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Meredith Foster

Patients & Survivors Stage III Rectal Cancer Illinois
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Meredith's story

On July 28, 2022, I had a colonoscopy after the worsening of rectal bleeding symptoms for the prior year and a half. The clinic was running behind, so after a long 24 hours of prep, my procedure began late in the day.

I awoke from the anesthesia to my husband sitting next to me. Shortly after a few crackers and some ginger ale, my doctor entered the room with a large packet in her hands. Robotically, she showed me pictures of the likely malignant tumor, 2 centimeters in size, that was in my rectum.

She apologized and walked me through all the phone numbers I would need to call the next day for scans and initial appointments. I don’t remember leaving the hospital campus, or the car ride home. I remember the numbness and my husband’s embrace and the pink dusky glow of the summer sunset as we arrived home.

A late-night call the next day confirmed that I had cancer, and I would need to schedule an MRI and a CT scan. I made appointments, and my husband came with me to every single appointment.

Within a week, I knew I had stage III rectal cancer. My 42nd birthday was the end cap to that long week, and we were far too scared to celebrate.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms included rectal bleeding or blood in stool, and stomach cramps/bloating/fullness.

Side effects

Side effects included fatigue, neuropathy, skin rashes (skin toxicity, chemo rash), and chemo brain.

Clinical trial

A device was placed on my abdomen after the tumor removal surgery to record bowel sounds that could potentially reveal how quickly the bowel is healing.

Meredith's advice

The unknown will always be worse than the known. Don't be afraid to talk about your symptoms, everyone has a colon and a rectum and everybody poops! There is no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed.

The temporary discomfort of talking to someone or having screening done is nothing compared to a potential late stage cancer diagnosis. Yes, it is not fun to fast and bowel prep, but it is temporary and worth the brief disruption.

Speak up. Ask all the questions. Share all the information. Ask for more if you need it.

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