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Early detection was the key, twice

By Colleen Hill

(Editor’s note: This is Colleen’s story of survival in her own words.)

Three years ago, I was a 57-year-old woman in good health. I kayaked and worked out on a daily basis.

I went kayaking on Labor Day weekend and did not have enough breath to get out of my kayak when I got to my dock. I called my neighbor and he came and got me out of the kayak and took me to the hospital.

The results of the x-ray came back as a small spot on my lung and the doctor suggested I go see a cancer specialist. It turned out to be stage one lung cancer.

I eventually had to have part of my lung removed and my cancer was gone.

Within eight months, I found a knot in my upper chest about the size of a small marble protruding from my skin. I went to my general practitioner and we thought it might be an enlarged gland. She put me on one week of antibiotics. After three days of antibiotics, the knot had grown to the size of an Aggie marble. We scheduled a mammogram.

The next week I was called in for a biopsy.

It turned out to be the same cancer that was in my lung. I was referred to an oncologist who told me that it was stage four to go home and get my affairs in order. I sat out in my vehicle in the parking lot and cried so hard I could not see to drive for a while.

As I sat there crying, I thought of my son, my sister, and all of the rest of my family that I was going to be leaving behind. I called my sister and son and gave them the terrible news.

My sister got a lot of things together for me like my last will and testament where I wanted to be buried and how I wanted things to go at my own funeral. I never imagined having to plan my own funeral with my sister and son.

As a family we were devastated.

I went for a second opinion. I went back to the surgeon that had removed my lung eight months earlier. He verified the first diagnosis of the oncologist. I told him I had a strong desire to live and fight this awful disease. We set up chemotherapy treatments at UTMB MD Anderson in Galveston.

After my fifth treatment, we did a scan. The cancer was almost gone. They could not even feel it under the skin anymore. After a discussion with the oncologist, we decided to opt for surgery to make sure all was gone. They found no cancer no damaged tissue.

My oncologist was amazed. He told me that in 39 years of practicing he had never had a patient that had the results that I did. He also told me that less than 1% of the world’s population reacts to chemo the way it intended to work.

Three years later, I am still cancer free. Early detection saved my life on both of my occurrences.