I was diagnosed with colon cancer when I was 32 years old. Here are my first symptoms
I believed her. “Maybe she’s right: I’m so worried about these symptoms that I should put it aside,” she thought. Looking back, she was incredibly dismissive, and I think that was a result of me being so young at the time — I was 32, a woman and a minority. Statistically speaking, people who fall into any of these categories, let alone all three, tend to have their health problems ignored by doctors.
Three weeks after this test, I felt severe abdominal pain. The pain wasn’t just localized in my lower stomach or side, but the pain was radiating throughout my entire abdomen toward my lower back. It was unbearable. I almost fainted in my apartment. I’m not someone who rushes out to take medication or go to the doctor, but I knew something was wrong, so I went to the emergency room. Once again, I doubted myself and thought I might be making a big deal out of nothing. Fortunately, my ER doctor took my pain seriously and ordered a CT scan, scheduled an abdominal ultrasound, and did a complete blood workup. When the results came back, she sat down and told me that they had found cancer in my ovaries and liver. I have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
I met with an oncologist and had a liver biopsy. It was then that they discovered that the cancer, adenocarcinoma, had originated in the colon and had metastasized or spread to other organs. I was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer. I had an endoscopy and colonoscopy so the doctors could get a better look — my colorectal cancer was so large and so advanced that they had trouble getting the scope through my colon.
I learned that colorectal cancer grows very slowly. I could have had cancer for 8 to 10 years, and possibly all of my 20s, without knowing it. With colon cancer, noticeable (or even severe) symptoms usually don’t begin until it advances to stage III or IV. In addition, symptoms, such as nausea, constipation, diarrhea, or difficulty going to the bathroom, can be caused by many other conditions — some serious, such as ovarian cancer, but others more benign, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
After my diagnosis, I started chemotherapy. The cancer had caused fluid to build up in my stomach, the source of the bloating, and I had to get rid of it. I met a gastroenterologist who advised me to modify my diet – for example, I had to reduce the amount of meat I ate, cut out raw fruits and vegetables, and stick to soft foods, such as candy and mashed potatoes – which led to my improvement immediately. My bowel movements. I had several blood tests to evaluate the progress of my cancer, including CEA (a marker for colorectal cancer), CA125 (a marker for ovarian cancer), and CA19 (another cancer marker) tests – and I underwent genetic testing to determine how advanced my cancer was. A better understanding of how my genes contribute to cancer.
I continue to receive chemotherapy every two weeks, although I switched to another chemotherapy drug because I had unpleasant side effects with the first type, and the cancer in my liver and lungs was not responding to this treatment. My doctors told me that the chemotherapy would eventually stop working because my condition was in its terminal stages. I am not eligible for surgery, as my cancer has spread too deeply, but I am continuing to research surgical options along with new treatments and clinical trials that I can participate in. My chance of survival two years after diagnosis was 20%. After five years, that percentage drops to 5%, but I am determined to beat the odds.
(Tags for translation)colon