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Gwen Powell

Patient/Survivor Stage IV Colon Cancer Minnesota
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I went to urgent care because I had been having painful episodes of what I thought initially were constipation but concluded must be gall or kidney stones. I had gone in several times and been told it was because I had just had a baby or had ovarian cysts.

At 35, I was busy with three kids under age 5, and it was hard to push for more tests when I was so exhausted. I was alone, my husband was at home with our three young kids, when the PA told me it looked like cancer and that it was quite advanced.

They only discovered it once I had a watermelon sized mass on my ovary. They then biopsied my liver, which suggested the mets originated in the colon, and colonoscopy confirmed it was colon cancer.

Symptoms included ongoing change in bowel habits, narrow stools, stomach cramps/ bloating/fullness, anemia/low iron, fatigue, and unable to have a bowel movement (bowel obstruction) or constipation.

My biomarkers were tested. Treatments were chemotherapy and surgeries, which included a colostomy and reversal surgery. Side effects included pain and neuropathy.

Here are a few things members of Congress need to know about colorectal cancer patient's needs: I am here today because I am fortunate enough to have excellent health care that enabled me to seek the best possible treatment at the Mayo Clinic. Despite having good coverage, we had to fight to get hundreds of thousands in surgeries, tests, and treatments covered. People shouldn’t die because they can’t afford screening or treatment. Everyone deserves to affordable, accessible, competent health care.

My advice to people afraid to seek medical advice or colorectal cancer screening is if I could rewind the clock to my very first symptom and tell myself to get screened, I would do it in a heartbeat!

I wish medical professionals had taken my pain and other symptoms more seriously. I lost my ovaries and uterus, ending the possibility of more children. I deal with neuropathy and the ongoing anxiety of surveillance.

Finding out you have stage I cancer or precancerous polyps can definitely be scary, but imagine having a 1 year old and hearing “stage IV” and “consider writing a will.”

Early detection is a game changer.

Advocate for yourself and surround yourself with people who will advocate for you. My husband was almost obnoxious in his pursuit of answers and the best specialists. I am convinced I am here today and almost two years NED because he has pushed for more tests, more answers, more options at every step of the way, even when I was too scared to speak up for myself.

The most helpful resource was the incredible community that lifted me up during the worst time of my life. Surround yourself with love and you will never be alone in your struggle. And keep moving toward your future.

Decorate that room. Finish that project. Believe there will be brighter days. I always had a vision of the work I wanted to do after the nightmare was over, and that got me through. Now I have started realizing that vision and I’m so glad I didn’t give up.

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