In December 2003 at the age of 57, I had my first colonoscopy and I expected the results to be normal. The doctor removed a couple of small polyps and later discovered that one of the polyps was cancerous. It was colon cancer. At that point, I learned how hidden colon cancer can be and that it can go undetected without any symptoms for a long time.
My surgery was scheduled immediately for New Year's Eve 2003. It went well, and the surgeon felt confident that the cancer looked as though it had not spread. I went home within three days, and I was feeling a bit weak. When I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon a few days later, he gave me another surprise: 18 out of the 19 removed lymph nodes were cancerous.
Shortly after meeting with my physician, I began chemotherapy. The chemotherapy lasted for three days, every two weeks for six months. It was a total of thirteen treatment cycles. Although it was difficult and exhausting, I was determined to make it through the complete treatment period. During that time, I was given a copy of Lance Armstrong's first book and decided that I too would make a comeback and ride in a LiveSTRONG Challenge bicycle ride to raise awareness and funds for colon and other types of cancer. I finished the six months of chemotherapy and now, two years later, I have no signs of cancer anywhere and am in great physical condition again.
I felt so excited about being healthy again, but I had not expected the post-treatment blues or any other side effects. Besides feeling low, I also had peripheral neuropathy, a constant tingling and sensitivity in my hands and feet. In an effort to shake my depression while in remission, I started concentrating on my cycling and decided to join the Pharma Fliers, a team of cyclists. I trained hard on my bike and participated in the 100-mile race this year in Philadelphia, PA. As a team, we raised over $20,000, and we are planning to participate again next year.
I want to inspire other cancer survivors to get involved in similar activities that celebrate survivorship. It is now my goal to share my story and help others fight cancer. It was after finishing therapy and feeling like my old self again that I needed the most support, and therefore I want to encourage others that there is life after cancer. Try new things or pick up things you have put off so that you can get back to enjoying your life.