Diagnosed at 28
A month before my 29th birthday, I was diagnosed with stage III Colon cancer after having a colonoscopy. I was healthy, active mom with two children under the age of two.
You may be wondering why I had a colonoscopy to begin with. I had battled ulcerative colitis in my late teens and early 20s, and had a colonoscopy when I was 20. When pregnant with our youngest child, my symptoms returned. My doctor recommended I schedule a colonoscopy after I gave birth. Anyone who has had a newborn understands that your top priorities are sleeping and finding time for a shower, not a colonoscopy!
Five months after my son was born, I got a horrible phone call from my mom. She had a colonoscopy that day and they found a tumor. She was scheduled for surgery the next week.
Shortly after hearing the news about my mom, I called to schedule that colonoscopy, never imagining that they'd find a large tumor. Within a few weeks, I had my colon removed. Five lymph nodes were positive with cancer cells. I was facing chemotherapy and had never felt so hopeless.
While taking a detailed family history, one of my physicians became suspicious that this may have happened because of a genetic defect, and referred us to Dr. Henry Lynch at Creighton University for genetic testing. After our first meeting, he agreed with my surgeon that it was a probable genetic mutation called Lynch syndrome. The diagnosis was confirmed with the pathology test on the removed tumor and a simple blood test.
My family history was as follows: my mother had ovarian and endometrial cancer at age 34, and colon cancer at age 59. She just passed away in January at the age of 74, after a 3-year battle with metastatic colon and stomach cancer. Her father had colon cancer in his late 40s. Two of his sisters had colon cancer in their 40s, and two of my mother's cousins had endometrial cancer in their 30s.
After learning about Lynch syndrome, I was overwhelmed with questions from the past and worries about the future. Could much of my pain have been prevented? What if I'd pass this on to my sons? But rather than worry about things I could not control, I focus my energy on the positives in my life. I thank God each day for the gift of living, for my sons and husband, and for the prayers and support of our families and friends.
Knowing that I have Lynch syndrome is a blessing, too, because my sons are old enough to understand colon cancer and Lynch syndrome. We have discussed with them the need to be tested for the gene when they are 18, and if positive, taking preventative measures by getting yearly colonoscopies.
We all need to talk more about colon cancer. Anyone who has any suspicious symptoms or a family history of colon cancer should never hesitate to discuss concerns with his or her physician.