By Kaylynn Paynter
Jan. 23, 2014
Nausea. Diarrhea. Constipation. It’s just the flu.
Weakness. Fatigue. Exhaustion. It’s only a lack of sleep.
Weight loss. Abdominal pain. Bloating. It’s a dietary issue.
Bleeding. Anemia. Hemorrhoids. I’m sorry, but it’s cancer.
The signs are there, but still some people choose to ignore them and act like nothing’s wrong.
On P.E.I., where cancer rates are higher than the national average, this human habit of suffering in silence needs to change, says Lori Barker, the executive director of the P.E.I. division of the Canadian Cancer Society.
She shared some of the alarming statistics about one of the Island’s most common cancers.
“Colorectal Cancer is the third most common cancer in Island men and the
second most common cancer in Island women. In 2013, there was an estimated 115 new cases of colorectal cancer on the Island. Of those, 60 were male, and 55 were female.”
June Adams of Kensington was one of the estimated 55 women who received the diagnosis last year. Adams went to her doctor after suffering flu-like symptoms for the better part of the month.
“I was nauseated for the first week and thought I had the flu. The second week I was still nauseated and my bowels slowed. Thinking it was the flu I didn’t do anything. By the third week I was still nauseous, my bowels had stopped completely and I was terribly bloated. So I made an appointment with my doctor.”
A surgeon performed a bowel scope. The news came soon after, cancer.
“I found out that very day. I was immediately booked for a CT scan to see if it had spread.”
As quick as the cancer diagnosis had come, Adams’ decision to fight it came even quicker.
“My first thought was oh my God. OK. How do we start this process and get rid of it.”
Adams is undergoing chemotherapy three days a week, every two weeks to try to shrink all of the tumors so she can have surgery in Halifax.
Living with cancer is not easy. It takes a phenomenal support system to help those dealing with their diagnosis push through the tougher days. Strong family ties, supportive doctors and an unwavering faith give Adams the strength to press on.
“Every day is tough, but I am fighting through it. My family, friends, co-workers and doctors make that possible. God gave me something to deal with. They say he doesn’t give anyone more than they can handle, so I get up each morning and thank him for another day on Earth and just go day by day.”
After a few months living with the knowledge that she has cancer, Adams has a pearl of wisdom for anyone in any stage of the journey to recovery.
“Keep a positive attitude. I have always told people that I believe it is 90 per cent of their recovery. Surround yourself with people who will love and support you through this.”
Surrounding herself with the people that love her most has helped Jackie Montgomery get through the first few weeks following her cancer diagnosis on Jan. 9.
After months of unresolved bowel issues, her doctor decided it was time for her to go see a specialist. With a history of colorectal cancer in her family, Montgomery agreed.
On Dec. 27, Montgomery went to the Prince County Hospital for a scope. On Jan. 9, Montgomery received the call nobody wants to get.
“I had cancer. When I received the news that I had cancer I cried and then I wondered what was going to happen to me.”
Montgomery’s mind raced with questions as she struggled to accept the news.
“Is the cancer anywhere else? How long have I had it? What would have happened if I had never had those problems? Would it have been too late?” She asked herself.
Montgomery had a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread.
“It’s one thing to know you have cancer, it’s something else entirely know knowing how bad it is.”
Good news, the cancer hadn’t spread. Aside from a small spot on her liver, which doctors will continue to monitor, the Cancer was found only in the bowel.
This means Montgomery is clear for surgery in Halifax to have part of her bowel removed. Depending on the outcome of the surgery, Montgomery may need follow-up chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
Her biggest supporters are there for her.
“My husband Bill, my mom and dad, my kids, the rest of my family and friends, they have all been so caring and loving. I couldn’t do this without them.”
Still, she has her down days.
“I have my bad days, especially when I think too much about what might happen, but for the most part I am staying very positive that they will get it all.”
The best thing to do is keep busy, she said.
“Stay strong. It’s OK to cry, but keep positive. Keep as busy as your body will allow you to.”
Montgomery also looks to the spiritual side of things for additional support.
“Prayer is a wonderful thing. The more support you have, the stronger you will feel.”
Montgomery and Adams are not alone.
Baker said colorectal cancer on P.E.I. has the third highest mortality rate in the country, with a third of the cases reported last year resulting in death.
The problem is lack of early detection.
Steps are being taken to change things, she said.
“In 2011, the P.E.I. government launched the provincial colorectal screening program, which should result in a notable decline in mortality rates in future years as a result of earlier detection.”