Living with stage IV colon cancer is something I have been doing for a very long time now. I was diagnosed when I was 31 years old and told I had six months to live. That was more than 10 years ago. When I was diagnosed, I was a statistic – one of more than 150,000 Americans who are diagnosed with colon cancer each year. Even though I was told I only had a few months to live, I couldn’t stop myself from searching for hope and looking for answers. After I was urged to get my affairs in order, I learned about Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT) using microspheres in combination with chemotherapy. I’m still living with cancer today, but thanks to SIRT, my quality of life is great and I am beating the odds.
Suzanne and her daughter, Chloe.
I once heard a quote that has always stuck with me: "The most underutilized tool in all of medicine is the patient voice." This is the reason I decided to become an advocate and create YES, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting those diagnosed with liver tumors. I wanted to give a voice to those living with liver tumors and to share the powerful stories of other survivors as they celebrate the triumph and miracles that happen each and every day, in spite of a terminal diagnosis. With more treatment options available to treat liver tumors, such as SIR-Spheres microspheres, patients are living longer and better lives. I wanted to make sure that others knew it was possible to live with liver tumors.
The people I have met along the way inspire me beyond measure. Most of our paths would have never crossed without cancer. Many have changed my life. The forever friendships teach me to live fully and to embrace every moment, to capture the sound of a voice, the beauty of an email and to hold dear the treasured times we get to spend together.
I have also gained a great appreciation for the medical profession and the complexity that it holds, from the passion and compassion of the physicians, to their dedication to research, their knowledge of treatment, the importance of working together as a team and the long and grueling hours that they give selflessly to help their patients live well.
Cancer has taught me not to sweat the small stuff and to love the essence of NOW. I see the sunset and sunrise differently; there is magic in them each and every day. The little things with my husband and daughters are more important than anything else in the world. Capturing those treasures is a huge blessing that cancer brought along. And, cancer has taught me the importance of hope.
If I was asked to give advice to others who are going through or have just begun their cancer journey, I would say:
- Don't ignore warning signs
- Know your family history
- Get first, second and third opinions
- Make sure you have a multidisciplinary team on board
- Talk to others in your shoes
- Develop a care plan, and
- Never give up
To learn more about young-onset colon cancer or to read more stories like Suzanne's, visit nevertooyoung.org.