Survivor since 1995…

In the fall of 1995 at the age of 47, I suddenly learned that I had colon cancer. It all happened so quickly that to this day when I read a story about cancer survivors, I often momentarily forget that I am one. I was incredibly lucky to have early detection with a fast surgery and speedy recovery. My mother, a colon cancer survivor herself , encouraged me to do an annual hemocult (take-home colon test) from the time I hit the age of 40. In 1995, Dr. Caskey called me to tell me that my hemocult was positive, and that I needed to have a colonoscopy to see what was going on. I had absolutely no symptoms. I was in a state of disbelief from the moment he called. We both thought the test might be a false positive and that perhaps I had eaten something that might have skewed the results. I was fortunate to be able to schedule a colonoscopy three days later during which a small cancerous tumor was discovered.

I was told to go home, “get my affairs together” and go back to the hospital the next day. I was in total shock. I managed to arrange my life for the next week or so in terms of my business commitments, my family, my dogs. I will never forget how I felt that day. I can recall the fear I felt then as if it happened this morning. I just kept thinking–this can’t be happening to me, this can’t be real but it was. I had a colon resection two days later and was very fortunate to not have a colostomy, radiation or chemo. I spent another seven days in the hospital and returned home. All of the hospital staff were wonderful,  I felt so safe there. I was pretty much back to my usual routine in about six weeks. Other than having to undergo a lot of colonoscopies (the prep being the worst part of it!), my life feels very normal.

Because of my own experience, I cannot stress enough the importance of testing for early detection, especially if you have any family history of cancer. Doing an annual hemocult is so easy and a colonoscopy at the appropriate age is so important. Colon cancer, if detected early, is treatable with a complete recovery and an excellent prognosis for the future.

During my experience with cancer, my husband and my friends were incredible. I heard from so many people, even those who weren’t that close to me were brave enough to actually call me in the hospital to see how I was doing. When I got home, friends, old and new, offered to help with everything — bringing me groceries, walking my dogs, taking care of everything I needed. I will never forget those people and what they did for me and how they made me feel.

Cancer made me look at the big picture and see what is truly important. I love my life and appreciate it more and more as I get older. Because of my cancer scare, I believe I value life much more than I might have and appreciate how important it is to have good health. To me good health and the support and love of family and friends are the most important things in life.


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