Can you believe that for almost 14 months I'd noticed a small amount of purplish blood in my stool and did nothing about it? Surely, I had been rationalizing this situation in my own mind, trying to find a "good reason" for why I would be bleeding rectally; sure, I must have known that something was really wrong with me. BUT... it seemed plausible to me that the blood was just a hemorrhoid, nothing more.
Isn't it funny how we as humans tend to make excuses so we don't have to deal with unwanted situations? Yes sir, I'm guilty of saying "but, but, but" until I ran out of excuses for not prioritizing my own health. Deep down, I knew that colorectal cancer could have been one reason my stool color had changed to include a dark purple, maroon, burgundy blood. BUT... had I been aware that colorectal cancer was and still is the second leading cancer killer in the U.S., would I have sought care sooner?
Still, I was exhibiting another sign of colon cancer: my craving and chewing on ice. This constant craving for ice meant I could be anemic. Unaware my red blood cell count was low, I felt tired BUT... still healthy overall. I was only 41 years old with no family history of colorectal cancer. Nope, I didn't smoke and I wasn't overweight, so I was an unlikely candidate for this type of cancer.
Honestly, it's not like I didn't have health insurance BUT... times were tough, my husband and I were realtors trying to survive in the middle of the housing market crash. Seriously, how stupid was I, trying to avoid a high deductible attached to the colonoscopy vs. the higher cost of treating cancer. Looking back, I didn't realize that there is help offered to help cover the screening tests if you can't afford them. Many states provide colorectal cancer screening services to low-income, uninsured people.
And if I'm going to be completely honest, I avoided getting a colonoscopy because I feared that it would hurt. Yes, I was scared of the pain, scared of the blood, and scared that the camera would be tantamount to having anal sex. Sure, this was an irrational fear BUT... I believed my butt was an exit only. Yes, yes, and yes, my high anxieties about anal sex made me feel totally uncomfortable with a cancer screening. Crazy, right...
Well, the diagnoses: stage 3 colon cancer, thus beginning a year plus of appointments for CT scans, PET scans, and MRIs. Surgery was recommended as the most effective treatment for removing my tumor. BUT... had I sought treatment earlier I may not have needed surgery, the cancer could have been found in the early stages vs. the later stages. And as a mother of three children I still feel the weight from the guilt of not doing more and causing my family additional pain.
If all of this wasn't frightening enough, my husband of almost 10 years started to withdraw emotionally and physically from me. Within six months of treatment he served me with divorce papers. BUT... if I had researched his behavior I would have realized that wives diagnosed with cancer are seven times more likely to become divorced or separated during their illness. I pretended his reactions were normal; again I was guilty of finding excuses when I knew something was really wrong.
So I followed my doctor's orders as I endured two painful rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. I forged forward since I needed to focus on the fight ahead and not the fright associated with the unknown. It took time, but finally I realized how many times I used defense mechanisms to justify and explain in order to avoid the truth. Saying "but, but, but" is a way of making pain consciously tolerable. Today I share my story, in my current memoir RAW: One Woman's Journey Through Love, Loss, and Cancer.
My name is Fiona Finn from Fort Myers Beach, Florida, and thankfully, I am a stage 3 colon cancer survivor. Once my treatment was over I found a new life and chose to draw on my experiences. Yes, I decided to get involved with as many cancer-related activities and causes as possible in order to save lives. If you can take away anything from my story then my journey has been worth it. Please don't wait to see a doctor, "make no butts about it, and get a colonoscopy," if you notice:
-- A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or change in the consistency of your stool.
-- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
-- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
-- A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
-- Unexplained weight loss
-- Weakness or fatigue
Fiona Finn is the author of RAW: One Woman's Journey Through Love, Loss, and Cancer.