Colon cancer: Early detection is key
Back in 1999, Diane Kesterson was busy multi-tasking. She was teaching elementary school and taking a graduate class for a gifted endorsement.
“I was juggling family demands and being a neat freak at home and the combined stress, I thought, began to show,” Diane recalls.
She began living on prescription antacids, and thought of Maalox and Kaopectate as constant companions as she veered between constipation and diarrhea.
“My primary care physician worried that this was more than stress. He gave me a home test kit for fecal blood and asked me to submit a sample. ‘This is icky,’” Diane thought. "I’m not doing this."
“Finally, on winter break, I woke up one morning with abdominal pain like appendicitis. For the first time, it dawned on me that something was seriously wrong,” she says, “and I finally submitted the fecal test.”
Finding answers, getting treatment
“At age 45, five years before most people are even supposed to have their first colonoscopy screening, I had stage three colon cancer,” Diane says. “There’s no history of colon cancer in my family. How could I have known the answer? I could have known months earlier if I had paid attention to the symptoms and taken the fecal test my doctor recommended,”
A surgeon removed 12 inches of Diane’s colon, and chemotherapy dropped her weight down to 95 pounds and took most of her hair. She has had at least 15 colonoscopy screenings to monitor for a recurrence of cancer or new polyps, and many CT scans of her chest, abdomen and pelvis to check for cancer.
“My goal in sharing my story is prevention,” Diane says. “With today’s research-driven screening guidelines, rising public awareness and superb technologies, you don’t have to suffer through colon cancer. You can prevent it.”