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Kristin Koval

Patients & Survivors Stage I Colon Cancer Tennessee

Kristin Koval's Story

When I turned 50, my doctor recommended that I have a colonoscopy. Now, 45 is the recommended age because so many younger people are getting it. Normally, I go for all my routine preventive screenings as I take my health seriously and am thankfully in really good health.

"I would've put the colonoscopy off out of fear and embarrassment. But because I had a friend pass away from it a few years prior, I went ahead with it, in honor of her. It went well, and they found a few small polyps, which they removed."

After the colonoscopy, my doctor even said, "They don't look cancerous." However, a week later as I was working from home, I got an alert that my lab results were posted to my account online, so I checked it.

Sometimes it's hard to understand the medical terminology, but when I saw "invasive adenocarcinoma," I knew that meant cancer. I had to read it and re-read it a few times to be sure. They even mentioned it was reviewed by another pathologist who agreed with the findings.

I was alone at the time and to be honest, I'm kind of glad. It was such a shock to my system and took a while to process. It was one of those life-changing moments, and I knew it. There was now "life before the diagnosis" and "life after the diagnosis." It was like the world stopped, and I thought, "What if this is it?" I knew I wouldn't die at that moment, but I had no idea how bad it was, or how long I might have, or what kind of battle I might be in for.

I thought of all the things I still dreamed of doing. It was like my life flashed before my eyes. At the same time, I was trying to tell myself not to overthink it until I spoke to my doctor, but I was in shock for several hours, maybe days afterward.

A short while later, I heard from my doctor, and she told me she was shocked at the diagnosis and she referred me to a colorectal surgeon. I had to go for additional scans and tests before meeting with the surgeon. The scans were clear, and my surgeon recommended that I have surgery to remove that section of my colon and some lymph nodes to make sure it hadn't spread.

While I was hesitant, I trusted her and agreed that was the best way to know for sure it hadn't spread. I had the surgery a little over a month later. The surgery was a success and after a few weeks of recovery, I was pretty much back to normal. The cancer thankfully hadn't spread, and they didn't find any further evidence of it in my colon or lymph nodes.

I ended up being diagnosed at stage I, so it was caught very early. I continue to go for quarterly follow-up visits with my surgeon. A month ago was my year anniversary of the surgery and so far, cancer free!

I am very grateful to my friend, who was the reason I went ahead with the colonoscopy. She saved my life. I'm fortunate it was caught early before it had a chance to spread. I'm very grateful and now encourage everyone to get screened.

Kristin Koval's Advice

Just DO IT and get it over with! I was scared of the colonoscopy, but am so glad I did it because it saved my life. It wasn't that bad, either. There's also at home testing now, which is also effective in detecting cancer. So if a colonoscopy seems too invasive, you have options. Just get screened. It could save your life, and potentially a lot of needless pain and suffering, and allow your loved ones to have you around longer.

You're stronger than you know.

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