Colorectal Cancer: A survivor’s story
Throughout March we have been highlighting colorectal cancer, the amazing teams of researchers who are continuously fighting this disease, as well as the millions of patients and families who have been deeply affected by this silent killer. To close out this month of awareness-raising, we want to introduce you to a real-life hero and colon cancer survivor – Arlene.
Hello, my name is Arlene. I am a 30-year survivor of colorectal cancer, and I want to share my story. When I was in my forties, with teenage children, a hard-working husband, and a full-time job—I noticed blood in my toilet. I immediately went to my primary care doctor and told him that I was worried about colon cancer. I had no history of colon cancer in my family, but I knew that several of my grandparents, aunts, and uncles had died quite young, so I was vigilant.
My doctor gave me a sort of index card that was actually a colon cancer diagnostic test. I used the test according to directions and after processing, I was told by the doctor, “You are fine, no cancer at all.” And yet, I did not believe that I was ‘fine.’ I subsequently prepared four or five new ‘tests,’ all of which came back negative for blood (e.g., suspected cancer), over a period of several months. Finally, in desperation and with the absolute conviction that something was very wrong, I waited until I saw blood in the toilet again, and then carefully transferred the bloody specimen to my new (fifth or sixth) diagnostic test card.
Finally, the test came back positive and was followed up with a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy revealed a huge cancerous lesion in my colon, which my doctor removed during the procedure. We scheduled an immediate subsequent operation to remove more than a foot of my colon and many lymph nodes, to be sure that all the cancer was excised.
I suppose that I saved my life by being persistent. And that is my message to everyone; please be true to yourself. You know your body better than anyone, including your doctors. If you think something is wrong, it probably is. Stay with it and make no apologies for your persistence. And while great progress has been made in diagnosing and treating colorectal cancer since my experience nearly thirty years ago, none of this progress will matter if you ignore what your body is telling you. You might just save your life too!”