November 03, 2014
My colon cancer journey
BY Rose Johnson
Nearly 13 years ago, my doctors gave me six months to live. It had started as an ordinary day. I was getting ready for work when I noticed something protruding out of my navel. It scared me, so I went to my primary care doctor. He had never seen anything like that before, so he sent me to someone else. I ended up going to five doctors, none of whom could give me any answers.
Finally, a doctor ran some tests and told me I needed to get to MD Anderson as fast as I could. He said I had colon cancer. I had no other colon cancer symptoms -- not even pain -- but I did as I was told.
A surprising colon cancer diagnosis
After a barrage of testing, my doctors at MD Anderson finally told me that I had stage 4 colon cancer, and that it had metastasized to my liver, lungs and ovaries. They projected that I had about six months to live. My family and I were devastated. The Texas Medical Center was like a whole new world to me. I felt worried, nervous and anxious, wondering if I was going to live or die. I was 60 years old. At age 50, I had gotten a colonoscopy, and everything was fine. But during the 10 years between my colonoscopy and my colon cancer diagnosis, I had developed colon polyps, which turned into advanced colon cancer.
I did not have cancer in my family, so this came as a surprise.
My colon cancer treatment and recurrence
I began my colon cancer treatment at MD Anderson right away. After three rounds of chemotherapy, the nodule that had been protruding from my navel fell off. I continued chemo for a year and then underwent six months of radiation treatments. My doctors were amazed at how my body took to these treatments.
Later, my cancer returned to my lungs. But after a surgery, I was cancer-free. A year later, cancer returned a third time. This time, it was near my esophagus.
My doctors called me their miracle patient because they didn't understand how my body had responded so well.
Giving back after colon cancer treatment
After I finished my first round of chemo, I felt like it was my duty to volunteer at MD Anderson. I had no one to talk to when I was first diagnosed with colon cancer, no one to tell me everything was going to be OK.
So, I wanted to volunteer to let people know that cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence. A diagnosis is just the beginning of survivorship. I also started my own foundation to help increase colon cancer awareness.
A cancer diagnosis is just the beginning of survivorship