I was a 28-year-old woman – I was healthy, I didn’t smoke, didn’t drink and had no genetic predisposition for colorectal cancer.
I was working my dream job as a systems integrator at a government facility. I loved it. I was the woman in high heels with the pencil skirt, cute hair, lipstick and several military guys under my command.
So, when I went to my doctor to check at what I thought were hemorrhoids, I was shocked when he told me I actually had stage 3 colorectal cancer. I didn’t believe him.
I was fixated on the hemorrhoids. As soon as I heard the word cancer, I said, nope.
At first, I didn't want to believe it was cancer
It wasn’t until two weeks after starting treatment, while standing outside my home in Alabama in the rain talking to a friend whose dad had died from colorectal cancer, that I finally believed it. I had cancer. I wanted to believe it was hemorrhoids and not cancer in the same way I wanted to believe the water dripping down my face was rain and not tears.
And that’s when I told her, this cancer is going to be here forever. I’m going to have to figure out how to talk about this.
Humor was my saving grace, along with my husband, family and friends. My support system was with me the whole journey. A few months later my husband and I moved back to my home state of Arizona so I could go to a top clinic in Phoenix, a renowned cancer care facility, for treatment.
Although I go for treatment every so often, I’m glad I didn’t have to do chemotherapy or radiation. It does make it feel less like cancer. Within weeks after my diagnosis, I had gone from a stage 3 to stage 1 colorectal cancer. For that I am very grateful.
It didn’t happen that way for my mother.
She found a lump on her breast. She was in denial and thought it would just go away. By the time she got checked, it was stage 3 breast cancer. She underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Her treatments were more aggressive, risky and uncertain.
Have you checked your poop lately?
Now I know it’s awkward, but I have to ask. Have you checked your poop lately?
I ask everyone all the time. It’s how I announced I had cancer on Facebook. I’ve convinced many people to get their poop checked using Cologuard. It’s a discreet, at home kit. In addition to cancer, it checks for precursors to other health issues.
A new survey by the American Cancer Society, Genentech, Stand Up To Cancer and Optum found that two-thirds of Americans are afraid of what they might find if they get screened for cancer.
But, I can attest, please get screened. Go to your annual preventive appointments. Don’t get caught off guard like I did. I was already at risk for possibly dying from my own stage 3 cancer when they found it.
Cancer will be there whether you talk about it or not.
These days, I work for Optum. I live a few blocks away from the clinic where I get treatment. I have a great boss. He understands when I give him my “three-day notice” to get checked.
I have to be conscious of what I’m eating and stay healthy. Now I have to ask again. Have you checked your poop lately?
Macie Chase, a former psychiatric nurse, is a senior I/O engineering specialist at Optum, a health services company. She lives in Phoenix with her husband, three birds and a new puppy. Share your thoughts at email@example.com.
Cancer Screen Week
Learn more about cancer screening and access additional survey findings at CancerScreenWeek.org, a national effort to help connect Americans with screening education and resources to boost awareness and ease confusion and anxiety.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Cancer screening isn't just for older folks. Ask me how I know