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Margaret Mullaney

Patients & Survivors Stage I Colon Cancer New York
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Margaret's story

I was in the recovery room right after my first colonoscopy ever, which came about after certain symptoms indicated the screening was the next step.

I was told right away in a crowded recovery room filled with strangers behind thin curtains. The doctor said it wasn't definitive, but it looked like cancer and she'd call me tomorrow with next steps. Then she left to do the next procedure.

The nurse came over and unwrapped two saltines on a napkin in my lap, and I sat there in silence slowly eating my crackers while staring into space.

There were many people around me, but at that moment, I felt completely alone. The next few weeks were a blur...lots of calls and tests.

Five weeks later I was in surgery with stages I through III on the table. Two weeks after surgery, I was informed by phone that it was stage I.

I happened to be at the pool at that moment, trying not to focus on the impending pathology report. When the PA told me the stage, Sia's Unstoppable was playing over the PA at the pool, and I broke down into tears of joy, relief, exhaustion, and more. It was a moment – and a song – I will never forget.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms included rectal bleeding or blood in stool, ongoing change in bowel habits, narrow stools, unexplained and sudden weight loss, and fatigue.

Margaret's advice

You know when something is wrong...you just know. Take action without delay, and you could very well save your own life.

When I was told I had colorectal cancer, my mind went to very bad places immediately…I have to take my house out of my name…I have to get my affairs in order…I've worked hard my whole life and now I won’t even make it to retirement…I need to stockpile drugs as an exit strategy if things get bad. I tortured myself. It was not helpful in any way.

Then I ended up then taking each day, each test, each bit of information, chunk by chunk. I went into surgery with stage I through III on the table.

I came out with a stage I diagnosis and immediately started to change my life—eating well, exercising, taking yoga. Anything that would be a positive influence, I did it.

It's amazing how everything changed. I went from considering an "exit" strategy to really appreciating every day. I'm in surveillance for five years and get tested regularly.

I've buried my defeatist attitude and I've learned not to project or predict outcomes. I know it's easy to say it, but try not to get too far ahead in your mind because there are always, always positive possibilities.

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