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RaLinda Harter

Patients & Survivors Stage III Colon Cancer Nebraska

Story: "I was 51 when I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. I thought I was doing all the right things to take care of myself. I was an active, healthy woman that exercised and ate right. I had a colonoscopy at the age of 50 and about a year later, I started experiencing symptoms – bowel changes, narrowing stools, blood, fatigue, and weight changes.

"With my healthy lifestyle and a recently clear colonoscopy, my doctor and I didn't expect it to be cancer. In 2021 and after several months of normal tests, my doctor sent me to a gastroenterologist.

"They asked that I do another colonoscopy, and this is when they found a tumor in my sigmoid colon. That was June 2021. In July, I had a left colectomy with end-to-end colorectal anastomosis. In August, I started chemo, and I finished my last round in March of 2022. Currently, I am NED.

"My family and friends have been my rock over the last couple of years. Always there for me. They help with all the challenges that a cancer diagnosis and chemo can give you. I am most thankful for that.

"I also learned that we must be our own best health advocates. When all the tests were coming back normal, I knew what I was going through was not normal for my body. I kept pressing my doctor for more tests, different tests, and I needed an answer. Cancer certainly wasn't the answer I wanted, but I had a path forward. With the support of my family, friends, work, and God, I knew I'd come through this. I still struggle with some of the lasting effects of chemo, but I'm slowly getting back to where I was. Time is my friend. Please, please, pay attention to your body and fight to get an answer. If I would have waited, things could have been very different."

Advice: "Don't be afraid. We must be our own health advocates. Colonoscopies are not difficult and there is so much our bowel movements can tell us about our health. Talk to your doctor. If you don't feel right, speak up. There are people who want to help. Giving up a few hours of your time could save your life.

"Put yourself first. Your body is fighting for you. Let it. Give your body and mind the time it needs to heal. It may go slow, but it will get there. Know you have a whole community of people here to help. Reach out. Speak up. Help others if you have survived your fight. We have a lot of work to do."

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