We’ve met hundreds of young colon cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. In fact, at last year’s National Conference, we focused solely on this issue. We heard your stories, talked with the experts and now we've launched our Never Too Young campaign to spell it out: you’re never too young for colon cancer. Michele Davis learned this at just 30 years old, after noticing some persistent bleeding. This is Michele's story, in her own words.
I left the gastroenterologist with an appointment for a colonoscopy. My doctor told me he’d never seen colon cancer in someone my age. I would be his youngest patient to receive such a diagnosis – a contest I really didn’t want to win. I have no family history of colon cancer. Genetic testing was not revealing and, with exception of a brief history of smoking, I carry no risk factors. This can truly happen to anyone.
When I was told I had colon cancer, I remember trying to comprehend those words as if they were in another language. I kept trying to solve the puzzle and figure a way out of this situation. I wanted to run, to get away from danger. In the end, you can’t run from yourself; the only way out was through.
On Screening & Awareness
Doctors told me my little party crasher (just one of the nicknames for my tumor, as it cancelled our destination wedding plans) had been plotting for at least 10 years. Although I didn’t have any signs that I can recall, I can’t help but wonder how my life would be different today had I just had a polyp removed, the obvious being that my husband and I would have had the wedding that we planned. More importantly, maybe I would not be experiencing the lingering effects of this disease.
I would love for the warning signs to be common knowledge for people of all ages. I honestly couldn’t tell you if I had changes or signs prior to the bleeding that I experienced because it was never on my radar. I would love for young people to get regular physicals and openly discuss these things that are often viewed as taboo. We need to start talking about the poop!
To those recently diagnosed: It’s definitely easier said than done, but try to take one day at a time, and give yourself permission to be a little selfish. When you want some time alone, say it; when you want to be surrounded by people, say it; when you need help, ask. Cancer affects more than just the patient or survivor, but we are at the center of it, living it, breathing it every minute. We don’t get a break from ourselves and it’s so important to make this challenging time as bearable as possible.
Read Michele's full story and learn more about the international Never Too Young campaign at www.nevertooyoung.org.