I was 23 when my life changed forever.
I know this isn’t a groundbreaking statement – lots of people graduate, get a new job, get married, or do other life-changing things at 23.
I got cancer.
I had graduated from the University of Hartford and stayed on campus to get a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.
I played Division I basketball at Hartford and was excited to go into a career related to sports.
My plans were interrupted though, when a chronic health issue I’d quietly managed on my own got out of control.
For seven or eight years, I had been dealing with an embarrassing problem – gastric distress and bleeding – on and off; sometimes mild, sometimes severe.
I hardly talked to anyone about it, and when doctors played it down, tried to blame it on my diet, or told me to wait it out, I just accepted what they said.
I had to miss a game now and then, but overall I learned to live with it. What I realize now is that I was living with a pit in my stomach every time I would see that blood, but not want to talk to anyone about it.
During my first year in the DPT program, I got pretty sick and felt like I had to push harder for a diagnosis of some sort – that pit was telling me that something bad had to be going on.
It was really hard to advocate for myself. Little did I know it was the first of many times I would have to speak up more than I felt comfortable with or make a decision I didn’t feel ready to make.
I had a colonoscopy and was expecting to hear that I had Chron’s Disease or IBD.
Nope – colon cancer. WTF.
I had been prepared to give up gluten, but I was NOT ready for moving home, putting down tens of thousands of dollars for fertility preservation, surgery, chemo, radiation, losing tons of weight, botched surgery, more surgery, hysterectomy, ostomy bag.