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Ashley Ruiz

Patients & Survivors Stage III Rectal Cancer California
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Ashley's story

I've always had stomach issues, but started to notice blood in the toilet one and off when I went to the bathroom after having my third baby. Both my doctor and I thought it was hemorrhoids, but after noticing several changes over the span of a few months, including a ton of mucus when I would go to the bathroom, I thought I'd get a colonoscopy. Turns out, it was stage III rectal cancer. A mom of three kids under age 8, I was in shock that I had cancer and felt guilty and ashamed that I put off going to the doctor for over three months, using the excuse that I was too busy with the kids.

My husband was with me when I got the report right after my colonoscopy, which said I had a "likely malignant mass." (Having grown up with parents in the medical field, I was fully aware of what that meant.) He was quickly ushered away to make an appointment to sit with the doctor within the next 24 hours. I called one of my moms and asked her if the "likely malignant mass" was what I thought it was, and she confirmed my suspicion.

I had no idea exactly what I'd be up against, but I knew it was NOT good.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms included rectal bleeding or blood in stool, ongoing change in bowel habits, stomach cramps/bloating/fullness, unable to have a bowel movement (bowel obstruction) or constipation.

Ashley's advice

I know it's terrifying, but think about the long term. The sooner you go get checked out, the sooner your fears are either squashed with a good outcome, or you're on your way to getting to the bottom of what's bothering your body and you can get treatment.

There are good days, awful days and a million kinds in between – give yourself the grace to experience this one day at a time. Look for the tiny wins and celebrate the crap out of them!

And, as someone who does not like asking for nor accepting help, please accept it when people offer. Not only does it make your life easier, which is exactly what you need while fighting this horrible disease, but it makes them feel good too. Just remember, they wouldn't offer if they didn't want to help, so please take them up on it!

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