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CATEGORIES [ SURVIVORSHIP, COLORECTAL CANCER ]

Growing old is empowering

BY SUZANNE LINDLEY | JULY 24, 2014

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Get up. Get ready. Go.

Life moved in a routine that was fast and furious before cancer. Time never allowed for moments to really stand still, free and easy, just to enjoy. We were too busy planning for the rest of our lives when colon cancer, like a thief in the night, stole our perceived certainty of the future. At 31, we put our dreams on hold. We mourned the fact that I would die. We slowed our pace and began to savor each day.

During this decade and a half of dancing with cancer, I have experienced a future that I once thought had been snatched by colon cancer. Instead, I've gladly joined the ranks of a growing population of long-term advanced cancer survivors. With increased cancer research and the development of new therapies (now 10 available for colon cancer where once there was only one) and treatments (like Cyberknife, RFA, SIR-Spheres and the list goes on), we are creating our own survival statistics. It hasn't happened overnight, but instead with the slow and steady ticking of the clock that culminates in so many rich experiences. Life and death, grief and joy, sadness and happiness, trial and tribulation. It's hard to reminisce these past 15 birthdays with cancer and to fully absorb all that has happened in this time. I barely remember life without cancer but know that many of my most treasured memories have been held more tight and dear because of it.

The age of time seems to tell only the number of years I have lived but little about the milestones and memories made along the way. Age shares not the number of cherished memories: together times picking blackberries, walking in the morning dew, of the heavenly smell of honeysuckle or the crunch of autumn leaves beneath our feet. It doesn't embody the milestones hastened by cancer or the rush to slow down and simply grab the muchness of now.

Aging in spite of cancer does, however, provide the wisdom that borrowed time is indeed a splendid gift. The need to "get up, get ready, and go" has long been forgotten; consciously replaced with the power of "holding fast, hugging often, and hoping always." Here I am, celebrating 47 years of life and feeling that growing old - if you consider 47 old - is empowering.

Suzanne Lindley has been living with metastatic colorectal cancer since 1998. She is the founder of YES! Beat Liver Tumors, an organization for individuals living with metastatic liver tumors, and an advocate for Fight Colorectal Cancer.

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CATEGORIES [ COLORECTAL CANCER ]

Increased screening leads to decrease in colorectal cancer

BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | MARCH 18, 2014

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A new report reveals that incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer have been drastically reduced in the past 10 years. The article, "Colorectal Cancer Statistics, 2014" was published in CA earlier this month and reveals that there has been a steady drop in incidence rates over the past decade, most notably in individuals age 65 and older.

In the late 40s and early 50s, colorectal cancer was the number one cause of cancer death in the United States. Lung cancer would eventually surpass it, but many other factors over the past several decades have helped drive down colorectal cancer rates and deaths, including improvements in diet and lifestyle, increased aspirin use, the widespread adoption of routine colorectal cancer screening and advances in treatment. Experts predict that mortality rates could drop by 50 percent by 2020.

While there is much good news regarding the drop in incidence and mortality, as we dive a little deeper into the data, there is still much that needs focus.

Racial and socioeconomic disparities still persist. Death from colorectal cancer in black men is still 50 percent higher than in whites. What's interesting is that this wasn't always the story: In the 1960s, risk of death from colorectal cancer was actually lower in blacks than whites. Around the 1970s and 80s, incidence of colorectal cancer in black men began increasing while rates in whites began to drop. This can be traced to adoption of routine screening, stage at diagnosis, social and environmental factors and possibly diet.

Colorectal cancer increased in adults younger than 50. Experts believe that changes in diet and lifestyle may be a contributing factor. Focusing on reducing obesity in this group could be key.

