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For Everyone Touched By Cancer

Midlife Cancer Crisis: A Story Of Colon Cancer And How I Survived

Written by Pamela McColloch on 
25th January, 2022
Updated: 29th January, 2024
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Life as a single Mom with a teenager is hectic enough.

Add that with a dose of approaching my 50’s the angst had me in a tizzy.

What I thought was my body changing with dreaded menopause, was actually hellacious cancer cells multiplying rapidly in a tumor in my colon.

It was a normal (hot and muggy) June morning in Florida. Trying to get my teenager up for summer school was challenging. But not so much as the stabbing pain in my lower stomach.

I had no time for pain. But something was wrong. I had always been so healthy. Fit. A yogi that never had a weight problem until that year.  My abdomen was thickening, and I did not like it one bit. A long run after work that day was what I needed.

But then picking up my son and his buddy from the YMCA that afternoon, I knew that I could barely breathe from the pain, much alone put on sneakers and run.

At the sandwich shop that I took the boys to, the pain was so bad that I had tears streaming down my face

The smell from the deli meats were making me nauseous and we had to make a quick exit. Something was wrong.

As a single Mom, in order to keep the house running, making sales at work was a must. The next morning, I did the unthinkable. I called in sick to work and made an appointment with my doctor.

That day in Mid-June of 2013 would be the start of many appointments and many doctors. After the 2nd week into the testing, the verdict came in. An ugly and rather large tumor in my descending colon. And yes, it was cancer.

Shock. Disbelief. Denial. Fear. All wrapped up in one quick phone call from the colonoscopy doctor.

How could this be? I’m healthy.

This doesn’t happen in our family. What about all the salads I ate all my life? Doesn’t that count?

No amount of reasoning or justifying would make it go away. Surgery was planned immediately.

My lovely sister Karen who lives a few hours south was so gracious and told me she would take care of me. She had this and would be my advocate. I had always been such a independent and strong go getter, but this news had me a weepy hot mess.

The main thing in my head was, what will happen to Patrick? As a Christian, I have never feared death. I don’t want to die but I know there is a place for me in heaven where I will spend eternity. But who will take care of my 13-year-old boy?

After serious prayer and lots of love outpoured to me from family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, I went in to have the cancer cut out of me.

The 6-hour surgery removed 13 inches of my colon-my left ovary and fallopian tube-23 lymph nodes-and part of my rectum.

When I woke up to a room full of loved ones, I was given the news that my wonderful doctor had successfully resectioned my colon and I did not have leave the hospital with a colonoscopy bag. (Which is a bag to eliminate from if the surgery does not allow for regular bowel moments). Praise God!

A few days later the results came in from the 23 lymph nodes that were taken from my abdomen. More cancer cells in them. Due to the severity of the mutational type, double dousing of chemotherapy was to start yesterday.

The liver surgeon only gave me 50-50 chance to survive.

As my Dad used to say, “No. Hell No”.

I was barely recovering from MAJOR surgery and the last thing I was going to do was to die skinny, frail, and pathetic.

Nope, was not doing it.

This did not last very long with 3 older sisters and a village of besties that wanted me alive.

So, I did it. It was only by the grace of God that I got through that year. To try and explain what I endured has no benefit. Sharing with you the peace of Jesus that I experienced was nothing short of miraculous.

But this was just warm-up. After the year of chemo and tears and getting really close to Jesus, the one-year scans came clean!

Thank God! I took my sisters and besties all on a Caribbean Cruise to celebrate my life free of cancer!

But shortly after returning, my phone rang from my oncologist, get in here now Pamela, there was a mistake in reading your bloodwork. What?? The nightmare was returning.

After more tests and a PET scan, the worst of the worst, cancer in my liver.

Upon meeting the best liver doctor in Central Florida, who was to take out the cancer from this vital organ of mine, he looked like a teenager. Ok, this strong chick had given up control to so many in the past 12 months I couldn’t stop now.

Preparing to go into surgery AGAIN, to have 1/2 of my liver taken out is to say the least frightening. I cried and I prayed and cried some more.

When I could not cry anymore, we came to an agreement. God told me that if I do my part (which was to let others care for me for a while), then he would do his part in watching over Patrick.

So, we did it. Seven hours of surgery with 3 doctors and a slew of nurses keeping me alive, I woke up from that sicker than I had ever been. I lost so much blood that I needed a transfusion and could barely talk.

After a few days the hospital staff said I must start moving. I had to get up and walk around the nurse’s station. What would take anyone else would be a 2-minute stroll. It took me (with Karen helping) 25 minutes of struggling to get back to my hospital bed.

The healing from this one was harder, but I was more determined than ever to prove the doctors wrong.

The liver surgeon only gave me 50-50 chance to survive. But you see my God does not work with puny averages. We had a deal, and my part was to try my absolute hardest and that was what I did.

Seven beautiful years later, here I am.

The thoughts of cancer returning still seep back in my brain upon occasion, but I quickly replace them with gratitude that I am still here, active, blessed and soon to be a grandma with Patrick’s first child…a Boy!

Further reading

Cancer Patient Nutrition – Navigating The Nonsense after a Diagnosis

What To Say To Someone Who Has Cancer (And What Not To Say)

I Am A Male Breast Cancer Survivor And This Is My Story

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