‘Closed for COVID-19:’ Receiving a Cancer Diagnosis at the Start of COVID-19

Advocacy Groups | <b>Fight Colorectal Cancer</b>

A stage 3 colorectal cancer survivor shares her story of being diagnosed right before the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Fight Colorectal Cancer Ambassador, Yla Flores

For many people, 2020 was the year of COVID-19. For me, 2020 was the year I was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.

My story started when my doctor recommended Cologuard for colorectal cancer screening so that I wouldn’t need to go under for a colonoscopy. I sent off the test a few days after my appointment.

Four days later, I received a call from my doctor's office that the test results were positive. My whole world felt like it had started to spin out of control. All I could think was, “What is happening to me?”

I immediately started to Google information on the Cologuard test. I found that the numbers were high for false positives, so I brushed it off and set up my appointment for the colonoscopy. On the day of the colonoscopy, my friends drove me for support since it was my first colonoscopy and my first time under anesthesia.

I woke up to the doctor saying, “Hey, I am really happy you brought your support system.” In my mind, I was thinking, “What does that mean?” The doctor proceeded to tell me that she believed I have cancer and I had a tumor that needed to be removed.

My cancer diagnosis happened on March 18, 2020, when the nation began to shut down. I was her last colonoscopy before they closed due to COVID-19.

A few days later was the next step: a CT scan. As I was leaving, they were locking their doors and hanging a sign that said, “Closed for COVID-19.”

I thank God I received the care and support I needed during this difficult time. I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer at 54 years old. Within a week, I was in surgery. After surgery, I had six months of chemo.

There is a song by Toby Mac that is titled “Move.” It was one of my theme songs throughout my cancer journey. That song, and those around me, are what kept me going. I needed to fight, so I kept moving.

Today, I believe I am on a path of healing. I am passionate about raising awareness for colorectal cancer screening because I had zero symptoms. People are getting diagnosed younger and younger. It's insane what's happening. They say that heart conditions are a silent killer, but colon cancer is also a silent killer. Some people do have symptoms, but many don't, or the symptoms can be masked with another condition. I am so happy to be a Fight CRC Ambassador to share my story in my community and nationally. I am so happy I sent in my screening test and got the follow-up colonoscopy. I am happy to be here advocating with the hopes of helping save others’ lives.

Colon cancer and rectal cancer can be prevented with screening. Screening can also detect colorectal cancer early – when it’s most curable. Learn more at FightCRC.org/screening.

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