My life changed forever when, 8 years ago, at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. At the time, I was a busy working mom of three little ones and my first thought was, I’ll have to get this sorted out right away, I have far too much on my plate for this to be happening. Then, as the reality of my diagnosis started sinking in, I realized that it wasn’t going to be as easy as that…
I had not one but two tumors, and while the initial plan of attack was surgery and then chemo if needed, it quickly got much more complicated after an MRI determined there may be lymph nodes impacted as well. My surgeon, Dr. Peter Stotland, referred me to the team at the Odette Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook and I quickly began 6 weeks of daily radiation and oral chemotherapy to shrink the tumors in order to be able to safely remove them and to also treat the possibly affected lymph nodes. I then had laparoscopic surgery to remove 40% of my colon. I was very lucky, my results were very favourable, with no spread and clean margins. I underwent 5 months of adjuvant chemo as an ‘insurance policy’ and made sure to do all I could physically, mentally, and spiritually to heal myself.
It was around the time that I started the adjuvant chemo that I met Filomena at CCRAN. My husband met someone who had recently lost his wife to colorectal cancer, and he put us in touch with Filomena. In my case, while much of my treatment plan was decided before meeting her, Filomena’s support in my continuing journey has been a God sent.
Oftentimes, an individual’s journey doesn’t end with the last treatment… there are follow up appointments and tests where new – hopefully benign – issues may be discovered. Having Filomena’s support has truly helped me navigate these frightening situations. While having access to exceptional medical staff is crucial to a patient’s care, having an Advocate who will listen to your fears, work through your results with you and ensure you are receiving the attention you need is truly invaluable.
When I look back on my journey, I feel truly blessed with my outcome and I am so very appreciative of the ongoing support system I have in CCRAN and Filomena specifically. It is my hope that anyone diagnosed with colorectal cancer is given an opportunity as early on as possible to connect with CCRAN and benefit from all they have to offer – it may very well save their life.