On my 44th birthday, I was diagnosed with rectal cancer with metastasis to my liver, lungs, and lymph nodes (27 tumors total) a week after a colonoscopy revealed 11cm tumor in my rectum.
My treatment was no easy feat and included 55 rounds of chemotherapy (FOLFOX + Avastin), two surgeries (an accident during initial resection led to internal bleeding and cardiac arrest, which required second emergency surgery), and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) on my lung.
Despite the odds, I was declared to have no evidence of disease in March 2019. I’m a believer in integrative oncology modalities to offset side effects and improve efficacy of treatment.
Becoming a Research Advocate
I discovered Fight Colorectal Cancer through the Colon Club, and I discovered the Research Advocacy Training and Support (RATS) program while attending Call-on Congress in 2018. Because of my 20+ years of prior healthcare experience, I wanted to raise awareness of colorectal cancer by being more than a messenger; I wanted to know why this is happening, as well as what is being done to treat it and prevent it. More importantly, I wanted to be part of those discussions.
Advocacy in Action
Serving on peer review for the Congressionally Directed Medical Review Program (CDMRP) for the Department of Defense (DoD) was definitely the most impactful part of my research advocacy work so far. Sitting side-by-side in a room with physicians and researchers deciding on which ideas should be advanced for further development was life changing. To know that after all I’d endured with fighting this disease that my patient voice was heard and valued by high-level academicians was so empowering – it gave me hope that patients can indeed make a difference.
Research Advocacy Matters
As a stage IV colorectal cancer patient, I literally fought for my life. So to not only survive, but have a valued voice in the future of this disease through research advocacy is extremely gratifying. It makes all of those long days of pain, nausea, and sadness so worth it – to come out the other side and say, “I am here to stand up for patients who cannot stand up for themselves” makes you feel powerful. Patients should be heard and can make a difference.