Choose You Blog
By Anita Rice, Peer Coach and Cancer Information Specialist
Colorectal cancer was the last thing on my mind in 2006 when I first started noticing unusual discolorations when I used the restroom. I was 43 years old, had no history of cancer on either side of my family, and I felt fine.
Besides, I was going through a lot of stress at the time—car shopping when I really couldn’t afford a new car, working far from home and having automobile breakdowns alone at 1:00 in the morning. “It must be an ulcer,” I thought. When the symptoms stopped, I thought no more about it—until two years later.
I started working at the American Cancer Society, and learned about the signs of colorectal cancer. Within a couple of years, the symptoms began again but this time they were noticeably worse.
I went to my family doctor, who performed a digital rectal exam (DRE). She told me that she could feel internal hemorrhoids and prescribed suppositories – “rectal rockets,” she called them. She told me that if the symptoms started again, to come back and she would refer me to a specialist.
About two weeks later, they did start again. I returned to the doctor, and she referred me to a gastroenterologist. I began the colonoscopy prep, which was not the most pleasant experience, but I was able to complete it. A friend drove me to the outpatient clinic the next day.
I recall nothing from the actual procedure, but the doctor told me she removed three polyps—one a centimeter across, and it was high-grade, meaning it was high risk for turning into cancer. I was told that had I not gotten to the doctor when I did, I would have likely developed colorectal cancer by the time I hit 50 — only five years away. Talk about dodging a bullet!
Going through this process wasn’t pleasant, but I truly believe it saved my life. Ironically, a friend of mine passed away that same year from colorectal cancer; it was very advanced when he was diagnosed. Compared to his experience, mine was simply a minor inconvenience.
The overall experience really caught me off-guard. I was already “breast aware”, due to having had cysts in both breasts and because of the sheer volume of breast cancer awareness information.
According to the American Cancer Society, since my father had polyps before age 60 (he never developed cancer), I was at increased risk of colon cancer and I should have started screening in my 40s.
Looking back, had I not gone to the doctor when I did, I may not be here today to tell you this story. I’m a huge believer in early detection and prevention.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and I encourage each of you to check out Cancer.org/coloncancer for more information on the risk factors for colon cancer . The American Cancer society has made it easier than ever to learn about your family historyof colon cancer with the Family PLZ! Campain.