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Charlotte's Story - Cancer was Not in our Plans

Posted Apr 24 2013 12:36pm
On September 14, 2011, at the age of 35, I  was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. At the time of my diagnosis, my son Jack had just turned 4, my daughter Eleanor was 10 months old and my husband Rick and I had recently celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary. The surgery to remove the tumor that penetrated my colon wall occurred on October 7, 2011 and chemotherapy began right after Thanksgiving. It took a little over seven months to complete my 12 rounds of chemo. I completed the last round on July 17, 2012. All these dates will forever be a part of me and as memorable as the dates of my children's births and my wedding anniversary. 

But I have children.

From the moment I was told the results of my colonoscopy on September 14th, my thoughts went immediately to my children. In fact, when my GI doctor told me what he saw in my colon my response was, "But I have children."

My friends, neighbors and co-workers many times remarked  how hard it must be to have two small children to take care of while going through chemo. Honestly, I don't think I could have done it without them. They made me laugh, they distracted me, they kept me on track with the normal every-day happenings of life. They loved me and I fiercely loved them back. What more did I need, really?

In fact, without the birth of Eleanor, I may have ignored my symptoms. Eleanor was a big baby (almost 9 lbs). I attributed her  size and position as the cause of the blood in my stool.  After Eleanor's birth, the blood didn't go away. I attributed it to post-pregnancy issues.

I didn't have any pain.

When the symptoms didn't go away but started to get worse, I went to see my GI doctor. In April of 2011, I was  examined and it turned out I had hemorrhoids. I remember thinking that made sense because so many women have hemorrhoids post-pregnancy. But I thought it strange that I didn't have any pain. It was the absence of pain that kept me from seeking medical help. 

I didn't call my GI doctor.

When the hemorrhoid medicine didn't treat my symptoms, I didn't call my GI doctor to tell him because I figured that this was just normal for my body. I otherwise felt great and happily went along for a few more months until the GI symptoms became stranger and more worrisome - and yet I still had no pain.

In September of 2011, I finally went back to my GI doctor who immediately ordered a colonoscopy. My doctor said as soon as he inserted the scope, the tumor was right there - in the sigmoid colon. The sigmoid colon links the descending colon with the rectum. Since the tumor had penetrated the colon wall and positive lymph nodes were removed during surgery, chemo was inevitable and in my opinion, welcome. I wanted my body rid of all traces of cancer.

Cancer Free!
I am now a year and a half cancer free and feel like I am in the best shape of my life! Having been diagnosed with the deadly disease opened my eyes to the very real fact that I only get one chance to live. I only get this one body for this one life and I should take care of it the best way possible.

As soon as I regained my strength after finishing chemo, I went back to the gym. I proudly walked with my family in the Susan Cohan 8th Annual 5k Run and Family Walk in September of 2012. Currently I am in a running group with other survivors called Cancer to 5K with the Ulman Cancer Fund which will end with my running a 5k in June. I am also training for an Olympic Triathlon to be held in October of 2013. These are things I never would have dreamed of doing, but now I just can't wait to see what my body is capable of!
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