Shannon's story: I was diagnosed at 29

"I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in October 2011. I was just 29. I am now 30. Facing and fighting mortality at such a young age is frightening. I had just graduated college. My life hadn't even started yet.

"Like so many others, at first, I had no symptoms, not until it was almost too late. In January 2011, I had severe stomach pains, vomiting, and diarrhea. I was told by several doctors that it was ovarian cysts. After undergoing several ultrasounds over the next six months, I was finally given a diagnosis: Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome and Endometriosis. My menstrual cycle was stopped chemically, but the pain got more severe, and more persistent.

"I then decided something was being overlooked. I went to get a second opinion, but before I could find another doctor, I ended up in the Emergency Room. Another ultrasound was performed, but no cysts were seen. It was then that a CT scan was ordered. I had a huge abscess in my abdomen. It was decided that my intestine was perforated.

"Because of my age, the doctors believed it to be due to Diverticulitis, Crohn's Disease, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I had a 5% chance of having cancer. To avoid surgery, the doctors wanted to do a colonoscopy, but I had too much inflammation, it was too risky.

"I was treated by having the abscess drained, and several antibiotics. I even had to get a blood transfusion and spend a few days in ICU, because I was anemic and almost septic. I was admitted twice more with the same infection. It was when I was admitted a third time, that a exploratory surgery was performed. That is when they discovered the tumor. I also ended up with a colostomy.

"I have since undergone 12 rounds of chemo over a six month period. Each treatment lasted 3 days. It was grueling. I find out next week if I am in remission, but so far things look good.

"I am heartbroken that screening for people my age is not routine, and often, isn't covered. Cancer is a silent killer, and it does not discriminate based on age. Routine screening could have saved me and so many others, from undergoing such trauma."

-- Shannon Lee-Sin, Miami, Florida

My story: My mom inspired me to help others get screened

Patty Francis' mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009 at age 64.

Her mother, a small business owner in Harrodsburg, Ky., she was uninsured and had never been screened because "she didn't want anyone paying for anything."

Eventually, she had a colonoscopy because symptoms led her to believe something was wrong. It was Stage III (nearly Stage IV, Patty says) colon cancer.

After many surgeries and help from the hospital that wrote off the costs, Patty's mom was cancer free. But it came back later, and in 2011 she passed away.

"We knew what we were going through was preventable," Patty said. "We knew no one should go through what she was going through."

Now, "I don't meet a person who I don't ask if they've been screened."

Patty has become a volunteer for the Project, forming a 5K team and organizing a Dress in Blue awareness day at her office.


Patty Francis

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