Bottoms Up!

head shot of michelle wearing a bright pink top

By: Michelle Ramirez-Patricios

I turned “fabulous fifty” in September of 2019. For whatever reason, I postponed my annual check up until March of 2020. I felt good, and all my bloodwork was perfect. Due to COVID, however, very few facilities were doing elective procedures in 2020. By the time I had my first colonoscopy, it was two years later. At 52, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer.

When I was a teenager my mother would always tell me “nothing good happens after midnight.” Well, I am here to tell you absolutely nothing good comes from postponing recommended medical procedures. Never put off your annual physicals, your mammograms, screenings, or bloodwork. So often we ignore obvious signs that our body tries to give us. We think it cannot happen to us. It can. People with no family history or symptoms, like myself, are getting diagnosed earlier and earlier, and with late stage disease.

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. 1 in 5 colorectal patients are 20-54 years old. Fifty-one percent of people 50-54 have not been screened. Unlike other cancers, colorectal cancer is often preventable with screening and highly treatable when detected early.

The recommended age for colorectal cancer screening is now 45. If you are over the age of 45, or have any unusual symptoms such as abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, decreased appetite, anemia, weight loss, or rectal bleeding, get a colonoscopy right away. Do not wait. Do not let the doctor blame it on hemorrhoids or stress. Advocate for yourself. The importance of early detection cannot be overstated. Six more months, and my outcome may not have been a positive one.

After six months from diagnosis, two hospitalizations, surgery, and chemo, I was cancer free. After tears of fear, there were tears of joy, and a deep appreciation for a tremendous support system of family and friends who sustained me through this unwelcome journey. For that I am eternally grateful. I am still in the middle of it; scans and blood work will continue for at least three more years. And there is always an overarching and ever-present deep uncertainty that I must navigate, sometimes daily. I try to breathe more deeply, love more profoundly, and enjoy the simple moments. I have the privilege to keep on living and loving those close to me, to give to those fighting their own struggles, and to create awareness that will hopefully save someone their life.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. For more information, visit