Understanding cancer statistics helps researchers track patterns, which in turn can help identify strategies to reduce cancer incidence and deaths. With these new numbers, we learn that while we're making progress, there is certainly reason to celebrate. However, we also discover that we have much work to do, including continuing to build on improving colorectal cancer screening rates, engaging individuals who are at risk, including racial and socioeconomic groups and those who are underinsured and uninsured. We also have to examine why those under 50 appear to be developing colorectal cancer at increasing rates. Do we lower the age of routine screening, focus on diet and lifestyle changes or promote awareness of other risk factors, such as Lynch Syndrome?

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CATEGORIES [ COLORECTAL CANCER ]

Fight Colorectal Cancer calls on Congress

BY SUZANNE LINDLEY | MARCH 18, 2014

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The depths of my senses are on edge. I hear the whipping wind outside my door while the sunshine pours through the window at my back. I have only to turn around in my seat to see the dust dancing in small clouds of gray across the yard while the blue sky kisses the back edge of the pasture. The horses are kicking up their hooves; enjoying a day of play in not hot weather, but just right temperatures. They circle the trees; first trotting then loping beyond my sight. Within this day filled with blue skies and sunshine there is more normalcy than I could have ever imagined this time 15 years ago, in great part due to the efforts of Fight Colorectal Cancer.

Back then, I was only months into a diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer and the world seemed to be falling apart at the seams. I don't even remember if there was such a Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Those were the days when coping with colon cancer was new, and I cried much more than I laughed. There was despair, anguish, anger and frustration. Questions and doubts hung heavily in the air. All that had seemed perfect just months before felt dangerously close to disappearing. I looked at my children and fell to pieces; not knowing how to hold on from one minute to the next. I would grab Ronnie's hand and cry with the realization that in old age it would probably not be me that was sharing his golden years. It took the help of old friends, my family and new friends to help me struggle through the fear and loneliness to slowly accepting the new normal that crept in and quickly encompassed every minute of each day.

How thankful I am for the army of goodwill that surrounded me...both from the spirit and warmth of organizations to the endless list of names that were rarely farther than a phone call away. Today, many of those angels are marching on Capitol Hill with Fight Colorectal Cancer. I'm usually there but spending time this year with my bubbly 6 year old who has just finished up her Spring Break. Although I'm not physically walking the Halls of Congress or personally knocking on the doors of my elected officials (Representative Hensarling, Senator Cruse and Senator Cornyn), I am making phone calls and sending letters.

This year, I'm proud to say that Fight Colorectal Cancer has made an even bigger impact than ever before at Call on Congress! The first two days advocates were briefed on important issues in colorectal cancer and learned how to communicate with legislators as well as hearing from experts across the United States who discussed research funding, emerging science and the current state of policies that impact colorectal cancer. Advocates around the country also helped to create Blue Star States across the nation!

Today is the biggest day of all, where advocates go to the Hill and visit their elected officials. They share their voices and empowering stories; ensuring the importance of colorectal cancer and establishing it as a national priority. It is here that my voice, your voice and the voices of those who may not even know about colorectal cancer are represented. It is because of these very special advocates that my children and your children may soon live in a world where colon cancer is a cancer of the past. To learn more about what advocates are accomplishing or to be a part of Call on Congress next year, visit www.FightColorectalCancer.org.

Preventable, Treatable, Beatable!!

Suzanne Lindley has been living with metastatic colorectal cancer since 1998. She is the founder of YES! Beat Liver Tumors, an organization for individuals living with metastatic liver tumors, and an advocate for Fight Colorectal Cancer.

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CATEGORIES [ COLORECTAL CANCER ]

Lynch Syndrome Awareness Day: March 22

BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | MARCH 18, 2014

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On March 22, communities around the world will recognize Lynch Syndrome Awareness Day. While some may scoff at the multitude of "awareness" events throughout the year, this may be one that could have wide-ranging benefits.

We've learned that this hereditary genetic mutation (LS), also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), may be the cause of a higher percentage of colorectal and other cancers than previously thought. Approximately 3 to 5 percent of all colorectal cancer cases can be traced back to LS. And it's estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 people in the U.S. may have LS, but only 5 percent are ultimately tested and diagnosed with the syndrome.

