I can remember the exact moment the call came. I was in my sorority house bedroom my junior year of college when I found out my mom had colon cancer. The details were hazy, because my mom was always hazy with details of her cancer, but I knew she would have surgery that hopefully would go well enough that she wouldn’t have to poop in a bag for the rest of her life. That was it. She said it was good that they caught it and good that they could get rid of it.
It was and they did. She had surgery and while her life was never quite the same again, she was cancer (and poop bag) free for eight more years.
I am thankful every day for those eight years. I am thankful every day that she went to doctors at the right time instead of stubbornly ignoring or justifying symptoms. I am thankful she pushed aside her fear of the tests and drank the yucky white stuff and went anyway. I am thankful every day for the doctors and surgeons who cut that nasty stuff right out of her and managed to save enough good stuff to give her a life worth living. I am thankful for the researchers who continually came up with new ideas to keep the cancer at bay over the years. I am mostly thankful for the treatments available when it came back and she needed to live pain and misery free.
I could have lost my mom at 20. Instead, she was around to give me away at my wedding. She held my first baby and even spent a few months knowing my second. She talked, coached, cajoled and reprimanded me through so much in the ten years we got to keep her with us here on Earth. Each day was a gift.
Cancer eventually returned to take her from us. But I am forever grateful for the early detection and treatment that meant we got to keep her with us for ten extra years.
March is colorectal cancer awareness month. Sunday, the two babies who knew their Grandma will run with me as part of Team Toni in the Chris4Life Colorectal Cancer 5k in Washington, DC. We’ll raise money for the prevention and treatment tools that gave us so much of our mom’s/grandma’s life. Please consider colon cancer as one of the things necessary to prevent. Don’t be afraid of the test. Know the sypmptoms. Kick this cancer right in the ass. Literally.
Join Penn Medicine and the Abramson Cancer Center for a Twitter chat on Thursday, March 20 from Noon to 1 pm ET, #ColonCancerACC as we discuss colon cancer, prevention, and the factors that increase your risk. The panelists will include:
Timothy C. Hoops, MD, Director, Gastrointestinal Cancer Risk Evaluation Program at the Abramson Cancer Center
Gregory G. Ginsberg, MD, Director Endoscopic Services at Penn Medicine
Ursina Teitelbaum, MD, Medical Oncologist specializing in GI cancer at the Abramson Cancer Center
- Skandan Shanmugan, MD, Colon and Rectal Surgeon specialized in minimally invasive surgery for benign and malignant disease
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.