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Kara Wutzke

Patient/Survivor Stage II Rectal Cancer
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I was in the best shape of my life—six-pack abs, biceps, muscles popping everywhere. Friends, family, colleagues all thought I was as strong as a superhero.

But my body was sending a different message. Symptoms like gas, bloating, an uncomfortable stomach, and irregular bowel movements. I had no clue what was going on.

As a health and fitness pro, it was my duty to start with nutrition. So, I went through everything I ate, day in and day out. I wanted to make sure I was fueling myself with the best foods and figure out what my body was reacting to.

After some detective work, I narrowed it down to two culprits: milk or beer. Yep, those were the troublemakers messing with my system—milk and beer.

I gotta admit, I was secretly hoping it was the milk!

After wasting too much time, I figured I better see my doctor. Turns out, I had bowel cancer. Yeah, that was a curveball I didn't see coming.

So there I was, post-colonoscopy, and my doctor drops the bomb: "You have bowel cancer. If you don't treat this immediately, you're gonna die."

I looked at him and said, “Are you sure it's not milk?” He said, "No." I looked at him and said, “Is it beer?” He said, "No." Am I joking about this part? Yes.

Devastation hit me and my life started flashing before my eyes.

My treatments included chemotherapy and surgery. I also had a temporary ileostomy and reversal surgery.

Side effects from my treatments included pain, and skin rashes (skin toxicity, chemo rash).

My advice for someone who might be afraid to seek medical advice or colorectal cancer screening is to do it. Better to know and treat.

I would also tell people, "You’re just a big, grown up baby, really." OK, maybe that’s just me, but it's helpful to remember the mindset of a toddler. Babies don't give up trying to walk or stand just because they stumble and fall.

When they start to walk, we can see their perseverance when they keep falling. They get back up, and they try again. They stand, they fall. Over and over again. They stand, they walk one step and fall.

I felt like cancer took my fitness, my life, my strength.

But when I took a step back and gave myself grace and empathy, I was able to gain back myself, one tiny toddler step at a time. Try, try, and try again.

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