This year it seems especially fitting to recognize LS Awareness Day as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a group of 25 of the world's leading cancer centers, announced a recommendation at their annual meeting that nearly all patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer should be screened for LS. (There is an option to forego testing on patients older than 70 who do not have other risk factors.) The recommendation is included in the latest set of clinical guidelines issues by the NCCN. You can view the guidelines here, but access requires site registration, which is free.

Because people diagnosed with LS have an 83 percent chance of colorectal cancer, it's important that testing be done early so they can take advantage of preventive measures to reduce their risk of cancer, such as increased screening, surgery or chemoprevention drugs. LS can also greatly increase the risk of bladder, pancreatic, gastric, ovarian and other cancers. For patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, a confirmation of LS can help guide treatment, follow-up and surveillance for other cancers.

Lynch Syndrome International is keeping a running track of events around the world and the U.S. on its Facebook page to help spread the word. In response, the awareness of LS has brought about a conversation that could have as much impact as the "Katie Couric Effect" had on colorectal cancer screening.

A friend's husband was recently diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Barely 40 and a family history of the disease, my immediate thought was Lynch Syndrome. It's disappointing that LS screening wasn't a priority for all patients with CRC earlier, as he could have been more closely monitored for the disease and preventive actions could have been taken. But screening for LS may still benefit him through treatment and survivorship, as well as his children and other family members.

To help learn more about LS, several studies are underway, including this one from the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative. All patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer in Ohio will be screened for LS to help provide recommendations for high-risk individuals, as well as genetic counseling.

With a recent report out that routine screening and advances in treatment have significantly reduced colorectal cancer incidence and mortality, it seems that awareness and action for those with LS may be the next frontier.

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CATEGORIES [ COLORECTAL CANCER ]

Preventable, treatable and beatable!

BY SUZANNE LINDLEY | MARCH 17, 2014

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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and this year means I'm well into 15 years of living with stage 4 colon cancer. I'm amazed, more than ever, at the progress that has been made and continues to be made every day. Just a short decade ago colon, rectal and even colonoscopy were words whispered in a hushed tone hidden behind an open palm. It was a cancer that caused embarrassment and was definitely not a "sexy" cancer. There was no pretty pink or feminine qualities included. When I told people that it was what I had, most would look at me with shock or simply keep their lips pursed shut with a shake of their head.

The early months of my diagnosis were filled with fear and angst. Every treatment held dread and side effects were difficult. As I continued to live and grab the "muchness" of life at hand, we slowly started to LIVE again; learning to fully embrace the time that we were so fortunate to borrow.

Being diagnosed 19 years before I should have even needed a colonoscopy was a terrible shock. Even now, I'm still four years from that magical milestone of 50. Yet I've beaten the odds, having grasped the one and only treatment available at my initial diagnosis to literally "growing up" with each new discovery.

There are now multiple chemotherapy and biologic agents that I've benefited from including 5-FU, levamisole (no longer used), Leucovorin, Irinotecan (FOLFIRI), oxaliplatin (FOLFOX), Xeloda, Avastin, Erbitux, Vectibix, Stivarga, Zaltrap and clinical trials that offer even more agents around the corner. There have been targeted treatments as well that have helped to keep me alive including SIR-Spheres, radiofrequency ablation, external beam radiation, and CyberKnife.

I've also been fortunate to see what was once a diagnosis discussed as a death sentence become one that often can be downstaged to no evidence of disease or NED. There is an increased focus on treating metastatic (cancer that has spread) and the survivorship issues that are faced by those after treatment ends. I'm proud to say that I've been there for much of the advocacy and effort to help make that happen.

I've met countless survivors along my journey who were diagnosed in their late 20s and early 30s. Still others have either been diagnosed earlier in the disease process or have had access to treatment and care that I'm confident is due to the awareness that we've shouted from the rooftops.

