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Jessica Sloper

Patients & Survivors Stage IV Colon Cancer Maine

Story: I went to my doctor because I had one episode of rectal bleeding Christmas night 2019. The nurse practitioner (NP) told me she thought it was most likely hemorrhoids but said, “Let’s get a colonoscopy just to be safe." Up to this point I was in great health, worked out almost every day, ate right, and was very active with three young girls ages 11, 9 and 7.

My husband drove me in for the colonoscopy, and I remember the doctor almost rolling her eyes at me when I told her my symptoms as if she couldn’t believe I was actually having a colonoscopy for what she told me sounded like an internal hemorrhoid. I guess it was partly understandable because I was an otherwise healthy 41 year old with no significant family or personal history.

When I woke from the test she told me that they found a mass, and it was most likely cancer. My husband said, “I’m glad we came in and caught it so quickly.” Her reply was, “Well, I didn’t say that."

We found out a few days later that it was indeed colon cancer, and it had already spread to my liver giving me a stage IV diagnosis. At that time, my oncologist and surgeon told me I had approximately two years to live and that I should go and enjoy what time I had left.

I questioned this, and they said my liver had innumerable metastasis, and I would never be operable.

I am a nurse/nurse practitioner, and knew that I had to seek other opinions. I wasn’t going down this easily. My husband and I spent countless hours connecting with doctors across the U.S. sharing my story, sending all of my scans and blood work. We got a lot of “sorry, we can’t help you” responses because the cancer was so far gone.

I went to Mass General Hospital, and they were the first to mention a living donor liver transplant. It was the little glimmer of hope that we needed. If all the stars aligned, there was a chance I could get to transplant. It was really the only thing that kept me going as the chemo treatments got harder and harder as my body got weaker.

Fast forward to Feb 2022. My brother gave me 70% of his liver in an effort to save my life. His liver was able to regenerate in three months time, and today I am six months cancer free.

Advice: You must advocate for yourself. If the first doctor is a "no," then continue consulting doctors until you get a "yes." Become well-read and knowledgeable about your disease. Learn what treatments are available surgical or pharmaceutical. Try to stay one step ahead of the cancer. If there comes a time when treatment stops working, know what the plan is ahead of time.

Find a support team. I am not one to depend on anyone, but our family could never have survived without the help of family and friends. There is no shame in seeking out mental health counseling. Cancer is very lonely at times and it’s easy to wallow in self pity. The world goes on without you while you’re in bed suffering the effects of chemo. Self pity will continue to bring you down. Use the bad days to snuggle a little longer with your kids on the couch, or lie together and watch a movie. Find things that continue to bring you joy.

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