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Jennifer Bowlin

Patients & Survivors Stage III Rectal Cancer Delaware

Story: I initially had to find a new primary care doctor in January 2021. I was scheduled to meet with her in April 2021. When I met with her, I was 44 years old. I explained I was having blood in my bowel movements, and blood would be in the toilet after a bowel moment. I figured it was hemorrhoids; however, she referred me to a local GI doc. I met with the GI doc in May 2021 and was scheduled for a colonoscopy for July 2022. I thought it was odd, thinking I’d be given some cream but went with the flow and prepped for my first scope in the middle of July. I went in for my scope July 15 in the late afternoon. I was hungry and just wanted to get the procedure over and done with. I remember laying down on the table, rolling into my left side, and repeating, “I’m still awake” as I was waiting for the meds to kick in.

Next thing I remember, I was sat up by the medical staff. I was told a mass was found, and that it’s cancer. I was brought outside to my husband who was waiting for me in the car, and I had to tell him the horrifying news. We were both in shock. My cancer was officially diagnosed July 20, 2021, after meeting with my GI doc to confirm the biopsy results. My GI doc referred me to a colorectal surgeon who originally thought I was at a stage I.

After my first surgery, which removed my rectum, roughly 1.5 feet of colon, and 15 lymph nodes, I was given a temporary ileostomy to aid in the healing of my newly formed J-pouch. A few weeks later once I went back to see my surgeon, I was told the cancer was found in three out of 15 lymph nodes, and that put me at stage IIIb and in need of treatment. My treatment was 28 rounds of chemo-radiation, along with eight rounds of IV chemo. I completed my treatment and rang the bell on May 16, 2022. I also had my ostomy takedown on June 24, 2022.

I’m so grateful to my husband and daughter, friends, and work family who helped me get through this horrible diagnosis. Their love and support was much needed during this difficult time. I consider myself now as the new and improved 2.0. It’s been a challenging road, but I’ve done my best to go with the flow. I was officially given the go-ahead to return to work on August 22, 2022…nearly 11 months since my first surgery. It’s nice to be back into a normal routine. It’s been a long and humbling journey.

Advice: Please speak to your doctor about any abnormalities. It isn’t normal to have blood in your stools. It’s not normal to go from constipated to diarrhea all the time. You shouldn’t be seeing blood in the toilet. I was living off Pepto Bismol®…that isn’t normal. Having my colonoscopy at age 44 saved my life.

I had a wonderful Nurse Navigator who helped me get through so much during treatment. I was an emotional mess, but somehow she kept me glued together to get through it all. She’d answer all my questions and was always there when I needed something.

Embrace the suck and try to avoid negative websites. Everyone experiences side effects from chemo and radiation, but not everyone is the same. I believe staying physically active throughout all my treatments helped me emotionally, physically, and mentally. It helped aid in recovery. It took me many months to open up about my diagnosis, but once I did, I was able to accept what has happened to me and move on from it.

Cancer has shown me that I’m stronger than I have ever imagined.

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