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    Posted April 8, 2014 by
    debbiemark
    Location
    Marlborough, Massachusetts
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    The written word: Your personal essays

    A Colonoscopy Can Save Your Life

     
    As a registered nurse and mother of four sons, I was shocked when I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in November 2011 at the age of 44. A few months earlier, I started a new exercise program with a friend and was finding myself more tired and out of breath than normal. The fatigue, paired with a new craving for ice, led me to consult with my physician who, after finding that I was anemic scheduled me for a colonoscopy. The results showed positive findings of a polyp and an ulcerated area within the colon. I was quickly scheduled for a CAT scan the next day and a follow-up appointment the following morning. The first CAT scan showed more than 12 liver lesions and a biopsy during surgery found a rare, aggressive mutation of Stage IV colorectal cancer. Prior to beginning chemotherapy, the second CT scan showed over 20 liver tumors. My oncologist explained that my cancer was not curable, but that it could be treated to prolong my life and decrease my symptoms.

    Throughout the past two years, I have undergone colon surgery to remove the tumor and I continue to receive chemotherapy treatment every two weeks. I know that even with the terrible and nauseating side effects, I will have “chemo for life” because without the treatment and my quick diagnosis from the colonoscopy, I would not be alive to spend more treasured time with my wonderful family.

    Despite the physically and emotionally draining toll that my diagnosis and treatment has taken on my life, I feel that it is very important to be an active volunteer for advocacy organizations and cancer groups. I have spoken to employees at Boston Scientific, the manufacturer of tools used to diagnose and treat colorectal cancer, sharing my personal journey and stressing the importance of screenings to identify, remove and prevent polyps from turning into cancer or to detect cancer at an early, more treatable stage. I am also going to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress to not cut funding for digestive disease disorders.

    The most important message that I try to convey is,“Get screened. It’s no big deal to get a colonoscopy—you are under anesthesia. It’s not embarrassing. It’s not scary. This diagnosis of advanced metastatic colon cancer, what I have gone through and what my family has endured, is scary.”

    Despite everything, I feel lucky that I have been able to spend time with my family and watch my sons’ sporting events. I very much look forward to creating more memories with my children and husband on our family’s upcoming cruise to the Bahamas this April.

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