My Cancer Diagnosis Led Me to Discover a Family I Didn’t Know I Had

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

After being diagnosed with stage 2 colorectal cancer, I discovered that I had two sisters — and a family predisposition to cancer.

After experiencing extreme pain on my right side, I was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and lactose intolerance by my primary care physician. She prescribed me sodium bicarbonate, but the pain did not subside, so I asked for a referral for a colonoscopy.

Going into the colonoscopy, I was happy, joyful, waving at everyone and having a good time. Then when I came out, the doctor looked very sad and said, “I think you have a tumor.” In the moment, it felt like someone had sucker-punched me, and I immediately began to cry. The friend who took me to the colonoscopy was crying; the doctor was crying; and the nurses were crying. Because of the prep, I already had not eaten anything, so they were able to take me directly to get contrasts and scans.

I was diagnosed with stage 2 colorectal cancer. It had just permeated the colon wall, but it didn't touch any lymph nodes.

The Importance of Family Health History

When I was 12 years old, I found out I was adopted. I never knew my family’s health history. In January 2021, I sent my DNA to Ancestry.com. Shortly after, I had a match. It was my little sister. I later learned that I also have an older sister; they both knew each other but never knew I existed. Every day since then, I have learned more and more about my family. I discovered one of my cousins had stage 4 colorectal cancer. I now know colorectal cancer and breast cancer run in my family.

My biggest piece of advice for someone going through a cancer diagnosis is to have someone in your support system take notes when the doctor is talking. All I heard was “cancer” during the appointments, so when I got home, I read through the notes to learn more and get second opinions.

Find Your Tribe

It has been eight years since my diagnosis. I am just happy to be alive. My friend and I started something we call “booty call:” Every year of my survivorship, we do something in the community to raise awareness. In my first year of survivorship, the Health Department in Charles County brought in a 12-foot colon, and we had a community event to raise awareness.

In 2021, I was selected as a Fight Colorectal Cancer ambassador and attended training in Springfield, Missouri. In the past, I felt like I never fit in because I was only stage 2. But, after entering the Fight CRC office for the first time with my fellow ambassadors, I knew I had found my people. There were even some patients who were in active treatment and did not care that I was stage 2; cancer is cancer. This year, I am excited to be a Fight CRC Ambassador to raise awareness in my community and nationally.

It’s critical to know if anyone in your family has been diagnosed with cancer, what type, and at what age. Your risk increases depending on how closely related you are, and how old they were when they were diagnosed. Learn more at FightCRC.org/FamilyHistory.

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