My name is Linda Wilkins and I am 74 years young today fifteen years later, in no small measure because of the help I received from CCRAN.
I was diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal cancer in August 2005. I had surgery the following November to remove the primary tumour along with about 75 percent of my colon, followed by a full round of chemotherapy. Then in March of the following year I had an operation to remove a metastasis in my right lung, followed by more chemo. It was then discovered that I had an ‘inoperable’ tumour on the right side of my chest wall and although we tried a round of radiation and more chemo I was told by my oncologist that I would be considered palliative.
Until this point I was not made aware of the CCRAN support group that had recently been formed in 2006. I was just accepting the doctor’s prognosis verbatim. Luckily, I overheard a gentleman talking in the clinic about the CCRAN information/support group and of his personal treatment. So, I asked him a few questions and he advised me to come to a meeting the following Sunday.
At the CCRAN monthly meetings each of us talk about our individual situations and then we exchange ideas of how to help each other with our struggles and speak to our successes as well. The group leader, Filomena, brings a wealth of research information to each meeting and brings us up-to-date and explains in detail the latest findings. We come away empowered with more and more knowledge each time.
And that is where my cancer journey got on the right track. I learned so much from that point on and never looked back. I did get the Avastin treatment in Buffalo (which is readily available today) and then I was able to get the ‘inoperable’ operation at Toronto General Hospital with Filomena’s referral to the right thoracic surgeon.
It is now eleven years later and I am still ‘No Evidence of Disease’. Perhaps I am the exception, but I learned that the most important lesson here is to be your own advocate and I pass it along to anyone who will listen, thanks to CCRAN and the invaluable support they offered me.