My first memory of cancer as being something bad was when my grandfather died of the disease when I was three. When I got a little older, I learned he died of colon cancer, and he was only in his mid-fifties. When I was in my early thirties, I began working for cancer charities, focusing on raising money for cancer research and patient support services. I continued working in that field until my diagnosis in 2019.
I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, one month shy of my 43rd birthday. I had a 14cm mass in my sigmoid, zero lymph node involvement and 1 small metastasis on my liver. The sigmoid mass was removed with clear margins and the liver met was resolved with 6 months of chemo (CAPOX). It’s been a little over a year since my last treatment and I’m currently considered ‘NED’ or in remission.
Born in the USA to Canadian and British gypsy parents, I’ve always enjoyed travelling and experiencing new cultures. Of all the places I’ve been, India, Jordan and Argentina were my top three! I did most of my travelling while I was living in downtown Vancouver and had easy SkyTrain access to YVR. Getting to another country was pretty simple back then! In 2016 I moved from Vancouver to the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, bought a fixer upper and changed my focus from travelling to building a home.
Before my diagnosis, I was very active. I enjoyed running on the seawall, hiking on the North Shore, playing field hockey with the Meralomas, and mountain biking all around the lower mainland. Now I spend most of my time helping my husband with DIY projects around the house, gardening, doing short hikes close to home and getting out on a mountain bike when my bowels are feeling like they’re going to cooperate. Fatigue is also still an issue for me but bowel cooperation is definitely the biggest issue. I was fortunate to not require “a bag” but losing 20cm of large intestine and my entire sigmoid (the holding tank) makes the bathroom situation a significant challenge.
Despite it being widely known that there is no cure for cancer, sometimes I think the average person loses sight of that fact. It is possible for my cancer to never come back, but the reality is, 86% of the people who receive the same diagnosis that I did, will die within 5 years.
Since my diagnosis, what I’ve learned from Filomena and the wonderful members of the CCRAN support group, is that while it’s important to lead a healthy lifestyle and to learn as much as we can about our disease, there really are no guarantees. So for now, I just focus on living a good life and being prepared for but not worrying about the possibility of having to deal with cancer again in the future. A wise friend once told me, whatever it is, you can handle it. I try to remind myself of that when I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all.