Five years ago, at the age of 37, I was diagnosed with colon cancer after having passed a blood clot on a business trip. I was single, active and had a successful business career. I traveled, was involved in the local social scene, had great friends and a wonderful family connection. I had reached a place where I had learned a great deal about myself and felt a level of self confidence I had never felt before. I was in a great place in my life. Then everything changed at a moment's notice.
I was on a business trip in Arizona getting ready for work when I noticed I had passed a blood clot while going to the restroom before I headed out for the morning. I was startled because it was large and something I had never noticed before. I decided to go to a local medical clinic in town to discuss with a doctor. Upon our conversation, the doctor stated it could be a number of any issues such as stomach problems, ulcers, polyps, etc. His best advice was to go back home and schedule a colonoscopy. I took his advice, and upon arriving back home made the appointment.
With my best friend in tow to drive me home after the procedure, I went to my appointment. I was nervous, due to the fact I had heard it wasn't a pleasant procedure and really had associated it with a much older age group. The procedure took place, and was not anything I had imagined it to be. I undressed, put on my oh-so-fashionable hospital gown, had an IV inserted in my arm and drifted off to sleep. It was as simple as that. When I awoke, my friend was by my side in my curtained off room as we waited for the doctor who performed the procedure to arrive with information.
The doctor came around the curtain looking very serious and proceeded to show me various photographs of my colon, some revealing polyps she had removed, with one shocking photo in particular. It was a large tumor in my sigmoid colon, which was revealed to be colon cancer. I was stunned; I really could not absorb the news.
My friend took me home, poured me a glass of wine, and let me cry my heart out. How could this be? I was only 37 years old, I thought I was healthy, and I felt great. Had it not been for my friend, I don't know how I would have managed. From that point on it was a dizzying time having to tell my family, scheduling doctor's appointments, and finally removing about a foot of my colon in a difficult but reasonably non invasive laser surgery.
Thank goodness I had been referred to one of the top surgeons in my area for this type of procedure. Later, I was told that had I waited much longer, the tumor would have passed through the lining of my colon and spread all throughout my abdomen, resulting in a very dismal chance of survival. The news following my first of many surgeries was one I had hoped I would not face. I felt hopeful that removing the tumor would be the end of the nightmare. Instead it proved to only be the beginning. My surgeon called me about a week after the surgery and reluctantly told me that the cancer had metastasized and the cells were now in my system. There was no way to tell where they would land and what organs could be affected next. I remember being sick at my stomach as I held the phone in my hand and turned to tell my mother, who was staying with me during my recovery. We just sat down together and cried. The days following were filled with many types of emotions; anger, fear, frustration, pain and despair to name a few.
It is now four years, six major surgeries (to remover tumors that formed in my lungs), two rounds of chemotherapy and lots of prayers later. I have been told for the fourth time that again I have new nodules in my lungs. I have been able to fight and keep the cancer at bay, but have yet to beat it into remission. My friends, family and co-workers have rallied around me and supported me every step of the way. I have married a man who loves me cancer and all, vowing to always be by my side no matter what. My oncologist, my doctors and nurses are the best, and I feel lucky to have them helping me through my battle.
My wish is to share my story, especially to a younger group, to raise awareness to get colonoscopies and cancer screening at a much earlier age so that a similar situation can be prevented. I pray daily that I can beat this and put it behind me, but, no matter what, I will never lose my appreciation for life and all of the blessings that have been given to me. My only regret is that it took something like this to show me the value of every day and what truly is important in life. I have learned to not sweat the small stuff, and to stay positive even in the face of adversity. Please join me in my mission of awareness. I started The Fashion Face for Colon Cancer, and it is my way to reach out and touch the 20-30 something age group and motivate them to learn more about colon cancer. It is preventable. More and more frequently, the age of those diagnosed with cancer becomes younger, and while approximately 148,810 new cases will be diagnosed in 2008, colon cancer is preventable.
Please join me on my journey to spread the word. It is a cause very close to my heart. The face logo is a reminder that any face you see could be someone affected by cancer or the face of a person who loves someone affected by the disease.
Jodie courageously fought her colon cancer, but we are sad to report she passed away in the summer of 2010. Jodie inspired many and will be greatly missed.