Colon Cancer Survivor, Advocate and Public Speaker

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Grace De La Rosa - Colon Cancer Journal    

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Spread the word. Give hope. Save Lives.

Most people think that colon cancer is just an old man's disease, perhaps because medical guidelines recommend regular screening beginning at the age of 50. But the truth is, this disease doesn't discriminate in age, gender or race. I'm living proof.

I was 38 when I was diagnosed with Stage 3(c) colon cancer. My colon cancer treatments included a left hemicolectomy--major surgery to remove the golfball-sized cancerous tumor obstructing my colon; two minor surgeries to insert and later remove a venous catheter and port below my right shoulder so I wouldn't have to get pricked in a hard-to-find, rolling vein at every chemo session; and FOLFOX chemotherapy for 3 consecutive days, every other week, for six months. Thankfully, I didn't need radiation.

I have no family history of any type of cancer. I'm a veteran Navy pilot's wife, mother of two, who were 14 and 3 at the time. I was a swimwear model, fitness instructor and fitness competitor. I worked out religiously and ate healthy foods. So when I heard the words, You Have Cancer, I was shocked because I took care of myself inside and out.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women combined in the U.S. But it's also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers--if it's caught early.

In Duval County alone, the incidence and death rates are 46.7 and 17.2 per 100,000 according to Northeast Florida Counts' latest statistics from 2010.

Nobody likes to talk about colon cancer, because talking about the symptoms associated with this disease can be humiliating to discuss with anyone, even your own doctor. But we're talking about a matter of life and death. As a survivor, I believes it's my duty to tell you about the symptoms I experienced so that you can be empowered with knowledge about this disease.

My symptoms were all clear in hindsight. They included unexplained anemia. I was first diagnosed when I was 18 with "borderline anemia" and again after the birth of each of my children. I was given iron pills and sent home. I also experienced fatigue to the point where I couldn't climb a flight of stairs without having to stop midway to catch my breath.

I experienced abdominal cramps which I thought were menstrual-related. And I noticed a tiny speck of blood once when I wiped. It never happened again, so I chalked it up to a spotty menstrual cycle or hemorrhoids which I never experienced.

It's natural to pass gas--yes, even women do it! Just a few months prior to my cancer diagnosis, I noticed the odor was abnormally foul, as if something was dying inside of me. I simply assumed it was something I ate.

If there's one thing I'd like for you to take away from my story, it's this: Don't ignore symptoms that aren't "normal" for you. Your doctor may be a medical expert, but you are the expert of your own body. Trust your gut. Be proactive in your health care. Know the symptoms and risk factors of colon cancer. Visit your doctor--especially if you have a family history of cancer--and request a screening, even if you're under 50. It could save your life.

Oftentimes, when someone survives a major life-changing event, it's no surprise for them to express gratitude for a second chance at living life with a renewed sense of self and a better understanding of meaningful priorities. I am no exception.

Click on a link to the right to start reading my online journal entries.

Journal Entries and Resources

  • 2005: I Have Colon Cancer

  • 2006: Chemo's Effects

  • 2007: Road to Recovery

  • 2008: Back on Track

  • 2009: Life in the Fast Lane

  • 2010: Is This From Chemo Too?

  • 2011: A Year of Physical Therapy

  • 2012: Seven-Year Survivor

  • 2013: Inspiration

  • 2014: "Old Age" or More Post-Chemo Side FX?

  • 2015: A Decade Later

  • Updates: Latest News

  • Photos
    Before, During and After Chemo

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