Diagnosed at 32
Nine months after giving birth to my daughter, Katie, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I didn’t have polyps or a family history of colon cancer — and was just 32.
I underwent a month of chemotherapy and radiation to shrink my tumor, underwent major surgery and then followed up with another year of chemotherapy. I finished my last chemo session in March of 1991, celebrated Katie’s first birthday and two months later, finished the Lincoln half-marathon. I needed to do something to show myself that I wasn’t going to be sick the rest of my life.
With colon cancer, statistics show that there are often no symptoms, which is why regular screening is crucial. Data also shows that colon cancer, if detected early, is 90 percent treatable. This is why I’m dedicated to getting the word out by serving as an active board member and treasurer of the Great Plains Colon Cancer Task Force. Having a colonoscopy isn’t easy, but it sure beats chemotherapy and surgery. And it can save your life.
It’s also important to know one’s family medical history. My having had colon cancer puts Katie at a higher risk for developing the disease. It’s recommended that if your parent has had colon cancer, you should get your first colonoscopy at age 40 or 10 years before the age that the immediate family member was diagnosed, whichever is earlier. That’s why Katie had her first colonoscopy at age 21 and will continue to have them every 5 years.
Colon cancer is different than most cancers — it’s largely preventable and beatable. That’s the mission of the Task Force, to share the message that screening saves lives!