Conozca a la "Un millón de fuertes": Tara Principali, de Illinois

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Conoce a Tara

Tara Principali, Patient/Survivor

Chicago, Illinois

La historia de Tara

Siendo una mujer de 30 años que estaba en la mejor forma de su vida y competía en concursos de culturismo, recibir la llamada de mi gastroenterólogo diciéndome que tenía cáncer rectal fue un duro golpe.

Ya había pasado por muchos cambios en mi vida, mental, física y emocionalmente, pero este fue, con diferencia, el que más me afectó.

I had been an active kid growing up, always in sports; but that took a turn once I hit my adult life where I was always going out to eat and started working an office job. My weight increased by about 130 pounds over the course of five years.

In that time frame, I had moved out of the house, gotten married and started living a sedentary lifestyle - and it certainly caught up with me! I was drinking, depressed and really felt stuck in my stagnant relationship with my husband. It took seeing a picture of myself in my dad's pool to see what I had let myself get to.

I knew I had to make a change if I wanted to live a happier, better quality life! I went through a grueling 5-year transformation of fad diets, cardio, weightlifting and finally changing my food choices.

I dropped that 130 pounds that I had gained! In that time frame, I lost my job because the company I was working for had gone out of business due to the economic decline, I got divorced, lost both sources of income and I decided to go back to school to be a hair and makeup artist.

After all of these changes, I decided to do the ultimate goal of competing in a bodybuilding show - and I did it, twice!

Throughout the time I was competing and literally in the best shape anyone could ever be in - I was experiencing some symptoms I had never had before. I was eating seven times a day, but only going to the bathroom once every three days, and when I did, the toilet would be filled with bright red blood.

I told my coaches about it and they sloughed it off as being a result of all the workouts and food I was eating.

Once the second competition ended, I decided to take a break. That is also when I moved back to the corporate world and regained the option for health insurance. I went in for a physical and casually mentioned my issues - my primary seemed a lot more concerned than I was.

She referred me to a GI specialist who looked shocked when I told her what was happening. She said she normally would not do a colonoscopy on a woman who just turned 30, especially with the shape I was in, but something was telling her to do it just in case.

I remember waking up out anesthesia and hearing her mention something about polyps and biopsies. I did not dwell on it because I have always thought I was invincible.

Then that same night, I decided to Google polyps and see what they were all about. It turns out some of them can be cancerous, and of course I started thinking the worst all of a sudden. I came to work the next day and mentioned my concerns to a few of my coworkers. They reassured me and I stopped thinking about it.

At about 2:30 p.m. on Mar. 15 2013, I get a call on my cell phone, followed by my work phone. It was my GI doctor's office. It was the GI specialist herself. She asked how I was feeling, if I had any pain, then there a moment of silence before her voice turned soft and she told me that the biopsy came back.

Tenía cáncer de recto. No tengo ni idea de lo que me dijo después, mientras yo caía al suelo temblando y llorando, repitiendo una y otra vez: "¿Está segura, está segura?".

Eventually she apologized for telling me over the phone, but it was Friday, she was about to be out of the office for a week and she did not want to wait for me to come in and start the process of CT scans, MRIs and introduction to my surgeon.

Then came the most difficult phone call of all - calling my parents to tell them. It hurt me worse than hearing the news myself. All I thought about was how they would feel, how they would take the news. My dad stayed strong and reassured me everything was going to be ok - what else are dads supposed to do, right?

I do not remember my drive to the hospital to get my CT scan. I do not remember the drive to my parents house out to the suburbs when I was done. I really do not remember a lot, other than crying and not knowing where to go from here.

In a six-month period, I went from going to the gym twice a day and stepping on a stage to compete in a bodybuilding show, to looking down at a piece of my intestines protruding from my stomach with waste coming out of it and not being able to sit upright.

My life changed right then. I realized how much I had taken for granted, how I wasn't invincible, and how life can change in the blink of an eye. I started to appreciate a lot more.

Over the course of the rest of that year, I underwent genetic testing to find out I have Síndrome de Lynch, a genetic defect that make me highly susceptible to getting reproductive and digestive cancers, and the reversal of my ileostomy, along with another hospital visit to look into additional issues I was having. Turns out I also have Crohn's Disease and L.A.R.S.

I take each day as it comes now. I have a more positive outlook and I try my best not to take anything for granted. I play with the hand I was dealt. I love life and that's all I can do for now.

Consejos de Tara

¡Busca los aspectos positivos de la vida, date cuenta de que merece la pena luchar y de que algo bueno saldrá de todo esto! ¡Tienes gente que te apoya y te quiere!