I’d just had a baby boy via C-section. I recovered quickly from that surgery and adjusted well to having my baby Charlie home. When Charlie was about two months old, I started getting stomach cramps, but they were only when I first woke up.
It started as a few minutes of cramping then progressed. It got to the point that I had to stop nursing and wake my husband up just so I could go sit on the toilet. I would sit on the toilet for 20-30 minutes each morning, but the rest of the day I'd be fine.
But I wasn't concerned about the cramping. I already had a lot on my plate.
When Christmas break came and the cramping was still happening, but lasting longer, I decided to email my doctor. She ordered blood tests and a stool culture. Both came back fine, so she wanted to wait two weeks to test me again. Again, the test came back normal. She then referred me to an allergist and a GI doctor.
The allergist quickly said that this pain (and now I was having blood in my stool and my stool was long and thin), had nothing to do with an allergy. The GI doctor called, and after we chatted, scheduled me for an endoscopy and a colonoscopy.
On February 23, my dad took me to the appointment with Charlie in his stroller, and the nurse assured us it would be fine. I thought surely Crohn's would be the worst news I would hear.
I don't remember the endoscopy, but during the colonoscopy, I remember being in pain. The doctor came in afterward and informed my dad he had found a tumor. The doctor immediately ordered a CT scan for the following day. He called me with the results that it was just in my colon and possibly my lymph nodes, but no other organs.
I hadn’t even thought cancer was a possibility.
I met with a surgeon; the next week I had a sigmoid resection; and on April 1st, 2015, I started chemotherapy for six months.
What's your #1 piece of advice to someone who is newly diagnosed?
Take it breath by breath, minute by minute, day by day. You WILL get through it.
You may have a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, but every moment you get through is a moment you have survived. Stay positive.
Don't lose your sense of humor and make sure to laugh every day. You may not be able to do what you normally did (I felt like I wasn't a mom for those seven months), but try to do things to look forward to another day or another treatment.
I would eat macaroni and cheese on my infusion days. I saved it for those days so I would look forward to what was to come. I found shows on Netflix I liked so I would be happy to sit in bed and just watch TV. I continued to go to the gym when I felt well enough. Sweating and keeping that part of me "normal" helped me a lot.
Lastly, have a pity party if you need one; I did when I had to give myself the first Neupogen shot. I fell apart. Let it go, get it out, then get on with it. You will be a better person, and a more conscious being, on the other side.
What is it like to balance being a mom and a survivor?
Being a mom was very difficult after I had surgery. Charlie was only 5 months old, but I couldn't hold him for another four weeks. I felt really disconnected from him. I watched as my husband was his main caregiver. It was hard.
When I went through chemo, I couldn't be around my son at all, for fear he would pull out the chemo line. I didn’t have the energy to take care of him either.
It wasn’t until I was about six months post-chemo did I really feel a shift. I felt like a mom again. I finally had the energy and we were becoming more connected.
If I wasn't a mom, I don't think I would've approached treatment the same way. Having Charlie gave me a person that I needed to live for, to teach things to, to watch grow into a man. I had someone to fight for.
Giving birth and getting diagnosed with cancer made me realize I am not done. I have a lot of life left to live.
Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about colon cancer screening or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help.