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Chantel Strickland

Caregivers Stage IV Rectal Cancer Washington
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Story: My amazing husband was diagnosed back in 2009 with IBS. At that time he was also diagnosed with having parasites from working in our backyard. Throughout our whole relationship he's struggled with bowel issues. Often, he would have to run to the bathroom while we were at the grocery store because of urgency. Fast forward to 2018: He takes a new job, very stressful but rewarding to him. His symptoms get progressively worse. His diet isn't great, and he drinks far too many energy drinks. By the summer 2020, he's having horrible abdominal pain. In September, he separated from his stressful job, and we were hopeful that his symptoms would go away, along with all that stress.

At the end of September, he's having increased pain, difficulty using the bathroom, and sees his doctor. They do a FIT test, and it comes back positive. For four weeks we try to get him scheduled for his colonoscopy. Because of COVID, doctor appointments are virtually impossible to get.

He's losing weight at a rapid pace at this time. His stools are very ribbon-like in shape, and there's always blood in the toilet after he uses it. He never feels like he's been able to empty his bowels, and he FINALLY after advice from a nurse at his primary care office agrees to go to the emergency room. He went on Nov. 20, 2020, the day before our 14th anniversary. Because of COVID, he is alone. They did a MRI, and he finds out all alone, while myself and our three kids wait for him to let us know he's ready to be picked up that he has stage IV colorectal cancer that has metastasized to his liver. I was on my way to pick him up with our three children, and his sister called me crying. She thought he had already told me, and she was checking on me.

He hadn't told me yet, though, because he was worried about me driving with our kids. When we found out about his diagnosis our children were 1, 7, and 3.5 years old. We had already discussed the likelihood of cancer, but we never dreamed it would be so advanced let alone spread to another organ. His rectal mass was almost completely blocking his rectum and by Dec. 21, he had a colostomy bag placed, and we'd started chemotherapy.

Advice: Having a colonoscopy isn't a great experience mostly because of the prep involved. However, being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is much worse. Having to look your young children in the eyes and try to explain cancer isn't an experience anyone should have to have.

If it's caught early there are so many treatment options. Early detection is key.

If you're diagnosed with any chronic bowel inflammation issue this includes those with IBS, IBD, Crohn's, and Colitis you have a 70% chance of developing colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer isn't a disease for the old; it is being found in people younger and younger and more advanced stages than ever before. Early screening is so important!

Take each day as it comes. Make memories in the moment and try to find the silver linings. We celebrate milestones as a family in our house. We are open and honest with our children and encourage them to share their feelings. We don't pretend to know what the future holds, but we fight as a family each and every day. We spread the word about getting screened, and we encourage people to not put off caring for themselves.

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