50,000 Americans die from colon cancer each year but tens of thousands also survive it. As part of this week's special coverage on WVIZ PBS and WCPN ideastream's Katie Baker has this audio postcard about one of those survivors. It's a woman from Stow, Ohio who like most colon cancer patients, got diagosed late.
SIMPSON: My name is Laura Simpson. I'm 36 years old. I was diagnosed in May of 2008 with stage IV colon cancer at the age of 34.
BAKER: Laura had been experiencing symptoms for awhile and made an appointment with a colorectal surgeon. He recommended she try a high fiber diet, but when she continued to see blood and mucus in the stool and had increasingly irregular bowel movements, they scheduled a colonoscopy. It was during that colonoscopy, her doctor found a tumor.
SIMPSON: He said that he had found that the tumor in my colon was cancerous and the cells had spread, had metastasized in my liver, there were three tumors and it was stage IV and I remember asking him out of how many stages--- and he said four and I thought oh that's not good.
BAKER: From there her team of doctors outlined a plan that included colorectal surgery to remove eight inches of colon, followed by three months of chemotherapy to shrink the tumors in the liver. That was followed by liver resection surgery to remove the tumors on the liver followed by a final three months of chemotherapy. Before the treatments started, she broke the news to her children.
SIMPSON: I'm a single divorced single mother of two young children ages 7 and 5. And we sat down and I remember telling her I had been to the doctor and they found some bad growing cells that were making me sick. My son was 3 1/2 at the time a lot of it kind of went over his head. I told them they could help me by giving me hugs and kisses and drawing me pictures. They weathered everything so well. Kids are amazing.
BAKER: As a single mom coping with an aggressive form of cancer, Laura had her hands full.
SIMPSON: A lot of the appointments I had early on I attended on my own it would have been a lot more helpful to have someone there with me.
BAKER: She experienced several setbacks after the liver surgery. Fortunately the follow-up chemotherapy went well.
SIMPSON: I brought the kids with me and made it a celebration of my last treatment with the medicine and they got to meet my oncologist. I wanted them to feel that they were part of my journey, and that hopefully something they can look back on and say yeah..i helped mommy do that.
BAKER: Laura Simpson, like all patients with cancer..won't be declared cancer free until the disease has been absent for five years. But, she's optimistic that even though hers was caught late, she'll survive.
Katie Baker, 90.3