Doris’ Story: Beating Colon Cancer Through Early Detection
Written by Dalton Godbey
“Live in the moment.”
That is the motto of 72-year-old Somerset resident Doris Rice, who in the last five years has seen her life alter more than she ever expected.
At age 67, Rice was a healthy woman who had never experienced any severe health issues. She consulted with her family doctor and got check-ups regularly.
Rice had also been getting colonoscopies every three years since age 50, the recommended age for routine colon cancer screening. Doctors removed pre-cancerous polyps during some of the colonoscopies. But in 2011, her doctor found a cancerous polyp – a signet ring, which is a cancerous cell that only 2 percent of the nation’s cancer victims develop, and few survive.
Rice was devastated and surprised. Colon cancer often runs in families, but her case shows that it does not discriminate.
“It really shocked me because I’m the first and only one in my family to have colon cancer,” she said.
Colon cancer is the second leading killer in the U.S. among cancers that occur in both men and women. Kentucky as of 2013 ranks No. 1 for colon cancer incidence and No. 4 for mortality in the U.S. Since 2000, Pulaski County has had more than 645 cases of colon cancer.
Rice is fortunate that she had been getting the recommended screenings. Many people do not, and that is why the Southern Kentucky Area Health Education Center and the Colon Cancer Prevention Project are sharing survivor stories this summer—to bring awareness to the importance of early detection. When caught early, colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers.
After a surgery that removed 17 inches of her colon, multiple cancerous lymph nodes, and after months of chemotherapy, Rice’s cancer seemed to have been cured. “The chemo really wore me down,” she said. “I was always tired and lost my appetite completely, but I was sure that was the end of it.”
Continuing her regular colonoscopies, doctors found cancer in another part of her colon in 2014.
“It was a less invasive cell, unlike the first I had.”
Though she had to endure complications from surgery, she eventually recovered and is now cancer-free.
However, in Rice’s case, even regular screening didn’t prevent the cancer, but her consistency may have saved her life after all.
Surviving cancer has helped her to appreciate the small things in life and the importance of making a difference.
“I want people to know that they’re not alone, and be a voice for this deadly disease,” she said. “It may save someone’s life.”
For more information on colon cancer screenings, contact the Pulaski County Health Department at (606)-679-4416. You may also contact the Colon Cancer Prevention Project Hotline at 1-(800)-841-6399.