March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Spread the
word. Give hope. Save Lives.
think that colon cancer is just an old man's disease, perhaps
because medical guidelines recommend regular screening beginning
at the age of 50. But the truth is, this disease doesn't discriminate
in age, gender or race. I'm living proof.
I was 38 when
I was diagnosed with Stage
cancer. My colon cancer treatments included
hemicolectomy--major surgery to remove the golfball-sized
cancerous tumor obstructing my colon; two minor surgeries to insert
and later remove a venous
catheter and port below my right shoulder so I wouldn't have
to get pricked in a hard-to-find, rolling vein at every chemo
session; and FOLFOX chemotherapy for
3 consecutive days, every other week, for six months. Thankfully,
I didn't need radiation.
I have no
family history of any type of cancer. I'm a veteran Navy pilot's
wife, mother of two, who were 14 and 3 at the time. I was a swimwear
model, fitness instructor and fitness competitor. I worked out
religiously and ate healthy foods. So when I heard the words,
You Have Cancer, I was shocked because I took care of myself
inside and out.
is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women
combined in the U.S. But it's also one of the most preventable
and treatable cancers--if it's caught early.
In Duval County
alone, the incidence and death rates are 46.7 and 17.2 per 100,000
according to Northeast
Florida Counts' latest statistics from 2010.
to talk about colon cancer, because talking about the symptoms
associated with this disease can be humiliating to discuss with
anyone, even your own doctor. But we're talking about a matter
of life and death. As a survivor, I believes it's my duty to tell
you about the symptoms I experienced so that you can be empowered
with knowledge about this disease.
were all clear in hindsight. They included unexplained anemia.
I was first diagnosed when I was 18 with "borderline anemia"
and again after the birth of each of my children. I was given
iron pills and sent home. I also experienced fatigue to the point
where I couldn't climb a flight of stairs without having to stop
midway to catch my breath.
abdominal cramps which I thought were menstrual-related. And I
noticed a tiny speck of blood once when I wiped. It never happened
again, so I chalked it up to a spotty menstrual cycle or hemorrhoids
which I never experienced.
to pass gas--yes, even women do it! Just a few months prior to
my cancer diagnosis, I noticed the odor was abnormally foul, as
if something was dying inside of me. I simply assumed it was something
one thing I'd like for you to take away from my story, it's this:
Don't ignore symptoms that aren't "normal" for you.
Your doctor may be a medical expert, but you are the expert of
your own body. Trust your gut. Be proactive in your health care.
Know the symptoms
factors of colon cancer. Visit your doctor--especially if
you have a family history of cancer--and request a screening,
even if you're under 50. It could save your life.
Oftentimes, when someone survives a major life-changing event,
it's no surprise for them to express gratitude for a second chance
at living life with a renewed sense of self and a better understanding
of meaningful priorities. I am no exception.
on a link to the right to start reading my online journal entries.