Colon Cancer at 21

It was the end of a great year in school. I had spent the previous summer at University of Michigan working on research and had won an National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledgment for my work, I had met the greatest guy in the world and I had gotten a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) at the end of the semester. I was on top of the world! After all, isn’t that what we all expect when we turn 21? I would have to say that the answer is yes. I did expect to be on top of the world. At 21 I felt invincible, I thought I was going out into the world to get my dream job, dream wedding, dream house, in the end, I thought I was living a dream of a life.

Soon enough reality knocked on my door. It was no longer time for “La Vita Bella”. It was time to learn a new life lesson…nothing is forever. My diagnosis, colon cancer! Imagine, colon cancer at 21 years of age! Colon cancer is something I thought affected people over 50 years of age. Surely, I started questioning the validity of statistics and probability. Within a short time I was having surgery and being scheduled for chemotherapy. To my surprise I did not cry and I was not scared, not because I am made of stone, but because I have faith. Not only do I have faith, I have a family that supported me like you would not believe and I have friends that crowded my room so frequently the nurses where starting to wonder if I was some sort of celebrity. To tell you the truth, I felt like one.

As I started chemotherapy I decided that I wanted to stay in school and continue my school year as normal as possible. I went once a week for my treatment and got back to school as soon as I was done. No one knew, except for my roommates. I was tired and nauseous all the time, and my skin was so dark from toxicity that a classmate thought I had become a surfer…yeah right! I kept living my everyday life like nothing was happening. I refused to have cancer lead my life. I never lost my hair (a blessing for which I am thankful still to this day), a strange fact, but explained by my doctors as an effect of my positive attitude.

Time went by and after eight months of chemotherapy I was cancer free. I finished my degree with a 4.0 GPA which earned me the medal for highest GPA in my concentration and I had been accepted to the Medical Technology school of my choice. I was on the right track again, and after much thought I realized that I had actually never gotten off track. Yes I had cancer and yes I had to go through surgery and chemotherapy, but I never let any of these things dictate what my life should be. Cancer was never my life, it was just a small part of it. When put against all of the positives in my day to day life, cancer became a smaller and smaller negative spot in it.

It is now almost ten years later and I am blessedly healthy. I keep my family and friends close to my heart since they are the therapy no psychiatrist can provide. I’ve had seven invasive colon exams and other numerous tests on a yearly basis to make sure I keep healthy. Do I love it? No! But to live my life with peace of mind I do it all. It has been a long journey and for the rest of my life it will be. There is not one day where I don’t look at what I am eating and wonder if this meal will be the one to give me another tumor. There is not one day where I don’t think about cancer. But, there is not one day in my life where I forget to live it because I am too busy thinking about cancer. I married the wonderful man I met in college on my return from summer research in my dream wedding, I have my dream job and my dream house. Thanks to cancer I realized that being alive is the dream and that I am therefore living a dream of a life.

My name is Michelle and I am a ten year colon cancer survivor.