In a land far away there is no cancer— I want to live there.

I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer when I was 46. I was in great shape, ate right, exercised every day and was in an emotional satisfying relationship. One month later my brother, my only sibling, who was 48, was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer. I can’t even imagine what my parents were going through at this time. My parents lived in South Carolina, my brother in Hawaii and I was in Virginia. My treatment options were explained to me and I felt I had no other choice but to get going and get through this-whatever this journey would bring.

Daily radiation and oral chemo was first on the list for 6 weeks. I used this time to find a trainer and tried to get in the best shape of my life as I didn’t know what was to come. Having to travel at least one hour each way every day was quite an undertaking but my caregiver never complained he just made it happen every day.

My brother’s diagnosis spurred my doctor to do genetic testing for Lynch Syndrome. And she was right— I was positive for Lynch. This now meant that I needed to add a complete hysterectomy to my surgery schedule. I remember crying in my caregiver’s arms the morning of surgery that I didn’t want to do it- I wanted out. Please don’t, I begged. As he held me I knew he was scared too.

The eight-hour surgery left me with a J-pouch, an ileostomy, no uterus, ovaries, or cervix and hopefully no cancer. Two weeks later I was back in the Pilates room trying to train again-maybe not the best idea I ever had.

Now comes the chemo again, 3 day infusions every 10 days for 6 months. Towards the end of treatment I discovered acupuncture as a way to deal with the side effects-especially the fatigue. It was amazing. I wish I had done it all along.

When my chemo was over I was able to have my ileostomy reversed and asked for my port to be removed. I think this helped my distance myself from cancer. In the meantime my brother was getting worse and died one year after his diagnosis.

My four children and niece and nephew are very lucky as they can and have been tested to determine if they carry the Lynch Syndrome gene. Some of them weren’t so lucky as to have dodged the gene but at least they know and are tested early as to avoid a late stage diagnosis.

In a land far away there is no cancer— I want to live there.