Chairperson, CCA Voices of NYC
Survivor, Buddy and Advocate
About one year after my open heart surgery to remove a huge clot in my heart from the chemotherapy port, I realized that not only am I alive, but I had this deep need to give back to my fellow cancer survivors. My experience with colon cancer was not a typical one, and every complication - everything that the doctors would say happens one in five-hundred thousand or one in a million - would happen to me. Because of this, I realized what a journey I had gone through and how much hope I can offer someone else.
I was lucky enough to find the CCA through the American Cancer Society website, and that’s when I feel my new life began, the life I dreamt of living while I was sick. I am a 37 year old stage IV colon cancer survivor, who has no family history of the disease. I was diagnosed at age 27 with advanced stage IV colon cancer that had metastasized in my abdominal wall and lymph nodes. After fighting with doctors and my health insurance provider, all of whom insisted nothing was wrong, I finally got help and my initial diagnosis after being admitted to the emergency room! Just to let you know, they told me I had to get my affairs in order as soon as I could!
I have had seven surgeries. I have had two recurrences and metastases to my left lung. I had so many "chemo cocktails" that it's a miracle I can still think at all, but I do, and what I always think about is people who are newly diagnosed. As a Buddy, this is such a vital moment in your journey through cancer.
Being diagnosed and facing the reality of cancer and everything it brings, good or bad, is the hardest part of your fight. When I get emails hearing about a newly diagnosed person, I try to go out of my way to be honest and open with them, especially regarding the realities about what is going happen, because that is what I wished someone would have done for me.
The most basic truth that I can give is that you are going to get really sick and be in pain. However, this is all in the hopes to kill the cancer. That is why when you have good days LIVE YOUR LIFE! Don’t worry about the bills, don’t worry if the house is clean, just make each moment count. ALWAYS be honest with yourself and what you feel, and let everyone know how much they matter to you. For me, my son and my family were everything!
I am at a positive place right now with my cancer, but it took a very long, dark, and complicated journey to get here. Buddies are colon cancer survivors and caregivers, and not only are we here to help you, but as I have recently learned from a personal setback, my Buddies are here for me too! From the moment we are diagnosed, each minute we are alive is precious. It is my sincere wish that my journey can give you the hope and inspiration to make it through your fight with cancer.