"February 13th is my survivor anniversary. I was diagnosed with stage III rectal cancer in February 2007, at age 34. I'd experienced heavy rectal bleeding for the better part of three years, and have the typical story - I was told I had hemorrhoids, IBS, digestive imbalance, etc. When my primary doctor finally decided it was time for a colonoscopy, I will never forget what she told me: "Let's send you to get scoped. But I don't want you to freak out. They're not going to find cancer or anything like that - you're too young.". Famous last words...
"My first colonoscopy was on January 19, 2007. The gastroenterologist, who himself was certain I simply had IBS or hemorrhoids, was shocked to discover the huge 13cm. sessile polyp - a villous adenoma. Upon waking from the anesthesia, I was told I'd need surgery soon - if I didn't have cancer yet, it wouldn't be long. At this point, it really didn't register with me about the cancer. But the surgery freaked me out. When my GI called the next week with the biopsy results, I was told the polyp showed signs of dysplasia. I met my colorectal surgeon a week later, who told me about the surgery and gave me information about chemotherapy and survival odds, but he wasn't expecting cancer. I had surgery on February 13, 2007. A couple days later, my surgeon told me about my tumor and positive lymph node; he would set me up with an oncologist immediately.
"I remember calling my dad and telling him I would need chemotherapy, and that I'd had cancer. It was when I was back home the next week that the full impact of what was happening hit me. Was I dying? I called CCA - they were awesome! They put me in touch with two young survivors who knew the ropes - one was facing her own battle at the time. These girls both gave me so much hope and helped so much in my treatment and survivorship journey.
"Although I have permanent neuropathy in my feet from chemo and the signature digestive issues from resection (and maybe a touch of chemo brain, too), I'm CURED and happy to be healthy. And grateful to all who provided such great support! My wonderful surgeon, to whom I affectionately refer as "Butt Doc", is almost used to me asking if I'm going to be violated when I visit and never yells at me for keeping the folks in the waiting room in stitches with all my butt jokes. Hey, you gotta keep a sense of humor when you have sigmoidoscopies every six months... :-)
"My mission as a young survivor is to use my platform to educate as many folks as possible, and to help overcome some of the misconceptions surrounding this very preventable cancer. Colorectal cancer is NOT an older white man's disease. It DOES NOT discriminate based on age or gender. It can occur anytime, in anyone, at any age. Know your risks. Get screened. It may save your life."
---Kimberly Bishop-Hargis, Osteen, FL