Christina Kelly was pregnant with her second daughter in 2022 when she developed “severe symptoms.” hemorrhoids” I wasn’t too worried at first because I knew it was a common occurrence during pregnancy. When her symptoms did not subside several months after giving birth, she visited her doctor and ordered a colonoscopy. Kelly was stunned by the results. She had colorectal cancer.
“The doctor said, ‘We found a four-centimeter lump in your rectum, and it’s definitely cancer.’ It looks like cancer, but we won’t know until the pathology comes back. But we’re prepared. I want it to stay,” the 37-year-old Atlanta native told TODAY.com. “The scary thing is, I was 36 at the time, and it would have been nine years before it was discovered during a colonoscopy. ”
Pregnancy and lingering symptoms
Kelly didn’t get hemorrhoids during her first pregnancy, but she wasn’t too surprised when she developed them during her second. She knew it was a common but uncomfortable part of pregnancy.
“I was suffering from severe hemorrhoids, which hurt and bled when I went to the bathroom,” she says. “Now that we’ve got all the medications, it’s gotten a little bit easier. But they never really went away.” started to live a life of However, the hemorrhoids continued. About 10 months after her birth, she visited her doctor with another problem and she said she still had hemorrhoids.
“[My doctor]was like, ‘Oh, let’s get rid of them.’ No one wants to deal with that,” Kelly recalls. “I just asked her, ‘Can I have her colonoscopy?’ I just want to make sure everything is okay.” ”
Kelly wanted “peace of mind” but did not expect the test to reveal anything new. She said her doctor agreed. However, because she is not yet old enough to have a colonoscopy, she learns the day before her colonoscopy that it will cost her $600.
“I’m so grateful that I had the money to pay for it because I know people don’t just sit around and have money,” she says. “That colonoscopy saved my life…but not everyone has that opportunity.”
Her doctor immediately noticed a lump that looked like cancer. She was tested on Friday, but she was worried all weekend about what her pathology results would reveal.
“That weekend was the longest wait of my life. I just looked at my daughters and cried, not knowing it was cancer. How far had it spread?” Kelly says. “The pathology has recurred as cancer.”
Doctors suspected that the tumor was creating extra pressure, which caused her hemorrhoids to persist.
“When I looked further into the cause of the hemorrhoids, I discovered it was my tumor,” she says.
The cancer was diagnosed as stage 3 because it had only invaded one lymph node and had not spread to nearby organs. Still, doctors wanted Kelly to start chemotherapy right away because they didn’t want her to grow elsewhere. She has completed nine chemotherapy infusions and will begin her radiation treatment soon.
“I’m so grateful,” she says. “The treatment is working. My tumor is shrinking. My blood tests are improving.”
Colorectal cancer in young people
More young people like Kelly are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but experts remain unsure why this trend occurs.
“If you go back not too long ago to the ’90s, only one in five people under the age of 55 was diagnosed with colorectal cancer,” says Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society. . told TODAY.com in 2023. “We went from 11% to 20%. That’s a big change in a relatively short period of time.”
Screening recommendations currently encourage colonoscopies to begin at age 45 to capture some of these younger patients, but some may develop cancer before screening begins. Masu. That’s why it’s important to understand the symptoms. They include:
change bowel habits
Abdominal pain of unknown cause
Unexplained weight loss
Many people, even their doctors, feel uncomfortable addressing their bowel habits. However, experts agree that you should talk to your doctor about any symptoms you notice.
“Patients don’t necessarily report symptoms,” Dr. David Liska, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Juvenile Colorectal Cancer Center, told TODAY.com in 2023. ”
share her story
Once Kelly has completed radiation, her medical team will assess whether she needs surgery. She credits the support of her husband, Sean, and her children, 3-year-old Wren and 18-month-old, for motivating her when her treatments got tough. She hopes others will learn from her experience.
“I knew something was wrong, but it had been going on for so long that I needed to speak up and advocate for myself,” Kelly says. “I’ve talked to a lot of women who have hemorrhoids. It’s very common, but no one talks about it… people just deal with it.”
Kelly advises anyone with symptoms of intestinal problems to talk to their doctor rather than just suffering in silence. She considered waiting to tell her story until her treatment was finished, but she realized that raising her awareness about early detection could make a big difference for others. she knew.
“Sharing my story may save someone’s life,” she says. “This isn’t something everyone has to go through, but unfortunately it’s happening more and more to young people.”
This article was first published today.com