Ellon Quillen had no family history of colon cancer. She enjoyed a healthy lifestyle including a good diet with no red meat, pork or sodas. Being health-conscious, she made sure to have a colonoscopy when she turned 50. The test showed Ellon’s colon to be as healthy as the rest of her. She never expected to face the kind of health problems that started the following year.
In 2010, Ellon was feeling tired and fatigued. She decided to see her doctor after having some stomach troubles and mild diarrhea. After undergoing several blood tests, a stool sample, and then a second colonoscopy, Ellon was found to have a 4.5-centimeter cancerous tumor where her small intestine joined her large intestine. As if that weren’t shocking enough, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and the tumor grew a full two centimeters in just two weeks.
Once Ellon had been diagnosed with cancer, her treatment was under way. She had surgery to remove the tumor, also losing parts of her small and large intestine as well as her appendix. Her oncologist prescribed a chemotherapy regimen of Folfox, but Ellon’s bad reaction to that drug forced a switch to 5FU. Thankfully, she responded well to her treatment and is now cancer free.
Ellon calls herself one of the fortunate ones. Most people would say surviving cancer is fortunate enough. Ellon, however, was also lucky enough to continue working, if only a little, through her treatment. For this she credits an understanding boss and a strong determination to get out of bed every morning.
Even as fortunate as she was, cancer was still financially devastating for Ellon. She had started a Christmas Club account before her diagnosis, and this special savings account allowed her to buy a few presents for her grandchildren. Even so, it was a very modest Christmas that year.
Medical bills continued to mount, even though Ellon had insurance. She was looking for any kind of help that might be available, and an internet search led her to the Colon Cancer Alliance. The Colon Cancer Alliance’s Blue Hope Financial Assistance Program was a beacon of hope for her. She submitted an application and became one of the Program’s first awardees in 2011. Receiving the money was certainly a relief, but, like most Blue Hope Financial Assistance awardees, Ellon especially appreciated knowing that someone out there cared about her.
Cancer was a financially ruinous hardship for Ellon, but it also changed her life for the good in some ways. She now strives to give back to others, and she’s always willing to share her story and offer emotional supports. “I may not have all my bills paid off, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give,” says Ellon.
Ellon’s message to others is simple but powerful: “If I can make it, you can too. If you give up, then cancer is going to win.”
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