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Jacqueline Martindale

Patients & Survivors Stage IV Rectal Cancer North Carolina
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Jacqueline's Story

After complaining about worsening symptoms for four years starting at age 43 in 2013 – from bowel habit changes, to occasional sharp pain, to thinner/rectangular stool that took way longer to pass, to intermittent bloody stool – my PCP finally ordered a colonoscopy.

My parents came to join me and drive me to/from the procedure. When I woke up, I was taken to a small room and given a folder. I peeked inside and discovered some disturbing pictures and a diagnosis of rectal cancer. The doctor came in and revealed the worst and said he was sorry, as did the nurse who escorted me out.

I was numb in the moment, but as reality set in and the implications of all this became more clear, I went into a frenzy trying to find the best medical institution for treating my particular cancer. I spent weeks waking up hoping it had all just been a very vivid nightmare. Alas, I never woke up from it.

Five years on, after two rounds of chemo (2018 and 2022), 27 doses of radiation (50 Grays in 2018) and four surgeries later (2019, 2020, and two in 2022), I’m still here, albeit with permanently numb and sometimes painful feet, cold, numb fingertips (neuropathy), minus about 10%+ lung capacity per a wedge resection of left lung and several cryoablation residual scars in the right lung, along with a great deal of persistent fatigue.

I am so grateful to still be here. I love my life and have so many experiences I want to enjoy with loved ones and friends, as well as places to see and things to learn. It grieves me terribly how underfunded colorectal cancer research is (and cancer, in general).

I have had an amazing support system of caregivers, not least of whom include my mom and my partner.

I want to do whatever I can to increase the speed, quality, and quantity of research. No one should have to go through this. No one should have to make these sacrifices. That Congress and we as a society are not making this a priority requires change and action.

Please don’t stop pressuring your representatives and senators! Please don’t stop donating to and volunteering for Fight CRC! I don’t want to die from this. You don’t want your loved ones to die from this, and you don’t want to die from this. Please, get your colonoscopies, and please advocate for more research dollars with an urgency like your life depended on it, because it very well may.

Signs and symptoms

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

Side effects

Side effects included fatigue, bowel irregularities, pain, neuropathy, and distress or mental health issues/illness.

Jacqueline's advice

The fear of colonoscopies is way overblown. I have even done them without sedation and enjoyed watching the doctor’s view of my internals. If you’re having symptoms, don’t hesitate and run for a second opinion if your current doctor isn’t listening / ordering a colonoscopy.

I know in my heart and objectively that we’ve never been closer to much improved treatments and a cure. There are so many promising paths now and technologies that can make a huge impact that weren’t even present just five years ago.

Stay strong, be kind to and patient with yourself and advocate like hell for more research funding now!

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