So i’m going to be honest about my diagnosis, which is really hard to do because this is the thing that crushes me when it comes to my cancer story. But if me being honest helps ONE person, then there is a reason why i am going through this.
I had colorectal cancer symptoms for over two years.
There it is. I shook my head as i wrote that. I also can see people’s eyes when i tell them that. And i hear “Oh Lara….” when i say it. I had symptoms for over two years. And i didn’t go to my doctor about it. Because why would a young, healthy DOCTOR believe she had cancer. I thought i was stressed. I thought i had IBS. Cancer was not a thought in my mind.
I started having blood in my stool (very little) when i was studying for an exam 2.5 years ago. I was stressed out to the max and figured it was that. Then the blood went away once i finished studying and life was normal. See, it was the stress (that’s what i told myself). The blood came back a couple months later but was very little and then it was gone again. I never had constipation or pain and being a physician, we see blood in stool ALL THE TIME. Guess what it usually is? Not cancer. And so my symptoms went on like that for two years, but got a little worse over the past holiday season. So when i saw my PCP this February i told her and she urged me to get a colonoscopy.
I sometimes go down the path of “what if i had gone earlier?” What stage would i be? Or if had gone right when it started, would it just have been a pre-cancerous polyp that was removed? And alternatively, what if i waited even longer? I was (well still am) a busy physician who felt like i didn’t have the time to take TWO days off for a colonoscopy. My life would be so different when i think about all of these things. But i cannot dwell on that part. I cannot change my past and can only control my future. So here i am, battling Stage 3 cancer, for better or for worse.
So i’m once again sharing symptoms because Colorectal cancer (cancer in the colon or rectum) first develops with few, if any, symptoms. Please be proactive and talk to your doctor and don’t wait like i did. If symptoms are present, they may include:
- A Change in Bowel Habits, including diarrhea, constipation, a change in the consistency of your stool or finding your stools are narrower than usual
- Persistent Abdominal Discomfort, such as cramps, gas, or pain and/or feeling full, bloated or that your bowel does not empty completely
- Rectal Bleeding- finding blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
- Weakness or Fatigue- can also accompany losing weight for no known reason, nausea or vomiting
Additionally, the American Cancer Society recently recommended that adults without a family history should begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45. This is a change as of this year- it use to be 50, so take note!