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Heather Schiller

Patients & Survivors Stage IV Colon Cancer Georgia

Story: "On Father's Day weekend 2012, the trajectory of our lives forever changed when my dad's cousin and roommate called with the news: Cancer. Terminal. Six months to a year.

"My dad was 62 years old and had all the usual suspects as far as colon cancer symptoms. While he did not know what, he knew it was something big; being without a job or health insurance, he couldn't afford big. So he ignored each symptom, until that weekend when the pain became too much to bear. After he was released from the hospital, my husband and I moved him into our home. I was 32 years old when most of our friends were being parents or starting families, we were suddenly caregivers; making what felt like life and death decisions.

"Though the burden was incredibly heavy at times, we were gifted with ten months to laugh and make memories before saying our final Earthly farewell on April 6, 2013. All was quiet on the healthcare front until late Feb. 2015. I didn't feel sick, but I suddenly could not keep anything down. Every time I managed to drink a little water, I would vomit it right back up and then some. This was not a "normal" sick, so we decided to go to the ER. I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer on February 27, 2015.

"I was 34 years old, had zero symptoms, and only went to the ER because I was dehydrated. Three days later I awoke from an emergency colonoscopy to my own cancer diagnosis.

"From caregiver to cancer patient, I was walking in my dads shoes."

"There was no shock or fear. The cancer had long lost its sting, but my heart ached for my husband, Fred. It was Fred that had a 4-day work week and transported my dad to/from treatment. It was Fred that I leaned on as I struggled with learning to parent my parent. And now, he would be doing it all over again. Treatment was incredibly aggressive. If there was a side effect or possible complication, I (we) experienced it together. My greatest fear through it all was losing my sense of humor. That the pain, heartbreak, and stress would become too much and somehow change my outlook on life.

"It turned out to be quite the opposite. With every hard turn, it is clear God has already carved our path. He placed angels along the way that lift us up with prayers, love, and kindness. When we desperately need a gentle reminder HE is steering this ship, an angel appears! And I am forever grateful that I get to experience this side of humanity. At the end of last year we experienced another hard turn, the cancer returned and is inoperable. I will be on chemo until God decides otherwise. There is no pain and the lesions are small. Yes, I morph into the chemo goblin every other week, but each good day I'm gifted is a day full of joy & laughter."

Advice: "Understand the message boards are full of worst case scenarios. When getting my ostomy reversed, based on the message boards, I thought it'd be months before I was able to venture out of the house; one month later I was fine. And no, I did not bother posting on a message board because I was busy living!"

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