“I doubt it is polyps, because of your age.”  This is what the general surgeon told me when I went in for a consultation for rectal bleeding at 22.  I’d had symptoms for some time; at 16, the doctor suggested it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome and prescribed me some pills (which provided no relief).  

Waking up from my first of what would end up being 6 colonoscopies in about six months, the doctor said, “It’s not life or death, but you need to see a specialist,” and called the colorectal surgeon before I even left recovery.  My colon was covered in polyps, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what that meant.

Turns out, I have Familial Adenomatous Polyposis.  While it’s generally passed from parent to child, I’m the first in my family to have it.  Along with a colon full of polyps, my stomach was also carpeted.

At 23 years old, I had the first of three surgeries to remove my colon and create a J-pouch.  During this seven month process, I had an ileostomy.  Before I was discharged from the hospital from the first surgery, I found out that my colon had over 500 polyps, of which two were stage 1 colon cancer.  Luckily I had the surgery when I did, otherwise, the cancer would developed into a higher stage and spread outside of the colon.  Who would have thought at 23 I would be a colon cancer survivor? Never in a million years.

Fast-forward almost six years, and I’m doing great.  While the surgical process was fraught with complications, I’ve had none since I recovered from the last surgery.  So far the cancer hasn’t come back, though polyps have grown in my J-pouch.  I go every six months for biopsies of polyps in my stomach, duodenum (top of the small intestine, and J-pouch in an attempt to keep me cancer free.

Looking back at day 1 post-colectomy, I have come so far from that hospital visit when I was so weak I couldn’t walk without a walker.  In the last two years I’ve run a handful of half-marathons, and just ran my first marathon, and soon I will compete in a figure competition.  While F.A.P. is a life sentence, full of scary symptoms and sometimes scarier complications, I’m doing alright.  And forever grateful to myself for finally listening to my body and realizing something was wrong.  Otherwise, I might not be around today.