Almost 10 years ago, my world was turned upside down. I was a young mother of two young boys and what I thought was another Crohns flare up turned out to be stage 3c colorectal cancer. In a matter of days, I was meeting surgeons and was booked in for a nine-hour surgery that left me with a permanent ostomy. A few short weeks later, I would be sitting at Mass General Hospital in my first round of chemo, still trying to heal from surgery, working full time and trying to make it to the finish line. Six months later I would be declared NED (No Evidence of Disease) and was back to a somewhat regular routine. It was a whirlwind and unbeknownst to me, it was just the beginning of an experience that taught me a lot about myself.
Now as a cancer survivor I'm finally at a place in which I wanted to start to really connect with people who have had or are in treatment currently for colon cancer. I thought of it as a way to come full circle and fully heal. I applied to Colon Camp which is a camp for a group of survivors and patients to really connect, share our stories, and empower us to show our scars and ostomies. I met strong courageous survivors and patients, all under 50, whose stories were inspiring. We connected immediately as we have all faced the damage and fear of colorectal cancer and its impact on our lives. I felt at ease talking to this group about all the things I felt ashamed before my cancer diagnosis. Bathroom runs, diarrhea, accidents, my ostomy, hemorrhoids, the list goes on.
As the week went on, we bonded, we shared our stories, and encouraged each other to overcome our insecurities. We shared our struggles about being young mothers and fathers and discussed topics like telling your children you have cancer, infertility, relationships blossoming and ending.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women, yet because of the stigma of being an old man’s disease and all the unpleasant symptoms, no one talks about it! And yet it’s the most preventable cancer.
My hope is to share that life after cancer is good and in a lot of ways, better! I faced some tough life decisions. I got divorced, found the love of my life, had a miracle baby, which in turn saved my life, and I now have three amazing boys I love with all my heart. I've learned to always remember to be me and stay true to myself. I got a Tiny Tags necklace with three names on the front and "colon cancer warrior" on the back. I love my necklace, it reminds me each day why I fought cancer and continue to advocate for colon cancer awareness.
The Colon Club is a national, not-for-profit whose mission is to educate as many people as possible, as early as possible, about the risk factors and symptoms of colorectal cancer, and for people to get screened when it's appropriate for them. Find out more at The Colon Club.