“You have colon cancer. We need to remove the entire colon. It’s metastasized to your liver – stage four – incurable.”
I had routine screenings, I exercised, ate healthy all my life, so I educated myself as to how this could have happened to me. But I was in shock from having heard those words – stage IV! So, I decided to have a pity day from which I could not rise. My husband decided to seek out a colorectal cancer information/support group hosted by Colorectal Cancer Resource & Action Network (CCRAN).
Within the hour of sending an email, I heard back from Filomena, who heads up the group. She provided her phone number, told me to call her anytime and invited us to the monthly Colorectal Cancer Information/Support Group meeting the next day. My husband (Jeff) and I attended, listened to the stories of others and then told our story. I explained how two doctors had agreed I needed my entire colon removed because of the risk of secondary cancer. I disagreed. Filomena was reassuring, compassionate and asked if I was interested in a third opinion. That is when we learned Filomena was also a lightning bolt of action.
Within a week, we met Dr. Shady Ashamalla – Colorectal Cancer Surgical Oncologist at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre. After a thorough review of my history and medical records, he didn’t think a complete colon removal was necessary. He recommended chemotherapy, a colon resection – removing just the impacted area, and a liver resection. This offered the possibility of as little change to my lifestyle as possible. This was the right solution for me. This was hope.
I had five sessions of chemo and then a surgical date where both the colon and liver were resected during the same procedure. My recovery was faster than expected and now, four months later, I feel like my former self. There were many emotional bumps along the way where I found myself losing hope. In those moments Filomena would show up to keep me on track. I don’t usually open up easily to new people much less give them influence over my decisions, but her inspiration was critical to keeping me focused, solution-driven, and hopeful.
Since that time, I was also diagnosed with a recurrent nodule in my lungs and a potential recurrence in my abdomen. CCRAN saw to it that I obtained a pet/ct to ensure that timely treatment would be initiated to address this disease as well as recommended the best thoracic surgical oncologist with whom to consult over the lung nodules.
I am not cured but I am living my best life and will continue to as long as possible. I am also hopeful and when I am not, I know CCRAN will be there to set me straight. It isn’t an easy path but with the right people there to guide and support you, the path is easier to walk. Please call CCRAN. I did. It was the best decision I made.