One year after ringing the bell, mom’s cancer fight continues

The most important lesson we’ve learned in all of this is how vitally important it is to get screened for colon cancer

colon cancer

A year ago last week, my mom rang the bell.

For anyone familiar with the cancer fight, ringing the bell generally means they’ve completed their round of treatments for the cancer with which they were diagnosed.

In mom’s case, it was colon cancer, which turned out to be Stage IIIB.

As we learned at the time, ringing the bell did not necessarily mean she was cancer-free. It meant, as Penn Medicine News noted in a post on “redefining the bell” and what it signified for people, “hope for success against cancer.”

Mom was diagnosed in October 2022 after having a colonoscopy done. Prior to that, she’d been experiencing iron deficiency anemia, for which she had periodically received iron infusions. She also experienced other debilitating symptoms before her diagnosis, including nausea and an inability to keep certain foods down.

Though it was recommended that she get one, she had put off having a colonoscopy done for a year or so because she was a caregiver for my dad, and her primary focus had been taking care of him.

Cancer and the treatments for it can be rough on patients, and that was especially true in Mom’s case considering her age and mobility challenges. Plus, years of taking care of Dad had also taken its toll on her body.

But she was a trooper, receiving six chemotherapy treatments over the course of three months starting in January 2023, with the worst side effect being periodic peripheral neuropathy, which thankfully has mostly gone away at this point.

We’ve been thankful to God that her follow-up appointments have been so heartening, with her bloodwork and CT scans looking good and her follow-up colonoscopy done earlier this year finding no polyps. We pray for more good news at her next follow-up appointment, which is in May, and the CT scans she will have a couple of months after that.

We’ve also been immensely grateful for her medical team, from her primary care physician and her gastroenterologist to her surgical oncologist and her medical oncologist, along with their respective staffs. When a person is going through something as scary as cancer, having full confidence in the people who are taking care of them is crucial to keeping an upbeat mindset that they can persevere.

But though things have been encouraging so far, it doesn’t mean the fight is over. Periodic appointments with her medical oncologist along with dietary modifications are critical in the fight, the latter of which has earned me the nickname “The Food Sheriff” as I try to keep mom on the right track with the things she eats and drinks.

The most important lesson we’ve learned in all of this is how vitally important it is to get screened for colon cancer, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms. As I’ve written in a previous column, it’s been wonderful to see the national colon cancer awareness campaigns that have been undertaken in recent years and which involve celebrities encouraging people to get screened.

Getting screened allows doctors to potentially catch things early on, which can mean the difference between simply removing a polyp to having to have surgery to remove a tumor and then chemo and/or radiation treatments to follow.

Take it from me, someone who used to not want to get a colonoscopy because of what it involved: It’s much easier than you think, with the prep work being the “worst” of it. The procedure itself doesn’t last that long, and you’re out for all of it. So why not?

It’s important here, as the Colorectal Cancer Alliance has promoted, to “Lead From Behind.” In doing so, you very well could be saving yourself future medical hardship, and you might even save your life.

North Carolina native Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a media analyst and regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.