In January 2005, I started nursing school, a lifelong ambition that had waited on the back burner for twenty years. March 2005 found me happily studying and participating in clinicals at the hospital, when we began to examine the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer.
The list was short, but frighteningly familiar. Ten years before, I had been diagnosed with internal hemorrhoids, and I had chalked up the recurring bright red bleeding as nothing to be concerned about - I was stressed from exams, not eating correctly, and a dozen other excuses. But the more recent developments, such as changes in my normal bowel habits, were more disturbing, and as I read the list, undeniable. I made an appointment to see my nurse practitioner, who did a digital exam and immediately recommended a colonoscopy. Over spring break, I had the procedure, and received the diagnosis with numb disbelief. I was only 39, with no family history, no risk factors.
I did six weeks of continuous 5FU in a fanny pack, with simultaneous radiation treatments 5 days a week. Then, with high hopes that the tumor had shrunk enough to remove without destroying the muscles and tissue needed to preserve continent bowel function, I had surgery on July 1, 2005.
Unfortunately, my surgeon was not able to leave enough tissue to reconnect, and I now have a permanent colostomy. However, that hasn't changed my life at all, as I still do everything I did before. I went back to school six months after my surgery, a month after my last post-surgery bolus chemo treatment, and I received my nursing degree in May 2007.
The best news is that my pathology was clear, and has remained clear in blood tests and CT scans so far for five years...six this March. I was given the boot by my oncologist last June and only have to have colonoscopies every five to ten years !