As March continues to unfold, make colon cancer your priority. Know your family history. Share it among family members. Learn the warning signs and pay attention to them. They include:

> Blood in your stool or bleeding from your rectum
> Unexplained weight loss
> An ongoing bloated feeling, cramping, or pain in your abdomen
> Constant tiredness or weakness
> A change or alternating bowel habits - such as diarrhea, constipation or narrow stools
> Unexplained anemia
> Feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
> Jaundice (yellowish color of the skin and/or white part of the eye)

If you have symptoms, a family history or are 50 years of age or older please have a colonoscopy! It could save your life or the life of someone you love. Remember, colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable! Let's do it!

Suzanne Lindley has been living with metastatic colorectal cancer since 1998. She is the founder of YES! Beat Liver Tumors, an organization for individuals living with metastatic liver tumors, and an advocate for Fight Colorectal Cancer.

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CATEGORIES [ COLORECTAL CANCER ]

Wider biomarker testing warranted in colorectal cancer

BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | JANUARY 29, 2014

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When KRAS mutations were found to thwart a response to EGFR-targeted therapies, such as Erbitux (cetuximab) and Vectibix (panitumumab), it was a practice-changing discovery in colorectal cancer. (You can read more about colorectal cancer treatment and the use of personalized medicine in CURE here.) Research presented at an oncology meeting held earlier this month on additional mutations may result in yet another change in the way we treat colorectal cancer.

About 40 to 50 percent of colorectal cancers harbor mutations in a particular part of the KRAS gene called exon 2. (An exon is a genetic piece of information that codes for a protein. If the protein isn't coded correctly, it could turn on cancer growth.)

Researchers have learned that patients with colorectal cancer that contain a KRAS exon 2 mutation are not helped by EGFR-targeted therapies. The plus side is physicians can now test for this biomarker to identify these patients, shielding them from the toxicities and cost of a treatment that wouldn't work, and instead focus on other therapies, such as anti-angiogenic drugs.

Recent studies lend more evidence that it is not a single mutation that affects a tumor's response to Vectibix, but an even wider range of mutations.

A phase 3 study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's Gastrointestinal Symposium analyzed the response of metastatic colorectal cancers to second-line chemotherapy with or without the EGFR-targeting drug Vectibix. Tumors were analyzed for KRAS mutations in exons 1-4 and NRAS exons 1-4, collectively known as RAS mutations.

Although the majority of mutations were in KRAS exon 2, an additional 18 percent of tumors were found to harbor one of these other mutations. (You can view the abstract here.) Patients with these additional mutations, much like those patients with a KRAS exon 2 mutation, did not benefit from the addition of Vectibix.

In essence, a patient's tumor could test negative for the mutation in KRAS exon 2 and be prescribed Vectibix. However, if the tumor contains one of these other mutations, the treatment would still fail to work. While this study confirmed what researchers have seen in other studies in newly diagnosed advanced colorectal cancer, this was the first large study that showed a similar effect in second-line therapy.

"Based on all the data that we generated, it's clear that today we need RAS testing instead of KRAS exon 2 testing before embarking on an anti-EGFR treatment in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer," said lead researcher Marc Peeters, of Antwerp University Hospital in Belgium, as he concluded his presentation to other gastrointestinal oncologists at the meeting.

Experts expect that expanded RAS testing will soon become the standard of care in treating patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

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CATEGORIES [ LUNG CANCER, NEWS, COLORECTAL CANCER, BREAST CANCER ]

More bad news for smoking

BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | JANUARY 17, 2014

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It's been 50 years since the initial release of the Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health. This report provided a scientific basis for us to work toward reducing the public health impact of tobacco use. Since then, 30 additional Surgeon General reports on tobacco have been released.

Today's report, "The Health Consequences of Smoking--50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014," adds new evidence that smoking is bad for us, including that it increases the risk of liver cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Secondhand smoke increases the risk of stroke. The report notes that while the evidence is suggestive, it's insufficient to conclude breast cancer risk increases with smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. However, smoking increases the risk of cancer death. And in cancer survivors, it increases the risk of dying from other diseases.

