The Young Girl with an “Old Person Cancer”

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I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer a few short days before my 24th birthday in 2019. Being diagnosed with colorectal cancer in your 20s is an absolute nightmare. In a couple weeks between diagnosis and meeting with my oncology team, I got all my scans to determine which treatment I needed. Due to my tumor size I was told that I needed radiation and chemotherapy pills, then after a break another four months of IV chemotherapy. At that time, no one prepared me for the heartbreaking side effects to my body that would follow treatment.

My mind first went to hair loss, because that is what is always associated with cancer. I did lose about half of my hair during chemotherapy, but I knew it was bound to grow back and I was just lucky that I did not lose it all. My oncologist also spoke to me about how my pelvic bones could experience late acting side effects from the 25 rounds of radiation. My world was standing still when I was being told about all these side effects I could or would experience. Everything was going in one ear out the other, it was an exhausting, emotionally draining day.

But the side effect I never in a million years thought about while getting my diagnosis was infertility. I was told how pelvic radiation essentially burns your uterus during treatment. At just 24 years old, I had to accept the fact I would never be able to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term. A few days before my colectomy surgery, I received a call from my gynecologist explaining the benefits of undergoing a hysterectomy during my upcoming surgery. So, there I sat at almost 25 years old trying to prepare for my upcoming colectomy and hysterectomy.

When people ask the hardest part of having cancer, I always say that it’s not the fact that I have cancer, it is the fact that one disease took away one of the things I have always wanted in life: my ability to carry children.

By Anna Martin