After 14 years of living in Atlanta, Georgia, Gerry King was ready to start a new chapter. In late 2018, she made the move to Columbia, Maryland.
“The move meant a new doctor and new insurance,” Gerry said.
The doctor suggested they start at the beginning, with all of the routine tests—including a stool screening for colorectal cancer. This was Gerry’s first colorectal cancer screening in more than a decade.
“Very surprisingly, I got a letter that said it was positive,” Gerry said.
The former businesswoman had always been healthy, with a perfect weight and great eating habits, and she hadn’t been experiencing symptoms. So on the day of her follow-up colonoscopy—a routine next step for positive stool tests—Gerry was at ease.
“I was laughing and joking with the nurses, thinking this is probably nothing,” Gerry said. “Worst case scenario, my doctor suggested it might be hemorrhoids.”
Gerry King, 66, discusses her journey with colorectal cancer at AllyCon 2019, the Alliance’s national conference.
Coming out of sedation, the GI doctor told her she had colorectal cancer, which was eventually determined to be stage III.
“I was stunned,” Gerry said. “All I could say to her was I need you to repeat that to me at another time.”
Facing surgery, Gerry knew she needed the advice of experts—people who could help her make sound decisions about treatment. Gerry found the Colorectal Cancer Alliance through the American Cancer Society, and she connected with our patient and family support team through our free helpline.
These resources helped Gerry identify a more qualified surgeon and make a decision about whether to pursue maintenance chemotherapy after surgery.
“In this way, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance has been my saving grace,” Gerry said.
Gerry’s surgery was successful, and tests afterward looked good. Her doctor will monitor her for the next five years.
“It’s an interesting time for me, and I have to remind myself every day that today I am cancer free,” Gerry, 66, said. “I don't know what tomorrow brings. I'm resolved to limiting time-based decisions quarterly.”
And each quarter, Gerry is focused on living life to its greatest extent, knowing that cancer can happen to anyone, including her. This week, she is on a vacation to the Grand Canyon—a check mark on her bucket list.
Screening was essential to Gerry’s well-being, yet many eligible people in the United States go without being screened for colorectal cancer. In 2015, only 63 percent of people above age 50 had been screened, according to the National Health Interview Survey. Screening rates are lowest among the uninsured.
That’s why the Alliance partners with companies like Olympus to help provide funding for colonoscopies at a reduced cost or free.
In celebration of Olympus’ 100th anniversary, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance is partnering with Olympus in 2019 to schedule and screen 100 people across the nation and raise awareness of colorectal cancer, in an effort to save lives. Patients are connected with screenings through the Alliance's Blue Hope Financial Assistance Program. More information and the screening application is available here.