
On October 1st, I had a colonoscopy. After the procedure, I remember coming back to my room and calling my husband to see where he was. He told me he’d be right there, as he had stepped outside for some air. When he came into my room, I could tell that something seemed off about him and got that horrible feeling in my stomach when you know something bad is coming. I asked him what the doctor had told him after my colonoscopy, and he just kept telling me that the doctor would come talk to me. After much persuading, he finally told me what I had been dreading through all those months of being treated and getting worse instead of better: the doctor had found a tumor in my colon.
The GI came in and talked to me and advised that, while he did take a sample of the tumor to be sent off for verification, he was certain it was cancer. Being told you have cancer is never something you really prepare for. All sorts of things run through your mind when you hear the words. I instantly thought of my children (I have 4) and how we would tell them and what would happen to them and my husband if I didn’t make it through whatever lay ahead. I thought of my parents and siblings and all the things that I could have done better or differently in my life. I thought of the things I still wanted to do and the things that if, god forbid, I didn’t make it through this, I would miss out on in the future.
I was scheduled for surgery on October 3rd to remove the tumor from my colon. I can honestly say, being wheeled into the surgery prep area was one of the scariest moments in my life, as I had no idea what was going to happen. When I awoke from surgery, I was told that the surgeon had removed 18 inches of my colon, the tumor, my appendix, a cyst from my left ovary, and had given me a temporary ileostomy. I also found out that they had removed 28 lymph nodes and that 14 of them had tested positive for cancer. At this point, I have been diagnosed with stage 3C colon cancer, but the scans I’ve had do show a spot that the doctors are not positive if it is scar tissue or possibly more cancer. So there is still a chance that I could be bumped up to stage 4.
On November 3rd, I had surgery to have my power port placed, and on November 19th, I had my ileostomy reversed. So far, I have gone through 6 chemotherapy cycles and done 5 1/2 weeks of radiation therapy. I am set to have more scans on June 19th and then will go back to chemotherapy. Right now, my doctor’s plan is to give me 6 more chemo cycles, unless the scans show something that causes the plan to change. Through all of the craziness that my life has become over the last 7 months since hearing the words ,”You have cancer,” I have found my inner strength. I have decided that feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to help anyone, especially myself, and that the only way to overcome this is to fight. I fight for my husband, I fight for my children, and most of all, I FIGHT LIKE A GIRL for myself, just to hear the wonderful words, “You are cancer free!!!”
The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.
This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.