At the age of 40 in December 2015, I gifted myself with an appointment to meet with a genetic counselor to gain some insight into why almost all of my immediate (and several of my extended) family had been diagnosed and subsequently died from cancer.
After testing me for 11 potential different genetic mutations based on my family medical history, they found that I have Lynch Syndrome, with mutations in the MLH1 and PMS2 genes. This basically means I have a much higher lifetime risk for developing different cancers, namely 85% increased risk for colon and 40-60% increased risk than the average person for endometrial cancer, and several other types of cancer to slightly lesser degrees.
So per the genetic counselor’s recommendations, in March 2016, I had my first colonoscopy, and of course, they found a mass in my ascending colon. I was scheduled for a colectomy and total hysterectomy in May 2016. I went for a second opinion at the University of Chicago and even a third opinion at the Cleveland Clinic. They both agreed with this treatment plan at the time.
So I went ahead with the surgery. When I woke up, they told me they couldn’t actually complete the surgery as planned because the cancer had spread throughout my omentum, the layer of tissue blanketing my digestive tract, “like sand” and into my lymph system. I was officially diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic colon cancer and told that I “should get ready to start chemotherapy in the next couple weeks, as soon as my port was placed”. I was also told the average life expectancy for this diagnosis was anywhere from 12-24 months.