Getting Screened for Colon Cancer Saved My Life: One Mother’s Story

by Mary Barrier

My husband Tim has a family history of colon cancer and I tried unsuccessfully for years to convince him to get a colonoscopy.  In April 2014, he finally had a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with colon cancer.  As a result, he had a section of his colon removed, but he was blessed to be able to forego chemotherapy and radiation.

As a mother of two, it was my job to see that our children who now have a direct family history of colon cancer would be screened for the disease. However, that was put on hold when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When life got back to normal after our cancer diagnoses, I texted my son Justin to tell him I was scheduling a colonoscopy for myself and asked if he wanted me to schedule an appointment for him as well. My daughter is not old enough yet for a screening, but I will encourage her when the time comes.

He replied, “YES, just let me know when!”

To tell you the truth, if Justin had said no, I wouldn’t have gone.  I would have waited and asked him again several months later.

The morning of our colonoscopies, I truly wasn’t worried about myself.  In my mind, I was there for our son.

My husband was in the waiting room when the physician came to talk with him after my colonoscopy.  He told him they’d found a large tumor.

I was in recovery, and still half asleep when Tim came to break the news to me.  I could tell he’d been crying.  All I could think was ‘please let it be me and not Justin.’  He relayed what the doctor had told him and we waited for the physician to finish Justin’s colonoscopy before we discussed the next steps.

Thankfully, Justin got a clean bill of health – an answer to my prayers. The discussion then turned to me.  I would need a CAT scan and a biopsy.

Once again, our family rallied behind me — ready to walk the cancer walk for the second time.  Prayers were being said by my family, my Church family and my friends – and the results from the CAT scan and biopsies proved it.  The tumor had not spread outside of the colon and the initial pathology report showed the growth was precancerous.

Nevertheless, the tumor still needed to be removed and tested further, so we met with Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital affiliated colon and rectal surgeon Tal Raphaeli, M.D. to schedule surgery.

Because the tumor was so low, Dr. Raphaeli had to remove a section of my colon and sent me home with an ileostomy bag, which gave my colon time to heal.  He also said he would call with the additional pathology results as soon as he could.

A week later, I got the news I longed to hear – the tumor was not cancer.  I was blessed again!

I recently had the ileostomy bag removed and life is once again getting back to normal, with one exception.  I haven’t talked to a single person since this ordeal without asking if they’ve had a colonoscopy.  Have you had yours?

To find a physician or schedule a screening,  visit Memorial Hermann’s website.

Comments

  1. I’m a 51 African American your story has inspire me to get mine done this year. I have a family history of breast and ovarian cancer I will be having a preventive double mastectomy in April . Thank You

  2. Certainly appreciate you sharing your story and offering a work of encouragement to get screened. Thanks again and all the best.

  3. I put off my “screening” colonoscopy when I reached 50 because I was taking care of my mother. When I finally did have it, I had a very large polyp that was high grade dysplasia, the last stage before full blown colon cancer. I had NO symptoms whatsoever. If I hadn’t done my screening colonoscopy when I did, I would have been forced to within months because I would have been symptomatic and I would have had colon cancer.

  4. Thank you so much for your story, very inspiring. I do go for colonoscopy’s every 5 years. I too have been blessed with a clean bill of health every time. After a Cervical Cancer scare I make sure I see my Dr. yearly and get screened on a regular basis.

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