Today’s guest blog comes to us from Sabrina Register, a longtime supporter of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA). Just a few months ago, Ms. Register had no idea March was National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. But today, she understands first-hand how critically important it is to raise awareness about colorectal cancer and take action toward prevention.
I’m 51 years young, eat well and exercise regularly, typically walking or running up to 5 miles a day. I feel great, which is why I was stunned to learn from my doctor that I have early-stage colon cancer. While no one wants to hear a cancer diagnosis, I feel extremely lucky. My doctor discovered the cancer during my first colonoscopy. Had I not had the procedure, I could be looking at a very different diagnosis and treatment plan.
When I turned 50, I began receiving reminder emails to get a colonoscopy. I knew I was due for the routine procedure and had every intention of getting it done but a couple of work events plus a planned European trip meant that I didn’t get around to scheduling the procedure until 9 months later. Because of the holidays, I finally got my colonoscopy scheduled a month after I turned 51.
Anyone who has had a colonoscopy done knows that the prep prior to the colonoscopy is worse than the actual procedure. The colonic drink tastes terrible and leaves you bloated but it gets the job done.
After a colonoscopy, a patient is normally sent home and a doctor follows up with any lab results. After my procedure, I woke up to find out the doctor wanted to speak with me. Since I had been sedated, a loved one joined me to hear what the doctor had to say: during the procedure, she found a two inch suspicious mass that needed to be removed as soon as possible.
With no history of colon cancer in my family, the news took me on a journey of discovery: to learn about the disease and why doctors label it ‘a silent cancer’, to understand survival rates when the cancer is detected early, and to hear from friends about family experiences with colon cancer.
While biopsy results came back benign and a CAT scan showed no detectable cancer in my pelvis, abdomen or chest, my doctor and consulting surgeon still thought the mass was a slow-growing cancer that needed to be removed as soon as possible.
Last week, my surgeon performed a Sigmoid Colectomy, where he removed the mass and part of my colon, then sewed back together my remaining colon. Unlike the biopsy results, pathology results on the mass, called tubular adenoma, revealed early-stage cancer.
My recovery has gone well and I am hopeful my surgery means the end of the line for my cancer. I’m grateful to my medical team for the expertise and care they have provided. I’m also thankful I followed through on getting my first colonoscopy. There’s a reason doctors urge people 50 and over get the procedure done: early detection saves lives, and I’m proof.