Measures that have been put into place since that first report have more than halved smoking rates. The public's view on smoking has changed drastically. Strategies to reduce tobacco use have included smokefree laws, taxes on tobacco, smoking cessation aids and support and public awareness campaigns. Those measures continue to become more powerful and prevalent.

The report also notes the success of smoking cessation strategies, including nicotine replacement therapy, such as gums, patches, and even electronic cigarettes, which contain nicotine, but not tobacco. During the past few years, electronic cigarette use among current cigarette smokers increased from 9.8 percent to 21.2 percent. While it may be used by smokers in places that don't allow tobacco smoking, I think it's safe to say some current smokers are using the tool as a cessation device. But is it working? Opponents consider it a "gate-way drug" to tobacco use and another marketing tactic by tobacco companies to get people hooked on nictotine, but its use in cessation should be explored. Studies to examine health implications are also needed.

The report also contains a consumer booklet, "Let's Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free," which aims to helps parents talk to their children about tobacco use.

You can read the full report here.

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CATEGORIES [ DIAGNOSIS, SURVIVORSHIP, COLORECTAL CANCER ]

24 Lessons to help savor the joy and heartbreak of life with cancer

BY SUZANNE LINDLEY | NOVEMBER 27, 2013

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"Life is a series of disastrous moments, painful moments, unexpected moments, and things that will break your heart. In between those moments: that is when you savor, savor, savor." ~Sandra Bullock

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am pulling from the thoughts of Sandra Bullock because life this year has been a series of all these challenges and more. Yet, it has given way to much celebration. There has been disaster in ways that are hard to describe, the pain of my mom's cancer diagnosis and the fear that ensued, the unexpected blessing of stable scans for myself, and heartbreaking loss of friends that were dear.

Life can, and has, thrown some difficult hurdles in my direction. However, there has been a cadence to the way life works and it has been in the breathtaking moments when the world should stand still, with little or no control, that I have felt unknown strength and abundant blessings.

Most of these blessings that I so gratefully enjoy include the muchness of family, special milestones and everyday magic. These days are relished because of the treatments and medical team that have worked so hard to keep me here...and this year to even give me a new smile. I cherish my friendships, too, for it has often been the simple touch, cyber hug or powerful thought that has given me the courage and hope to move forward. So, as I savor the "cancer calm" in the storm of stable tumors, these are some of the lessons for which I am forever grateful.

1. "Love is the answer." Jane and AJ Ali

2. "You are where you want to be." Loretta Baker

3. "Life is a treasure chest. What is your treasure today?" Leon Davis

4. "The bumble bee isn't supposed to be able to fly, and you aren't supposed to survive. But the bumble bee flies and you WILL survive." Jean DiCarlo Wagner

5. "Take a deep breath." Jean DiCarlo Wagner

6. "Hope is dope!" Snoop Dog

7. "Instead of thinking "it could be worse," remember "it can get better!" Desiree Gray

8. "Everyone is terminal; no one more and no one less." Gordon Gwosdow

9. "The footprints of friends will carry you and you have one very special angel watching over you." Russ Howard

10. "Oh Happy Day!" Bonita Jones

11. "Cherish the golden gossamer threads of life." Shirley Laverne

12. "We can make it to the top. We are angels!" Kevin Lebret-White

13. "We are here for each other through good and bad." Vicki Lehman

14. "No one can take away your ability to have hope." Keith Lyons

15. "Life doesn't happen around you, it happens between your own two ears." Keith Lyons

16. "Life is the most precious thing we have." Dalia MacPhee

17. "Hold fast and shine brightly." Brian McLeod

18. "Life is fabulous!" Erica Paul

19. "Talk doesn't cook rice." An old Chinese proverb I first heard from Nancy Roach

