Colorectal cancer patient Jessica was surprised but not shocked even after a diagnosis under the age of 40. Watch as she shares her journey from symptoms, diagnosis, her advice to others, and coping methods she’s found helpful for navigating her experience as a patient.
Special thanks to our partner, Colorectal Cancer Alliance, for helping to make this vignette possible.
My name is Jessica, and I’m from Chicago, Illinois. Even though my doctors thought I was too young, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 39.
I’d been experiencing occasional rectal bleeding for about a year when I was finally referred for a colonoscopy.
While my doctors were convinced that I was too young for colorectal cancer, I was still worried because my grandmother died of the disease.
My doctor asked me to go in to get my colonoscopy results. My parents knew what that meant, so we went together. When the GI gave me the results, stage III rectal cancer, I felt so scared. I called my best friend, and I couldn’t even speak. We just cried together.
After I received my diagnosis, my doctor told me it’s very curable. I had a 2-inch mass in my rear. I had a CT scan to confirm the cancer had not spread followed by an MRI. And that’s when the whirlwind began.
I returned to a craft I hadn’t used much in recent years. To sort my thoughts, to update my friends and family, to document the most important year of my life, I started writing again. Beginning a blog was at once a coping mechanism for me and the best way I knew how to share this breathtaking news with friends and family I’d collected from across the country and over decades — and still conserve energy I would need to fight this fight.
Five years later, and I’m thriving.
I want to raise awareness about the rising incidence of colorectal cancer in the under-40 crowd because I was symptomatic and ignored before I was diagnosed. I know that not everyone is as lucky as me, especially young people who are often diagnosed at an even more advanced stage.
Some of the things I have learned during my colorectal cancer journey are:
- Watch out for signs your body gives you
- Don’t take “no” for an answer even if doctors think you’re too young for colorectal cancer.
- Cases of young-onset colorectal cancer are increasing, and that’s why funding colorectal cancer research is so important.
- Find something to do to help you cope. If you’re unsure whether it’s a healthy activity, ask your doctor or care team member who you trust.
These actions are key to staying on your path to empowerment.