Colon Cancer Empowerment Lead
Jessica Catlin was diagnosed with young onset stage 3b rectal cancer in 2016 after initially being turned away by doctors who thought she was too young for colon cancer. In June 2022, she heard the magic words – CURED! – and remains deeply involved in patient advocacy to help others be successful in their fight. Jessica recently published a memoir about her experience, “Full Circle: How Politics, Yoga and Depression Helped Me Crush Colorectal Cancer and Crisis.”
Professionally, Jessica has been a nonprofit fundraiser for more than a decade. She began her career working in the United States Senate and remains politically active. Personally, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors, learning from yoga, and creating a more just world. She has lived in Madison, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, and now resides in Chicago.
What type of cancer and stage?
A: Stage 3b rectal cancer
What was your treatment path?
A: Chemoradiation, then surgery to remove the tumor and create a temporary ostomy, then IV chemo (Folfox), then reversal surgery to reconnect my plumbing, then lots of pelvic floor rehab. I was a mental health patient before, during, and after cancer; I take medication and attend monthly therapy. And I am still very much recovering from pelvic radiation and the ensuing menopause that really jacked up my lady parts.
As a PEN Empowerment Lead, what are your interests and how are you helping other patients?
A: I was very blessed to have professional and personal experience that helped me tackle cancer just like it was any other big project. Something to be dealt with – not something to fear. I enjoy sharing my story, as well as being a mentor, to help arm other patients and caregivers with the knowledge and skills that are super helpful in crushing cancer.
How has cancer affected your life?
A: Cancer has helped me reevaluate my priorities and create a life that is much less stressful, way more balanced, and much happier overall.
Where can you find Jessica?
- The VIP Approach to Beating Cancer Speech, Lurie Cancer Center/Northwestern Medicine
- Cancer Survivorship Remarks to Medical School Students, Feinberg School of Medicine
- Patient Inspiration Story Keynote, Chicago Undy Run/Walk
- How Yoga Helped Me Crush Cancer and Crisis Blog, Elephants and Tea
- Authors Webinar to Discuss Books on Colorectal Cancer, Colorectal Cancer Alliance Facebook Page