I started finding blood in my stool in the fall of 2013, but at the time, it didn’t seem that strange to me. Constipation runs in my family, and I’ve always been easily constipated. But water’s my solution to everything, so I figured I just needed to drink more of it.
A few months later, I started feeling really out of breath after even the slightest activity, and whenever I lifted something heavy, I’d throw up right afterwards. My family told me I looked really pale, and I’d lost a lot of weight. Finally, I went to the doctor.
Blood tests showed that my hemoglobin levels were so low, I should have been in a coma. I was admitted to the hospital right away. Additional tests showed I was losing blood from my colon, so I received six units of it immediately, just to replace what I’d lost.
The next day, I had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy to find the source of the bleeding. The second test revealed a tumor the size of a golf ball in my colon, which had spread to a few nearby lymph nodes. I was diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer.
Why I came to MD Anderson
At first, I couldn’t believe this was really happening. I was only 19 and had just graduated from high school.
But the tumor was real, and my local doctors did micro-surgery through my belly button to remove it. They also recommended six months of chemotherapy. By this time, I realized I wanted a second opinion, so I came to MD Anderson. People travel to MD Anderson from all over the world, and it’s the best, so why wouldn’t I?
At MD Anderson, I met with Bryan Kee, M.D., who recommended the same treatment as my local doctor. Somehow, I trusted Dr. Kee more, so I decided to receive my chemotherapy at MD Anderson. My first infusion took place on New Year’s Eve.
Getting my life back after colorectal cancer
I finished my treatment in June 2014, and I’ve been in remission ever since. I jumped back into college and will graduate this year with my teaching certificate.
Now, cancer just feels like a strange dream. That six-month period was a really weird time in my life, but I believe it made me stronger. And today, I feel like this is the best I’ve ever been.
My advice for other young people
My advice for other young people with cancer is, “Don’t freak out.” Getting cancer is a horrible thing, but your loved ones will be there for you. It may be dark right now, but eventually, the light will return. It does get better.
Also, your body knows when something’s not right, and it will give you signs, so pay attention. Take care of yourself, because you’re worth it. There’s never going to be another you. And water does not solve everything.
Abigail Pardo will be honored at MD Anderson’s 13th annual SCOPE 5K run on Saturday, March 24, 2018. The race promotes colorectal cancer screening and honors those diagnosed with the disease. Learn more.