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Rachel Meuser

Patients & Survivors Stage III Colon Cancer Illinois
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Rachel's story

December 15, 2022: “You have five polyps, two of which are concerning. You are exactly why the screening age was changed from 50 to 45. If you waited until you were 50, these polyps would be cancer.”

This was what my gastroenterology doctor told me when I woke up from my doctor-recommended, age-appropriate, regular screening colonoscopy. I was doing exactly as my OB/GYN and primary doctor had instructed me earlier in the year. “Make sure you get your mammogram, and since you will be 45 this year, you should schedule your colonoscopy as well.” It was comforting to hear that my responsibility had paid off. I had my screening, and caught an issue before it became a problem. That night I texted my girlfriends about my scare, but all would be well. I advised them to make sure they get a colonoscopy so that they too could avoid any disasters.

My next step was to meet with two other doctors. Another GI doctor who was more skilled to take out the “large, concerning polyps,” and a genetic doctor, “It is not typical to have that many polyps in a 45-year-old women unless it is genetic."

I met with the new GI doctor about a month later, to undergo another colonoscopy procedure to remove the masses. Another colonoscopy, another round of prep. The procedure was routine, and the doctor was able to successfully remove the two concerning polys, as well as finding and removing a third.

February 23, 2023: “Hello, Rachel? This is Dr. Parsons. I am calling to tell you that I have received the pathology report from your colonoscopy. Cancer has been identified in the large polyp in your sigmoid colon.”

Words that took my breath away. "CANCER." One of the scariest words you can ever hear. Next steps were a whirlwind. Blood draws, CT scans, a sigmoidoscopy, and meeting with a surgeon.

Bloodwork and CT scan came back with great results, concluding that the cancer was small, and my GI doctor was confident that all will be OK. I would need to meet with a surgeon to have a colectomy, “but again this cancer is small, and we got it early. It will be OK.”

“What we will do is a robotic sigmoid colectomy and appendectomy. We will remove your sigmoid colon, about 9-12 inches, a sample of surrounding lymph nodes, and since I am in there I will remove your appendix as well. It will be a two to four day hospital stay with recovery time of four to six weeks. I have an opening on March 17.”

The thought of undergoing major surgery on one of my favorite holidays, missing out on corned beef and cabbage, and friendly shenanigans was disappointing. However, my family and friends reminded me that I would have St. Patrick looking over me, and the luck of the Irish on my side. It would be a great day to have the procedure. I was looking forward to having the surgery and this cancer scare behind me, and going back to my normal life.

I was admitted on March 17 and happily discharged on 19th. I enjoyed a low-fiber, soft-food diet starting with protein shakes and chicken broth. Then I graduated to the favorite diet of all young children, buttered noodles, mashed potatoes, and apple sauce. I was forbidden leafy greens, raw fruits, and vegetables for the first few weeks as my colon needed time to heal.

March 23, 2023: While laying in bed recovering from surgery. “Rachel, we received the pathology report, cancer was found in one of your lymph nodes. This is stage III cancer.”

Hearing "CANCER" the first time took my breath away. Hearing "stage III" brought me to my knees.

It was time to find an oncologist to start the next plan of treatment: more blood tests and another CT scan. Once we had a plan set, it was time to see my surgeon again, to insert a port underneath my skin. The port allows for infusions and injections to be tolerable, and protect my veins. My port was inserted through outpatient surgery on April 11.

Chemotherapy started the week of April 17, for six rounds. At the end of round six, the ctDNA test came back positive, and another six rounds were scheduled. I am currently finishing up and should be done with chemo by the end of October.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms included ongoing change in bowel habits.

Side effects

Side effects included fatigue, bowel irregularities, mouth sores, chemo induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), neuropathy, chemo brain.

Rachel's advice

The worst part of getting screened is the prep, but it not that bad. The procedure itself is very easy. Early detection is key in this battle.

Always find the good. Although my neuropathy has caused me my fingers and feet to go numb, I am still able to enjoy walks with my dog.

Live your life to the fullest on the recovery weeks.

NEVER GIVE UP!

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