Did you know that March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month? Colon Cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. Just in case you don’t know, the colon is part of the large intestine. It holds waste products until they are eliminated from your body. I felt compelled to blog about this disease because it has affected me and my family so greatly.
My maternal grandfather was diagnosed with colon cancer when I was in middle school. One of my mother’s sisters, affectionately known to us as Aunt Doll, lived in the same city we lived in. So every weekend, Aunt Doll would come over to our house with her two daughters to pick up my mother, brother and me. We would all pile in Aunt Doll’s Ford Explorer and make the 2.5 hour drive to visit Granddad and help my Grandma take care of him. This was our routine for several weeks. He had surgery and everything seemed to be okay for a while. Then, the cancer came back. This time, he had to have a colostomy. In very simple terms, a colostomy is a surgery in which an opening is made in the abdomen so that fecal matter can leave the body through an attached sterile pouch. Granddad’s surgery was more than 15 years ago and he has not had a problem with cancer since. He recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
A couple of years later, my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer. She had surgery and has been cancer free ever since. It seemed like right after that, her husband developed colon cancer. He also had surgery and has not had any issues with cancer since then.
Ironically, Aunt Doll, who used to travel weekly to be there for her own father, developed colon cancer in 2005. When I heard the news, I had no doubt in my mind that she would be healed, just like my three other beloved family members that had the exact same disease. She was much younger than my grandparents when they came down with the disease. She had just hit her 50s. My grandparents were in their 70s when they had colon cancer.
Aunt Doll had surgery and had to go through chemo. This was devastating because Aunt Doll was like a mom to me. She and my mother were close as sisters could get. She was a beautiful person, inside and out. It hurt me to know she was going through so much pain. She eventually had to get a colostomy, just like her father.
While Aunt Doll was fighting cancer, I got pregnant. She told my mom, “I hope I get to see her baby.” My mom told her not to talk like that. “Of course you’ll get to see him,” my mom said.
Soon afterwards, Aunt Doll progressed and started back driving. She had been a 1st grade teacher for 24 years and longed to get back in the classroom. Things were looking good for a while. She sent me maternity clothes and called me from time to time. But the cancer eventually spread to other parts of her body.
After I got word that things were going downhill, I arranged for a flight to take my 3 month old son to see Aunt Doll. When she saw him, she said, “That’s the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen in my life.” She talked about my son long after I left.
Aunt Doll passed away on August 8, 2007, less than a month after I left. To this day, I still grieve the loss of my dear Aunt Doll. I sometimes wonder why she didn’t get her healing here on Earth. I know she’s in heaven and I’ll get to see her again someday, so that brings some comfort. I know she has received total healing now with the Father.
By the time Aunt Doll’s cancer was discovered, it was pretty advanced. Early detection is so important. If you are over the age of 50, you should talk with your doctor about screening for colon cancer. If you have a family history of cancer, you should talk with your doctor about how often you should receive certain screenings.