20. "If you go outside the box and open up yourself to new experiences, joy is there for the taking." Pam Schmid

21. "We have been blessed to know things others don't yet understand, and our challenge is a great one: We understand our mortality, and we revel in the blessing of every breath we draw and every day we see. Our job is to bring a little heaven to earth, in the form of faith and love." Tony Snow

22. "It's all about hope." Tami Thennis

23. "Find some hope." Shelly Weiler

24. Last but not least, Ronnie Lindley: "It will be OK!"

I am humbled by the rhythm of life; how it ebbs and flows. I am thankful for ALL of you that walk with me through the tragedies and triumphs of each day. You are treasured souls who have shown me that beauty often lies in the midst of struggle. You have helped me to strengthen my resolve. So as you enjoy the days and weeks to come with family and friends, however and wherever that may be; know that I am grateful for you. Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours.

And with the words of Sandra Bullock, "Savor, savor, savor!"

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CATEGORIES [ COLORECTAL CANCER ]

Remembering Kevin

BY SUZANNE LINDLEY | OCTOBER 2, 2013

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This blog is almost too painful to write; it is one that is full of friendship and wonderful memories, of hope and inspiration, but that also ends in the deep sorrow of loss. Colon cancer brought our friendship together and has now torn it apart. If you read this, please know that colon cancer is preventable. Know your family history, learn about the warning signs; get a colonoscopy.

Four years ... they drag by and speed away like only time has a way of doing. I've met a lot of friends in that time and experienced a lot of wonder. I've also lost friends, too, and felt the emptiness and heartache that ensues for the days, weeks and months afterward. In living fully with metastatic cancer, I've tried to keep the reality of mortality in check and at the same time tucked in the shadow of living.

I met Jennifer Lebret-White four years ago through Imerman Angels and from there our friendship blossomed. Our first phone conversation was one that I will never forget. Her strength was evident as she talked about her husband, Kevin, and his already six-year-long battle with stage 4 colon cancer. She proudly described their two young daughters.

I immediately was taken back to my own diagnosis and the fear of not watching my daughters grow up. Not long after, I started emailing and talking to Kevin, too, and he quickly became MY angel. I knew how lucky I was to have these two angels as friends. Kevin had been a tough marine turned elementary school teacher. Both personas were exemplified in his cancer fight, and when we talked I often heard the tough and determined mixed with the gentle and caring. We met for the first time on Texas soil just before a Dallas Cowboys football game in late 2010. The Cowboys were a mutual infatuation for us even though Kevin lived in Washington!

Months later he and Jen came to The Liver Symposium in Dallas and we rode in NASCARs side by side. I remember looking out the speeding car window and the grin on his face as his car surged slightly ahead of mine. We later found roses that were left behind from a wedding and together we used the petals to write HOPE across the hotel lawn. We talked about life, our kids, the burden we were placing on our spouses, our love and admiration for them, our hopes, plans, dreams, goals and even our deaths. I told him I hoped to know when to let go and how to die peacefully. He told me he wanted to go out fighting. We both agreed that neither of us wanted it to happen any time soon.

In February 2011, we marched the halls of Capitol Hill together and he and Jen wrote HOPE in the Capitol sand. When we held a liver seminar in Spokane later that same year, his representative's legislative assistant was there to welcome the crowd. We visited the river where Kevin canoed, and I marveled at the daring adventure that would be. Then we walked quietly through the park, and I snapped pictures as Kevin, Jen and the girls wrote HOPE in the playground sand. Life seemed so right.

Then just before Christmas, Jen called to tell me he had been admitted to the hospital and had an infection. He was sick; very sick. She was told he wouldn't make it to see Christmas. He did. And he made it clear that no one should make predictions about his life expectancy ever again. He rallied. He inspired.

