In October of 2012, I became one of the estimated 1.6 million people that heard the words “you have cancer.” I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer through a regular cancer screening.
While nobody ever wants to hear those words, I consider myself fortunate. My family, friends and co-workers have been supportive and loving throughout this experience, and I have access to excellent cancer treatment.
I was not symptomatic, but I knew that I should begin colorectal cancer screening at age fifty. Because of this, my cancer was found in an early, more treatable stage. While I join other patients every month for treatment, my oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center has told me that I should think of mine as a preventive measure. My experience has taught me how important cancer prevention, screening and early detection can be in one’s cancer diagnosis and outcome.
Being healthy and attentive to my health care has always been important to me and my family but since my diagnosis, it has become more of a top priority. For example, I stopped tanning at my tanning salon, which I admit to doing regularly until now. I no longer use tanning beds because I know that avoiding the harmful rays of tanning beds and the sun are vital in preventing skin cancer. I did nothing to cause my colorectal cancer, but if I were to develop skin cancer, I only have myself to blame. I want to do everything in my power to stay healthy and I don’t ever want to hear any doctor say, “you have cancer” again.
One of the other actions I took immediately after finding out that I had colon cancer was to help as many other people as I can learn about what they can do to reduce their risk for the disease. I knocked on the doors of the teachers who were 50 and older at the elementary school I work at and began encouraging them to get their screenings. I told them that despite the fear or displeasure of having the colorectal cancer screening, it’s not all that bad, it’s worth any discomfort and it can save lives. I’ve also made phone calls to friends who should get screened, because they are 50 or older or have a family history of colorectal cancer. I’ve given Prevent Cancer Foundation Buddy Bracelets to strangers that I’ve met at the pharmacy filling the same prescription as me, so that they can share the message of regular screenings with their loved ones. I will also make sure that my children and family talk to their health care providers about when to get screened; since we are now aware of a family history of the disease.
My goal in sharing my story is to help impress upon as many people as possible that there are steps that you can take to reduce your risk for cancer or to find it early. Getting screened, protecting yourself from the harmful effects of tanning and practicing healthy habits, like exercising and eating well, are all ways to help prevent cancer. While you can’t prevent all cases of cancer, there are some that can be prevented or detected early when it can be more successfully treated. I know that I am going to do everything that I can to ensure that the people in my life and community know what they can do to help save their life or the lives of their loved ones.
Editor’s Note: Guest Blogger Maryanne Kipe is a colon cancer patient who works at an elementary school in PA. She is a passionate advocate in her community for promoting colon cancer screening and early detection and knowing your family history in order to reduce one’s risk of the disease.