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Vick Fisher

Patients & Survivors Stage III Colon Cancer Virginia
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Story: “I went for my first colonoscopy years later than I should have, at age 54. The health care team found the tumor immediately. They said it had been there for years. After that, I had a sigmoidoscopy, a CEA test, and a CT scan. The CEA test showed nothing. The sigmoidoscopy and CT scan showed a tumor.

"Next, I had a low anterior resection surgery to remove the section of my sigmoid that had the tumor, along with the connected lymph nodes. They said they took out about a foot of my intestine. The biopsies of the removed tissue showed five lymph nodes had cancer, which indicated I was stage IIIb. That number of lymph nodes calls for a six month FOLFOX chemo treatment. Chemo was not fun, but neither was it as unpleasant as I had feared.

"During my treatment, they did blood tests every couple of weeks to check that I was OK before initiating the next round of chemo. My platelet count dropped week after week, until finally it was considered too low to continue. So, we had to delay a treatment two weeks, which extended the chemo completion date by two weeks. That was a bummer. But, my platelet count recovered, and we were able to finish with no other interruptions.

"I continued working nearly full time, using my laptop on the hospital WiFi from the infusion chair most times. I scheduled my chemo on Wednesday mornings, which meant that the strongest effects would be on Friday afternoon through Saturday. I was too tired to work Friday afternoons, and I spent a lot of Saturdays lying on the couch. I had some nausea, but not strong, only barely noticeable. Overall, I lost about 10 pounds, which is a lot for me, as I was very lean to start with.

"The worst part for me was I got Clostridium Difficile AKA C-DIFF. That's an intestinal infection that comes from bacteria everyone has, but it gets out of control sometimes if too much of the other bacteria in your system is killed by chemo or antibiotics. I had severe stomach cramps, and was admitted to the hospital for a couple of days. Really I was fine the first day, after they started the Vancomycin. Vancomycin is one of the only antibiotics that can be used to treat C-DIFF.

"About a week after my final chemo, I went on a hiking trip. During that week of vacation, I hiked miles in the New Mexico summer sun every day. All of that chemo didn't have a large impact on my fitness.”

Advice: “Don't delay. A colonoscopy is really not unpleasant. Even the preparation isn't that bad. There's no pain, like with some stomachaches that cause diarrhea. Think of it as a spring cleaning of your system. There are people in California that do this just for the cleanliness. Take your phone or laptop into the bathroom and watch a movie. You'll forget where you are!”

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