My Cancer Story: From Unsuspicious Symptoms to an Oncology Support Group


At first, I thought I had hemorrhoids, but ended up eventually being diagnosed with anal cancer.

doctor writing on clipboard and talking to patient

In January 2007 I was having trouble with constipation. I wasn't experiencing any pain at the time, so I just thought I was constipated. I took laxatives, but the problem continued.

By February I was experiencing some bleeding, especially during bowel movements, so I thought I developed hemorrhoids. I have diabetes and every three months I go to my primary for blood work. In March I went for my blood work and mentioned to my doctor’s assistant that I thought I had hemorrhoids with a little bit of bleeding. She suggested I try some over-the-counter preparations and let them know how that worked and I did. However, around April I started having pain that at first would come and go. I became concerned but didn't mention it.

The constipation and bleeding weren’t improving; in fact, they were getting worse. Now it's the end of May and I'm due for my usual blood work. This time I mentioned the bleeding hemorrhoids and the assistant again made notes in my file and said that she would let the doctor know. They drew blood and sent me on my way.

About a week later, the bleeding started getting worse and now the pain was constant. I would wear pads because I was bleeding at odd times — not just when I went to the bathroom. One day I went to lunch with my boss and started bleeding uncontrollably. I bled so much that it scared me. I called the doctor as soon as possible and explained that this time there was a whole lot of bleeding. She had me come in the next day.

When my doctor took a look, she was shocked. She immediately called a surgeon whose office was downstairs. I went directly to him, and he took a look and said that I definitely did not have hemorrhoids and that I needed a biopsy to see what exactly it was.

At the end of July, I received the official diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma of the anal canal.

In August of 2007 I began treatment: two rounds of chemo (5FU and mitomycin for 96 hours straight) and seven weeks of radiation. I finished the last week of September. I had three biopsies from October 2007 to March 2008. On March 28, 2008, I found out that I had a recurrence. To make matters worse, my brother passed away on April 5.

I started treatment for my recurrence in June 2008. This time it would be 14 days of radiation twice a day and four rounds of chemo (5FU, cisplatin and mitomycin). That's four weeks, or one week per round. When I have chemo, I'm in the hospital for about four to five days. Then I'm sick for about just as long before I can go back to work. I have about three weeks between each round.

I completed all four rounds of chemo after the first week of September 2008. I had to have biopsies every three months to make sure it was gone.

In November, I was NED (no evidence of disease) for the second time. I remain cancer free.

After my experience I decided to help other by creating an anal cancer support group on Facebook in 2009. I had trouble finding a place to talk to others who had the same type of cancer as me and I felt alone going through treatments because other groups just didn’t experience anything that I was experiencing. Cancer treatment is very difficult, and no one should feel alone during treatments. The group has been a place where others who have the same diagnosis can gather and share experiences and comfort each other through treatments.

This post was written and submitted by Maria Lyn Barr. The article reflects the views of Maria Lyn Barr and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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