My name is Dianne, and I am a Stage IV colon cancer survivor. Please allow me to share my story with you so that others might not suffer the devastating effects of this insidious disease.
My childhood years were challenging, because my father was an alcoholic who smoked a lot and abused me. By the grace of God and my church family, I survived those tough years, and met my husband, Len. We traveled throughout the States and Europe while serving in the U.S. Army.
God blessed us with two wonderful sons, Adam and Scott. I earned a college degree, and became a registered nurse so that I might help others. Neo-natal and pediatric nursing were my specialties.
On July 13, 2005, a colonoscopy confirmed that I had Stage III colon cancer. Prior to the colonoscopy, others told me that the internal bleeding was probably due to hemorrhoids. During the months leading up to the colonoscopy, I felt severe pelvic pain; however, a gynecologist did not detect anything abnormal. Perhaps scans might have revealed the golf ball size tumor that was growing in my rectal colon.
Ten inches of my colon were surgically removed 15 days after the colonoscopy. 20 weeks of chemotherapy (Folfox and Avastin) and six weeks of radiation followed the surgery. I endured many painful side effects, but a PET scan subsequently showed that the cancer was in remission.
In late 2006, CEA blood marker results began rising, and another PET scan revealed that the cancer had spread to my liver. Thus, I was now considered a Stage IV colon cancer survivor, because the original colon cancer had spread to other parts of my body.
A surgeon at Johns Hopkins removed 60 percent of my liver, and also removed my gall bladder on December 28, 2006. He discharged me on New Year's Day, 2007.
Five days later, I was admitted to a local hospital suffering from excrutiating abdominal pain that resulted from an intestinal blockage caused by surgical complications. Throughout 2007, I endured toxic chemotherapy (Folfiri, Panatumamab and Avastin). Side effects included hair loss, blisters, skin rashes, neuropathy, painful swallowing and much more.
I also endured two surgeries to correct incisional hernias in the spring and fall of 2007. My husband often tells me that his one year combat deployment to Afghanistan pales in comparison to the war that I have been fighting against colon cancer.
On September 12, 2007, another PET scan revealed that the cancer had spread to my right lung, liver and pelvis. My radiation oncologist treated the tumors with stereotactic radiation, and I took a pause from further toxic chemotherapy. I regained some strength, and had a dime-sized basal cell carcinoma removed from my nose in December 2007. That same week, I had a liver aspiration and a third incisional hernia repaired.
After a wonderful Christmas in 2007 with our two sons and a daughter-in-law, Adele, I chose to postpone the next PET scan, and visit Hawaii with my husband. Len and I had a great time visiting Oahu, the Big Island and Maui as we celebrated a belated 30th Anniversary.
February 7, 2008 was a bad news day, but I left the oncologist's office with even more determination to fight. A PET scan revealed that the cancer spread to both lungs, four spots near the aorta, the left adrenal gland, the liver and the abdominal cavity.
I continue to choose living each day that God gives me, and believe with my heart that He is healing me. I am now receiving aggressive chemotherapy and stereotactic radiation simultaneously.
I hope that my story informs the reader, and prevents others from suffering the devastating effects of colon cancer. Additionally, my hope is that researchers will find a cure for colon cancer now! Please research your family's medical history, and get a second or third medical opinion if you are having any symptoms. Help us defeat this disease!
Emilie Dianne Shartzer passed away on July 4, 2009. Her obituary is published at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dailypress/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=129379240#fbLoggedOut