I got to see both Kevin and Jen in Colorado for another liver cancer seminar and then as the summer of 2012 dawned, Kevin was making his way through Texas for Cowboys training camp. We met him in San Antonio and he came camping with my family. We climbed to the top of Ol' Baldy and put cancer firmly in it's place; writing HOPE in rocks on the mountaintop. Kevin came home with us and joined in the chaotic comforts of our home. He wasn't feeling well by the end of the trip and was fatigued and chilled. He was admitted to the hospital as soon as he returned home. Again, he rallied back.

Just this past February he flew to New York City and modeled during NYC Fashion Week. He shared his story and rocked the house. He also made even more new friends and touched the hearts of everyone he met. We took pictures along the streets of New York. He went with friends to Ground Zero.

We talked about the next time we would meet and as his tumors quickly became more aggressive, there was a great deal of hope put into that plan. Time became more precious. I kept hoping; believing that once again Kevin would rally back and even as Jen shared that times were getting tough, I believed that once again he would be OK. I wanted to believe that. Perhaps I needed to believe that. I was sure he would make it through Christmas.

We shared sporadic IM's through AOL. Sometimes I couldn't understand them. Sometimes they seemed all right. Jen messaged a few times that he was awake and that I could call. I tried to capture his voice in my memory, afraid that each time we talked it might be the last. I ended every conversation with "I love you" and our last phone call was no different. How fortunate to have Kevin and his family in my life... four amazing, incredible years of friendship.

Kevin died September 11, 2013 at 9:11 a.m. He leaves behind his beautiful wife, Jen, their two adorable daughters, Natalie and Hailey, loving family members and an army of friends around the globe.

Suzanne Lindley has been living with metastatic colorectal cancer since 1998. She is the founder of YES! Beat Liver Tumors, an organization for individuals living with metastatic liver tumors, and an advocate for Fight Colorectal Cancer.

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CATEGORIES [ SURVIVORSHIP, COLORECTAL CANCER ]

My 15-Year Cancerversary

BY SUZANNE LINDLEY | SEPTEMBER 17, 2013

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Fifteen precarious, yet wondrous, years have passed since my diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer. Today marks a decade and a half of triumphs that have woven their way through the trials and tribulations of living with cancer. While this insidious disease unraveled the spool of time, life and family somehow managed to spin continuously forward. Our older daughters magically grew into adulthood and our youngest transformed into a kindergartner. Ronnie and I have become an integral part of each other, seemingly inhaling and exhaling in unison.

The early years of cancer were defined by struggle and fear, the beginning of treatment, the reality of my impending mortality. Every minute became precious. As the plethora of research and new treatments added to my longevity; goals were reached and new dreams added. One available chemotherapy treatment morphed into eight more. Add in a few clinical trials, routine scans, a bit of radiation, several targeted therapies and somehow, despite the terrible odds, we survived.

Because of these years with cancer our lives opened up to often unimaginable opportunities...to time that was not thought possible when I was first diagnosed. Days turned into weeks, then months, and years of savoring time, fulfilling dreams, treasuring family, and embracing hope. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, vacations, and even the dawn of another day are cherished.

Cancer has given us the opportunity to hold tight this marvelous life with enhanced senses...that only those of us living with the reality of finality know and understand--that is the blessing and the curse of cancer!

Through trying times, challenging decisions and moments filled with fear we have prevailed. This past year, I've told my story time and again. From Texas to New York, from the halls of Congress to the red carpet of the Emmys, I've shared that it is possible to live fully in spite of terminal cancer. I've made new friends, cherished old friends and lost dear friends. I've watched proudly as Katie opened her business, cheered loudly as Karlie started her last year of college, and shed tears of joy as I walked Chloe into kindergarten. I've held Ronnie's hand a little tighter and taken full advantage of the wonderful gift of NOW.

The words of Tony Snow have never held more truth:

"The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise."

As my anniversary comes to a close, I am grateful for another day of celebration. My wish for you and yours is the stomach churning, leaping heart feeling of wisdom and joy that is held within every heartbeat.May you realize that every day is a special day. Celebrate today!

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