Don’t Sit on Colon Cancer 5K
Despite the challenges, setbacks and exhaustion Dulcie Grabarczyk faced while battling colon cancer in her early 40s, she remains upbeat about the direction her life has taken and her ability to educate others about the disease.
Grabarczyk, the patient speaker at this year’s Don’t Sit on Colon Cancer 5K, especially wants to reach those under 50, the recommended age for a colonoscopy.
“Cancer is on the rise for people under 50,” says Grabarczyk, a wife, mother of three and real estate agent. “We need to get over the stigma of talking about bowel health. A lot of people don’t know what symptoms to look for. I certainly didn’t recognize my symptoms.”
A Surprise Diagnosis
Dulcie’s gynecologist ordered a colonoscopy after Dulcie experienced pain from uterine adhesions. Right before she went under anesthesia, Dulcie mentioned to the doctor that she’d noticed a little bleeding, but no one expected what happened next.
“My GI doctor was floored,” Dulcie said. “When I woke up, he came to me and started to tear up. He was just as shocked as I was to find a tumor.”
Dulcie was diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer and immediately underwent six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumor. In February 2012, Dulcie underwent surgery for a hysterectomy and bowel resection. Tests after the surgery revealed her colon cancer was actually stage 3A.
Difficult Side Effects
Dulcie suffered terribly painful cold sores in her mouth as a result of her cancer treatment and got down to 92 pounds. Fatigue plagued her. She also continued to have bowel obstructions and pain and was in and out of the hospital. She eventually had to leave her job as a defense contractor because of her health concerns.
“Even though I was cancer free, I was still dealing with the effects from the radiation and surgeries, “Dulcie says. “I couldn’t hold a job. I couldn’t work out. It really limited all the activities that I enjoyed."
At 42, two years after her colon cancer diagnosis, Dulcie made the brave decision to have a permanent colostomy. She says it is a decision she has never regretted, as it greatly increased her quality of living and allowed her to return to an active lifestyle. Sentara’s Dr. William Rudolph was her surgeon throughout her treatment.
Dulcie is adamant about spreading the word about colon cancer symptoms and advises those under 50 not to be shy to ask their doctor to order a colonoscopy if they are suffering from GI issues.
More Life Lessons
As Dulcie reshaped her life after cancer, she chose another career as a real estate agent after spending decades as a real estate investor.
“In a sense, cancer provided me with one of my greatest gifts,” Dulcie says. “It gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate what I want to do with my life. Sometimes life takes you on a different path and it was time to make a change.”
Dulcie gives back to other colon cancer patients by being a colon cancer buddy through the Colon Cancer Alliance. She offers advice and support over emails and the phone. She’s also looking forward to sharing the lessons she’s learned with those gathered to participate in the “Don’t Sit on Colon Cancer 5K” on March 24, 2018 at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.