Vanessa Took The Challenge

About Vanessa

I always love how surprised people are when I say I was only 28 when I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, because the general public still thinks this is an older man’s disease.

After doctors ignored my symptoms and complaints I was finally diagnosed in the emergency room.The cancer in my body was metastasized in my rightabdominal wall, then later in my left lung. The surgeon told me that I had tumors running in and out of my colon and small intestine like a roller coaster. He said that the type of tumors I had was called Jelly Belly and it was like a clear jelly kind of coating all over the outside of my colon. The scariest thing the surgeon told me was if I hadn’t come to the ER, the part of the tumor that was coming through my abdominal wall was so close toperforating it, it would have broken through my outer skin in less than two weeks.

I also remember being told I had to get my affairs in order as soon as possible. I didn’t realize at the time that my whole world would change and that every aspect of my life would get really bad before it got better. I was too sick to work, bill collectors calling non-stop, working with lawyers and social workers as my son, who was only 10 at the time, decided who was going to raise him when I am gone and so many other issues.

It was hard and it was dark battle with cancer and every single complication you can possibly get, I got! The more serious of complications was having a huge clot form in my heart from the chemotherapy port, but even with all of those complications and issues somewhere along the way you realize that you have a choice. You can choose to get chemotherapy, have surgeries and fight the cancer invading your body or you can die peacefully. Once I realized cancer had no power over me, I decided to be positive and all the darkness started to be replaced with light.

Now, at 40, I am 12 years out from my initial diagnosis and I can say I have No Evidence of Disease (NED). I still have a lot of pain and complications from all the surgeries, eight in total, and damage to my body from three years of chemotherapy but it’s OK because I am alive and my life is literally dedicated to giving back!

I advocate strongly for the under 50 crowd and for those of us who do not have family history. I also advocate for legislation regarding colon cancer on a local and sometimes national level, train new advocates year in D.C., participate in and help create awareness and screening campaigns with various organizations, and I give patient support by giving advice, help and encouragement to those in need!

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