Get inspired by these 4 brave women who are battling the condition that is expected to hit an alarming 47,000 women this year.
The common misconception is that colon cancer is a condition that can affect men who are older than 50 years of age. Colonoscopies are usually recommended only for adults who are over 50 and research shows that women are at as much risk as men. Colon cancer is the cancer of the large intestine and when not countered it can affect the lower parts of the digestive system and cause rectal cancer. Most colon cancer cases begin as benign clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps which over time metastasize into colon cancer. Polyps are tiny and few in number and may or may not come with symptoms which is why doctors recommend regular screenings to detect them and prevent colon cancer.
A study published in the journal JAMA Surgery found that an alarming number of men and women between the ages of 20 to 49 are contracting colon cancer. The study also estimates that the number of instances of the condition among women aged 20 to 34 will increase by a shocking 90 percent by 2030. The study concluded that more research is required to pin the exact cause for this alarming number.
Womenshealthmag reached out to the Colon Cancer Alliance and interviewed four women who’ve been battling the disease and published their inspiring stories as a way to spread awareness for the condition. Here are their stories.
Fawn Lofton, diagnosed at age 28
Fawn was a personal trainer and fitness expert and in late 2010, she felt a bulge in her lower abdomen. At the same time, she had frequent bouts of irregular bowel syndrome and bloating. An appointment with her healthcare specialist found that in addition to being anemic, she had extremely low levels of protein in her body, which was bizarre considering she took protein after her workouts. Her doctors were surprised that she was training other people when people who had this level of anemia could usually not even climb a flight of stairs.
Fawn was diagnosed with stage IIA colon cancer and surgery following the diagnosis extracted 12 centimeters of her colon along with 47 lymph nodes. Luckily, the cancer had not metastasized and she didn’t need chemotherapy.
Four months after her surgery, Fawn was back into her fitness schedule and even began training her clients. The surgery left a visible scar on her body which she now wears proudly. Being extremely active, she dived right back into her routine of healthy foods, although some foods that would upset her system initially took a while to be reintroduced into her lifestyle. It took her a few months and a lot of perseverance but Fawn is now back to her normal routine and even teaches about 10 fitness classes every week in addition to training clients individually.
Candace Henley, diagnosed at age 36
47-year-old Candace had serious stomach issues about six months before her diagnosis. After resorting to several treatments to relieve her constipation, she was misdiagnosed with uterus and ovarian cancer. She had surgeries to remove both before doctors found that she was losing a lot of blood from her rectum and stools and finally diagnosed that she had stage IIB colon cancer. Another surgery followed where 95 percent of her colon was removed and this was followed by a round of radiation.
Being the mother of five daughters, Candace struggled through a lot of financial and emotional trouble. She was a bus driver before the surgeries and being asked to go back to work was improbable because of potential bathroom accidents. With no other positions available to work in, she was forced to quit. Not being able to afford the mortgage on their home, the family had to move in with a friend.
The radiation therapy may have caused COPD, and she continues to struggle with the aftermath of the cancer while trying to become steady financially. In the midst of all this, Candace continues to raise awareness about colon cancer among the lower income African-American communities. She has successfully started an event called Blue Hat Bow Tie Sunday, which now runs its fifth year, and raises awareness about the condition at the place where most lower income people turn to when they have health issues- the church. She hopes to turn the event into a foundation soon.
Grace De La Rosa, diagnosed at age 38
48-year-old Florida resident Grace is a former fitness competitor and model. She consulted her doctor when she realized that she was not able to pull through a regular workout and was feeling drained all the time. When she couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs without stopping to catch her breath, she figured something was seriously wrong. Abdominal cramping and blood in her stools was a regular feature and doctors diagnosed a golf-sized tumor in her colon, following which she had surgery and half a year of chemotherapy.
Post-surgery, she gained 50 pounds but was slowly starting to do physical exercises and feel like herself again. Years later, she still deals with notably peripheral neuropathy which is nerve damage to the hands and feet. She also has degenerative arthritis in her hip, neck and back. But, this hasn’t stopped her from sharing her voice and raising awareness about colon cancer through public speaking.
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